Queimada – Spanish Fire Drink

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Puerto de Avila, Spain

It was dark and I was aware that there was a witchy type of person at the front of the room who was making frightening cackling sounds. I have said frequently in my blog posts that I can never anticipate where I will come across a food history experience and this experience was to be a perfect example. I was volunteering to be an English conversational coach at a language school in Spain, just prior to the life changing Coronavirus taking charge. We were in a small, old stone building in the countryside by our historic hotel.

Our group of 19 Spaniards and 19 international Anglo volunteers were about to experience the traditional ritual of sharing Queimada- the Drink of Blue Fire.

This ancient tradition is known to have originated in the far northwest corner of Spain, an area known as Galicia. This area was settled by the Celts who were known to believe in witches, (meigas), magic and evil spirits. They practiced the ritual of serving Queimada to ward off evil spirits. Unfortunately, as we learned one short week after the experience, it does not ward off evil viruses from the world.

IMG_3113This drink was traditionally mixed in a clay pot that is glazed inside and has a set of small clay cups for serving. It was also made in carved out pumpkins in the past. The mixture is put in the pot and lit on fire, creating a blue flame. A Spell, known as Conxuro is recited while the drink burns and the flame is put out before the drink is served.

Our witch was Carlota Romero who was the Master of Ceremonies at our language school. She is a skilled actress, language teacher, public speaking coach and one of the most energetic, dynamic people I have ever met. But she seemed too sincere to be acting.

Bit by bit she added ingredients while reading the chant. Or at least ingredients to represent the creatures in the spell.

CONXURO

Baby Eagles, owls, toads and witches

Demons, goblins and devils, spirits of the snowy valleys.

Crows, salamanders and witches, quack spell

Hollow and rotten seeds, caves of worms and reptiles.

Fire of the pitiful souls, hexes, black magic, odour of the dead,

Thunder and lightening.

Barking of the dogs, proclamation of death; snout of the satyr and rabbit’s foot.  

Sharp tongue of the bad women married to old men.

Hell of Satan and Beelzebub, fire of burning corpses,

Mutilated bodies of the wretched, farts from eternal asses,

Roars from the stormy sea. 

Useless wombs of unmarried women, the sound of cats in heat, piles of dirty hair from deformed goats.

With this ladle I will raise the flames of this fire which seem like those of hell,

And the Witches will take the sky on their brooms, going to bathe on the beach of the Fat Sands.  

Hear,Hear! The howls of those blasphemous witches who, upon drinking the grain alcohol for self-purification, cannot help but bar the burning in their innards.

And when this brew goes down our throats, we will be free from the evil in our souls, And from witchcraft.

Forces of the air, land, sea and fire to you I call: it is true that you have more power than that of

Human beings and you are here and now, bring the spirits of absent friends here with us to join us in this “Queimada”.  

During the chanting of the spell, she made frightening sounds and added orange peel to represent cats and crying babies.  Coffee beans were insects and goat’s hair,  the hair from a surprised onlooker, mixing it all in. In the dark, it was difficult to believe it wasn’t all real.

She lit the mixture on fire and skillfully ladled it into the air above her, chanting the spell.

The incantation had worked it’s magic as we all sat spellbound in the dark and when the lights came on, and the mixture was served in the small clay cups, we could only drink it and hoped that we lived. And we all lived.

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The sharing of Queimada has become a tradition still practiced at family gatherings and social events in Spain. Here is one interpretations of the recipe.

Queimada – The Galician Drink of Blue Fire

This drink should be mixed on a flame proof surface.

  • 1 liter of ORUJO ( a Spanish liqueur made of the skins and pits of grapes)
  • 2/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • rind of 1 lemon cut into strips – orange slices can be added as well.
  • 1/3 cup of coffee beans

Directions 

  • Dissolve the sugar and 4 tbsp. of ORUJO to a glass.
  • Pour the rest of the ingredients into the clay pot.
  • Pour the mixture from the glass into a ladle and light on fire.
  • Move the ladle slowly toward the pot until the entire drink is on fire.
  • Stir frequently until flames turn blue or lift ladle for more drama
  • Put a lid on the pot to stop flame.
  • Serve in small clay cups.
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BOTTLE OF ORUJO AND SERVING CUPS

Enjoy a sip of Spain’s Past.

 

Coke Bottle Bread- A wartime treat

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It is World War 2. The mail came to the army base that day. He was fighting on the front in France and although they had their meals provided each day, it wasn’t anything like what his mother cooked on the farm at home. Jacques opened the parcel from his mother sent all the way from Canada and there were some surprises to be eaten.

“I got some Coca Cola Bread,” he shouted. The fellas surrounded him and there was obvious jealousy in the air.  He lifted up the loaf of homemade bread, a bit stale by now, but the real treat was inside. A bottle of Coca- Cola. His mother had make a large loaf of bread, cut a hole in the centre and tucked a bottle of Coca-Cola inside. That way the bottle could be sent through the mail with bread as the packing material with hopes that it was edible by the time it arrived.

(I wrote the above description as a story based on an actual fact about how coca- cola was sent during WW2. I also recreated by version of Coca Cola Bread in the photo above)

This beverage was a favorite with the troops in both the first and second World Wars. John Stith Pemberton, a pharmacist, invented the drink in 1886. Originally the ingredients included the coca leaf and cola nut from Africa that was combined to make syrup to be added to carbonated water. It was sold as a alternate drink to booze in Temperance times but originally marketed as a medicine. In 1903 the small traces of cocaine found in the coca leaf were removed from the formula but the caffeine content remained high. It was popular as a wartime drink for the soldiers. They loved it.

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A Coca-Cola poster shows the war time popularity of the drink.

The transport of the beverage overseas was difficult, so small factories were set up in 64 countries during World War 2 to provide the soldiers with their well loved beverage. In 1941, a declaration was made by the president of Coca- Cola, stating that all troops could purchase a bottle of Coca-Cola for 5 cents.

Sending Food Parcels during the Civil War

In the 1860’s, during the U.S. Civil War, food was regularly sent by loved ones in packages to soldiers to supplement their often inadequate and unappetizing meals. The book Northern Ladies’ Civil War Recipes by Patricia B. Mitchell describes what some of the soldiers ate while they were away for months or years at a time. Because supplies were often delayed by bad trail conditions the soldiers existed on minimal rations. A typical diet in some areas was hard tack, salt pork, beef, beans, and coffee. At times they may have had dried vegetables, corn and cornmeal. If they could forage around in the fields they might find turnips, potatoes, chickens or honey. The parcels from family and friends often arrived damaged and at times the food was too spoiled to eat. The diets of the troops varied depending on where they were, and whom they fought for, but many soldiers faced poor nutrition. In the book, Northern Ladies’ Civil War Recipes are also a collection of letters sent about the packages received.

From that book I include an excerpt of the Civil war version of Coca- Cola bread, but rather a Rye ( Whiskey) Bread version demonstrating that this custom was not new in the later World Wars. An artist named Edwin Forbes, wrote this about Christmas at the front.

“Some of the men were fortunate enough to have received boxes from home, and their faces grew bright as they lifted out roast turkey, chickens, bread, cake and pies that friendly hands had prepared. An occasional bottle of “old rye” secreted in a turkey or loaf of bread, would give rise to much fun and expected enjoyment. The provost guard, however, seldom overlooked a bottle, and confiscated any contraband liquor; and his long experience had bred in him a sort of special sense for any such little infractions of the rule…”

It is the time of the Covid 19 virus as I write this entry. Today I delivered to the door of my friend a package including a meal, and some banana bread. She cannot leave her apartment and I thought it might cheer her up. It was a treat, but I knew that her refrigerator was full of food. Where I live, in Canada, most of us do not want for food. The grocery store shelves are stocked daily and once shoppers stop over- buying, most foods will be available. This summer our farmers will keep working, and we will bring workers from Mexico to help plant, grow and harvest our food. Trucks will bring fruit and vegetables from California.

But let’s remember those in Canada or the rest of the world in this crisis, who may be lacking food or unable to get to the store, and are relying on small packages of food delivered by charities. Food will be scarce for many.

It important to remember our history. To remember the times when food was scarce because of wars, disease, famine and during the depression.

 

 

FOOD IN THE TIME OF WAR AND CORONAVIRUS

 

It is April, 2020 and we are making history by living in the time of the Coronavirus.

When trying to buy eggs the other day, I was shocked to find no eggs available – in four stores. Sold out!

With Google as my Cookbook, I found a recipe to make a chocolate cake with no eggs and no butter. It turned out to be one of my best chocolate cakes yet. It was a recipe used in World War 2. And that experience has reawakened my interest in wartime and depression cooking.

Dining Out With History usually focuses on historic culinary experiences discovered while travelling.

Now, the whole world is STAYING HOME. We cannot travel. Restaurants are closed. There is some fast food take out to be had, but I am hearing that interesting and aged foods are being found in the back of cupboards. So people are clearing their shelves and cooking creative foods.

We cannot compare the adversities of life in the times of war, depression and the Spanish flu pandemic to the Coronavirus.  Each is unique and there have been different challenges for each time in history.

During the time spent with the Coronavirus, there is no indication that there will be a shortage of food, at least not in our privileged countries. But we have behaved as though there will be a shortage of food. Many people have panicked, filling their grocery carts with ridiculous amounts of food that in the end may be wasted. Hoarding food has been seen everywhere, until limits have been enforced in some stores.

Food history has many tales to tell about other times that the world has experienced adversity.

RATIONING DURING WW2

During World War 2, food was rationed in Canada, the United States and Great Britain in order to be able to send enough supplies to provide for the troops.

In the beginning there was an impressive voluntary rationing campaign undertaken to encourage people to eat differently. Using less sugar, butter and coffee were encouraged and a poster campaign put in place. In a previous post, I covered the use of canned meat known as SPAM and how it was sent overseas for the soldiers. safeguardshare.jpg.860x0_q70_crop-scale

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Spam became an important food to feed the troops. Above is a modern variety still sold today.

In 1942, rationing became compulsory and food restrictions were enforced through  rationing coupon books, allowing the fair distribution of certain kinds of food.

By 1943 in Canada, a ration book allowed 250 g. sugar, 250 g. butter, 30g. tea 115 g coffee and in 1943 meat was limited to 1 kg. of meat per person, per week.  In the U.S. by 1943, there were restrictions on meat, cheese, fats, canned fish and canned milk through the use of coupons.

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Canadian Ration Books from WW2

Women (and men who were not at war) had to become creative about their cooking to get the maximum amount of food using the smallest amounts of the limited ingredients.

So creative were the women of this time, that more than 200 cookbooks were published in a few short years, many by women’s church, and hospital groups and clubs. They put forth an image of women as strong and rising to the occasion to do their part – In the kitchen.

I have borrowed some virtual images of old war time recipe books from Gary Draper who has a large and  impressive collection of old Canadian recipe books.

I tried the recipe for Eggless, Butterless Cake from the Wartime Economy Cook Book put together by the Ladies Auxiliary to the Barrie Lions Club in 1942.

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Eggless, butterless cake, a chewy, and not too sweet wartime cake.

Give these recipes a try and taste a bit of cake that was eaten during the war.

We are fortunate during these times of Coronavirus that we still have access to all the foods we are so used to eating; food that comes from around the world and can be taken right from the grocery store shelves without a thought. Eat healthily and thoughtfully- Lest we forget.

Wait for it. The Coke Bottle Cake in the next post. 

 

 

 

 

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