Lammas, A Couple of Birthday and Sarnies

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.