Kage Baker liked celebrating old holidays. She liked holidays in general, and the pagan calendar that had illuminated life for our Celtic ancestors was generally more fun than the moderns one anyway. Labor Day, for instance, cannot hold a candle, he he he, to Lughnasa.
Somewhere freshly out of high school, when we were newly-flown from the parental nest and making our first adult fortresses in the Hollywood Hills, she made out an entire list. The equinoxes and the solstices, the quarter days between, the holidays of our childhood that were somewhat more loosely bound to the seasons … Kage worked out a personal and eccentric Book of Days.
She assigned candle colours, incenses, flowers to each month of the year. Special meals were dedicated to each of the 16 or so holy days she designated, and those were part of the cycle, too. It was all subject to mutation and change, as opportunity presented itself – electric candles took a bigger role in later years, just because you could suddenly find really neat ones. So did electrified decorations like Halloween Towns and animated pirate ships, for identical reasons. Beistle decorations were added as acquired, once she discovered EBay.
I contributed the outside lights. Our front porch and yard were illuminated by colour combinations that changed every two or three months, depending on the anchoring holiday. I worked out enormous and complicated lighting schemes in order to illuminate the nights without blowing all the circuit breakers. I must say, for the DIY domestic illuminator, fairy lights and LEDS have been a Godsend: less heat produced, less power required, insane colours and they last a long time. Ah, the wonders of modern technology!
Today is August 1st. As I have mentioned before, this was always one of Kage’s favourites. It is freighted with abundant personal meaning. It’s Lammas, in the Celtic calendar: a harvest holiday, sunlight and grain, the perfume of bread and fire, a thousand dancers whirling in a ring in the golden fields
It is also the day after Juliette’s birthday, and Momma’s as well: ” …of all days in the year, Come Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen,” croons Juliette’s nurse, remembering the holiday on which her beloved charge was born. And so was Katherine Carmichael Baker. Kage toasted them both with sweet wine at breakfast, and put out vases of white roses for them.
But it’s also the official birthday of The Dread Gard, from The House of the Stag: ” … in thunder weather, when the sky was lead,” was he found abandoned on a rocky hillside. Him, Kage toasted in whiskey by starlight, and cut the darkest red roses she could find in the garden.
Dinner was designated as some kind of sandwiches. Bread for the grain, baked in our own oven by preference: peach and raspberry jam sarnies for sweets, and thin-sliced rare beef for meat, flavoured with tangerines, shallots, red wine and ginger. She called it “Bandit Beef”, and made up stories of the caravans of the Children of the Sun serving it out at wary nightly stops along the red roads … attributing the dish to the caravans from Anvil of the World was what eventually evolved into world-class cooks like Mrs. Smith being staff on caravans, producing all sort of amazing viands along the steel tracks of the Grain Lands.
I could write a cookbook. Kage assigned dishes for all sorts of holidays, and from all sorts of cultures … Renaissance England, medieval Spain, the Yendri and the Children of the Sun, and even the demons of her fantasy world – though those were mostly cocktails. But between the food lovingly described in her books, and that cooked up for our holiday dinners in all seasons … man, I could put together a lot of recipes. That’s another entry on my To-Do list, I suppose.
And in the meantime, Dear Readers, I wish you all a happy and generous Lammas.
That’s actually an excellent idea. The Kage Baker Cookbook of Days. I’d certainly buy it.
And that’s the perfect title, too, Jan. Thank you! Hmmm … there are a lot of fun things. Dare I finally loose Kage’s personal recipe for Spotted Dick on the world?
Although, seriously, folks – she made the best steamed puddings in the Western world. At the very least, in America. Her plum duff was to die for; a memory she always cherished from Dickens Fair was our local naval ratings, all in their Royal Navy togs, singing “Rule Britannia” through their mouths full of Kage’s plum duff pudding, which they were eating out of a huge common bowl with their hands …
Oh my, please put me down for a copy of “The Kage Baker Cookbook of Days,” too. I can still recall with great pleasure the wonderful bean soup Kage served me, way long ago in Pismo Beach, when I enjoyed your collective hospitality one night. Ahhh … sweet, savory memories …
Kage was a splendid cook, she really was. And she wrote it all down – all I have to do is find the big grey cookbook she used, which is packed and safe somewhere in storage. Quite aside from the things I know by heart – she did most, but not all of our cooking.
That bean soup was a nice one, wasn’t it? She made good soups … although what she was proudest to have served you, Luisa, was that crown roast of venison one year. I remember her carving fake jewels out of radishes and baby beets and fruit jellies in the Innyard. Man, that was a crazy time! But a great roast.
Oh, yes “The Kage Baker Cookbook of Days,” sounds amazing! Put my vote down for anything served by Hubert at New World One.