Tuesday, May 29, 2012

'A Radish Feast'

              Throughout history, vegetables seem to have held a strange power over humans. They  inspire gatherings,  competitions, festivals and races; they have even been worshipped. In Victorian England the humble radish was given celebrity status by a community in Cumbria. Well at least for one day a year - May 12th, to be precise.  This was the day of the Radish Feast. 
              In 1879 in The Graphic Newspaper describes what it calls a 'curious tradition' from the village of Levens. 'It occurs on the 12th May, when the London season keeps society fixed within driving distance of Pall Mall and Charing Cross. (...) At the Hall, on the bowling-green a long table is spread, whereon are placed many piles of dark oat-bread, many pounds of bright new butter, and above all heaped-up dishes of radishes. This vegetarian fare is washed down with strong old ale of a special brew known as Morocco.' As you read on, it is clear that the potent Morocco Ale  works in tandem with the fiery radish to whip the good people of Cumbria into a state of excitement and eventually inebriation.  Each newcomer has to stand on one leg and down a glass of Morocco. Rather primly The Graphic reporter glosses over the final moments of the Levens Radish Feast. All he says is,' there is generally some fun before the "feast" gives place to wrestling and other athletic amusements of the North-county gatherings'. 
              The Radish Feast clearly needs to be revived. I am thinking of lobbying the Cumbria and Lake District tourist board. Meanwhile, can I ask you all to try out something that is simple and delicious. All you need are some radishes, some unsalted butter and some coarse cut country bread. Thinly slice the radishes and lay them on the buttered bread. I found some French Breakfast radishes for sale cheaply in Morrisons  Supermarket - mild and sweet. A perfect introduction to radishes for children and vegetable phobes of all ages. And for the adults only - accompanied by a glass of your best Moroccan. 

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