Tag Archives: Traditions

Ancient Egyptian fruitcakes? No, that’s not what I mean.

Read it in The Seattle Times today, that fruitcakes can be traced back to ancient Egypt. The Egyptians placed some sort of dessert similar to a fruitcake in the tombs for something sweet to eat in the afterlife, so the story goes.

But in researching further, I’ve discovered this may not be true. Could be “ fake news.”

It is often referred to as legend and lore, which means physical examples are probably hard to come by and may not exist. I wonder if there are any surviving recipes on papyrus stashed somewhere.

Culinary lore claims that ancient Egyptians placed an early version of the fruitcake on the tombs of loved ones, perhaps as food for the afterlife. But fruitcakes were not common until Roman times, when pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and barley mash were mixed together to form a ring-shaped dessert.

It was popular among soldiers, who had to journey to faraway lands and no doubt often went hungry.

Prized for its portability and shelf life, Roman soldiers often brought fruitcake with them to the battlefields.

Later, the oddity became a staple for those heading off to the Crusades.

Crusaders and hunters were reported to have carried this type of cake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home.

Thankfully, in the 21st century Western world there is no need for fruitcakes.


Lime or Lime?

Barbarian tribes, particularly the Gauls and Celts, used lime to bleach their hair and to hold it in place.”

Hmmm. I can’t imagine there was much of a lime trade — the fruit — in Europe at the time. Do they mean lime, as in carbonates and limestone?

Celtic warriors have been described as resembling the Roman god Pan, for the way they lime their hair and make it stand up and pull it back to the nape of their neck. This was probably a battle tactic to make themselves look frightening to the enemy.”

The Greek historian Diodorus wrote a vivid description of the Celts.

“Their aspect is terrifying … They are very tall in stature, with ripling muscles under clear white skin. Their hair is blond, but not naturally so: they bleach it, to this day, artificially, washing it in lime and combing it back from their foreheaads. They look like wood-demons, their hair thick and shaggy like a horse’s mane.”


The Union Jack

I haven’t been keeping up with news from the UK lately, so it was disappointing to hear of rioting and protests in Northern Ireland. It stems, at least superficially, from not hoisting the Union Jack, the flag of Britain, everyday at government buildings, which had been the practice for a very long time.

Some of the clan, the Boal branch, lived in Derry for a time. (Loyalists/Unionists/Protestants call it Londonderry.) Surnames of women who married into the Boal clan include Shannon and Welch. While proud of my Irish heritage, I am so glad my ancestors made the trek to America.

The story of the Union Jack goes back to 1606, the same year Guy Fawkes was tried and executed for his plot to blow up Parliament. The flag was officially adopted on April 12 of ’ 06.


1. Ancestry, the genealogy company juggernaut, has some general information on the Shannon name in the United States, England and Wales, and Scotland.