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Celtic Well> E-Journal> Imbolc

Coins hammered into bark(Left, a Brighid's Cross. Graphic © 1999 Lisa Paitz Spindler)

Feasting at Imbolc

By Francine Nicholson

Feasting was an essential part of celebrating Imbolc in any Celtic country. The foods enjoyed at Imbolc varied from one region to the next but generally included traditional favorites, such as the following.

Soda bread was served at almost every Irish meal:
http://www.irishfood.com/recipes/index.html or http://www.ibmpcug.co.uk/~owls/sodabred.htm

A Scottish substitute might be bannocks or oatcakes. http://www.backhaul.net/scotcook/scotbak1.htm#oatcakes

Soda bread made with fruit—called barmbrack—might be substituted at a feast:
http://www.iol.ie/~gizmo/cake.htm
or http://www.fortunecity.com/bally/dublin/180/recipes1.html or http://www.irishfood.com/recipes/index.html

The Welsh cognate is bara brith: http://soar.Berkeley.EDU/recipes/ethnic/welsh/bara-brith1.rec or http://www.wales-direct.co.uk/barbrith.html#top

Colcannon - potatoes and kale or cabbage - was popular at any Irish feast day:
http://www.ibmpcug.co.uk/~owls/irish2.htm#colclore or http://www.fortunecity.com/bally/dublin/180/recipes4.html

In Orkeney, clapshot - potatoes and turnip or rutabaga—would be eaten instead:
http://www.backhaul.net/scotcook/scotvege.htm#clapshot

Poundies or champ - potatoes mashed with much milk and butter - were also an Irish favorite for any feast. Everyone in the household took a turn helping to pound - mash - the potatoes:
http://www.ibmpcug.co.uk/~owls/irish2.htm#champ or http://www.iol.ie/~gizmo/veggie.htm

The most popular Scottish way to eat potatoes is a recipe for stovies:
http://www.backhaul.net/scotcook/scotvege.htm#stovies

Even if stocks were too low to risk killing and butchering an animal for the feast, black pudding might be made by bleeding an animal without killing it:
http://www.irishfood.com/recipes/index.html

Vegan celebrants may want to try substituting the following alternative for blood pudding: http://www.clubi.ie/celticcuisine/cvsw.htm

A Welsh meatless sausage is Selsig Morgannwg (Glamorgan Sausages):
http://soar.Berkeley.EDU/recipes/ethnic/welsh/selsig-morgannwg.rec

Near the coast, dishes prepared with various forms of seaweed might be served since, in Ireland, the tide closest to Brigid’s day was considered the highest and good for collecting seaweed and shellfish. Here is an essay on edible seaweeds: http://www.backhaul.net/scotcook/scotseaw.htm

The following are seaweed recipes from Ireland and Scotland:
http://www.ibmpcug.co.uk/~owls/irish2.htm#honlem
http://www.backhaul.net/scotcook/scotvege.htm#jelly-cake
http://www.backhaul.net/scotcook/scotsoup.htm#seaweed-sp

Laverbread, or Bara Lawr, available commercially from specialty outlets, is a Welsh bread made from seaweed. Another possibility would be Irish moss jelly: http://www.swv.ie/recipes/irish13.htm

Recipes made with milk products would also be appropriate for Imbolc, such as this curd cake:
http://soar.Berkeley.EDU/recipes/ethnic/irish/curd-cake1.html

This venison is marinated in buttermilk and garnished with vegetables cooked in a fresh milk sauce and honey, all appropriate for Imbolc: http://www.clubi.ie/celticcuisine/brwv.htm. A Scottish homemade cheese is crowdie: http://www.backhaul.net/scotcook/scotsprd.htm#crowdie

The Carmina Gadelica says that Highland families who suspected that they had lost Bride’s favor might seek to appease her by burying a live cockerel or pullet at the junction of three streams. In commemoration of this custom, you might like to try Cock-a-Leekie soup:
http://www.backhaul.net/scotcook/scotsoup.htm#cock-qleekie

This fish recipe combines two foods associated with the acquisition of wisdom and inspiration: honey and salmon. In the pre-modern era, honey and salt were the two flavorings used most in Ireland to enhance meat while it roasted: http://www.clubi.ie/celticcuisine/tcsm.htm

One of the ways that Brigid is still honored in Ireland is to visit a holy well and tie a piece of cloth or clootie, representing a request, to a tree. The following Scottish recipe is also called clooties and uses a cloth in its preparation: http://www.backhaul.net/scotcook/scotbak1.htm#clootie

In the Shetland and Orkney islands, Scottish shortbread is called "Bride’s Bonn" so it makes the perfect close to an Imbolc celebration. If you suspect that your Celtic heritage may hold a drop of Norse blood, add some caraway seeds to the recipe! For best results, use butter!:
http://www.backhaul.net/scotcook/scotbak2.htm#shortbread

Although not often served in recent years, in ancient times mead—along with other forms of honey - was an important element in the cult of the goddess moderns know as Bríg or Brigid. For basic information about making your own mead, see: http://www2.crosswinds.net/princeton/~druid/makemead.html. Look here for recipes for making spiced mead, a drink whose remains have been found in Celtic archaeological sites on the Continent: http://www2.crosswinds.net/princeton/~druid/recipes.html

To find other recipes and links to outlets for specialty foods, go to: http://celt.net/og/ethfood.htm.

Happy feasting!

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