Skip to main content

Friday Follies: Funny Guy Fawkes videos and an explosively good parkin

A replica House of Lords is blown up in a British show (ITV)
about the Gunpowder Plot (photo by Mike Slee)

Humor is simply tragedy plus time, according to Mark Twain. And by that measure, it’s perfectly okay to laugh at what happened in London 412 years ago, when a group of fairly inept terrorists tried to blow up the House of Lords and King James I in a vain attempt to reestablish a Catholic monarch on the throne of England.  

The details of the Gunpowder Plot, which didn’t go off as planned on November 5, 1605, are pretty well-known to British schoolchildren, and for Yanks like me, I wrote about the plot in a previous post.

But even if British children don’t pay attention to their history lessons, they’ll certainly notice the celebrations every November 5, the fireworks and bonfires that commemorate the contribution of Guy Fawkes, supposedly the explosives expert of the group, to the failed assassination attempt.

For a humorous take on the plot, here’s a 2-minute bit from the BBC series Horrible Histories:

And if you want another very funny but more detailed account of the key events, presented with typical British deadpan humor, contemporary music and even a suggestion of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, see this:

In addition to fireworks and fun on Guy Fawkes Night (also called Bonfire Night) people like to eat parkin, a cake that Americans may recognize as a type of gingerbread, with oatmeal added. I found a BBC Good Food Yorkshire recipe here. It’s from the folks who brought who brought us Downton Abbey, so I’m sure it's scrumptious.

However, this recipe, like many of the other parkin recipes I found, features loads of butter (some traditional parkin recipes use lard) and also lots of sugar in the form of black treacle (a type of unrefined crystallized sugar syrup), golden syrup (like treacle but lighter) and brown sugar.  
Now, something you may not know about me (and why should you?) is that I have to be very careful about what I make for dinner. My husband had a heart attack a few months ago, and while he’s recovering very nicely (thank God) we’ve been impelled to make a few changes in our diet and lifestyle. Now we eat lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and frankly, more fish than a bear.

So you can see that traditional parkin won’t cut it in my kitchen. But I do love gingerbread, and after a diligent Internet search, I found a few healthier parkin recipes. I adapted elements from a few of these recipes (especially the ones located here and here), added a few twists and came up with my own creation.

My heart-healthy recipe helped me satisfy my gingerbread craving without incurring any guilt. Best of all, it earned the Husband Seal of Approval (HSA).

If you're interested in my revised parkin recipe, here it is:

My heart-healthy version of parkin

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup barley flour 
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or a mix of cinnamon and ginger
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup molasses (I used dark unsulphured molasses) 
  • 1 egg, beaten 
  • 1/2 cup raisins 
  • approx. 1/4 cup milk or buttermilk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the applesauce, molasses, and egg and mix well. Stir in milk and raisins. Pour into an 8 x 4 baking pan (greased and lined with parchment paper) and bake for about an hour. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

It's not a traditional parkin by any means, but those who may be looking for a low-fat, low-sugar option may enjoy it. 

And, whether you're eating parkin or not this Sunday, be sure to “Remember, remember the Fifth of November; gunpowder, treason, and plot!” 


Popular posts from this blog

The end of the Holy Roman Empire, or what happens when the Empire doesn't strike back

This is the way the world ends Not with a bang  but a whimper T.S. Eliot wasn't actually describing the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire when he wrote those words in his poem, “The Hollow Men.” Nonetheless, his words are an extremely apt way to describe the end of the Holy Roman Empire, which ended quietly with a stroke of a pen exactly 212 years ago in August of 1806. That’s when the last emperor decided it was his duty to abdicate, letting the ancient dominion under his protection dissolve rather than allow Napoleon to usurp the role of Holy Roman Emperor and everything that came with it. Francis II, the last Holy Roman Emperor By that August the end of the empire had become inevitable. Napoleon’s victory over Russia and Austria at the Battle of Austerlitz in December of 1805 and his formation of the Confederation of the Rhine the following July (after he convinced 16 German princes to renounce their allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire and join him)

Macaroni Men and Yankee Doodles

The Spirit of '76  (original title Yankee Doodle ) by Archibald Willard, painted in the late 1800s November is a month that here in the United States is defined by food, culminating in a huge Thanksgiving Day feast. It's also the month we honor our military veterans. So I'm going to focus on both food and patriotism - especially an Italian pasta product that became synonymous with a controversial English fashion and developed uniquely American associations. "The Macaroni"- 1773 During the 18th century, it was all the rage for young men of the English nobility to take a trip through Europe to soak up its art and culture. It was called the Grand Tour. In Italy, these privileged lads discovered a pasta dish far removed from their usual British fare. It was called maccaroni , and they raved about it when they got back home. The travelers became known as the Macaroni Club, though there is no evidence an actual club ever existed. But it

The Cato Street Conspiracy

The Cato Street conspirators getting arrested Conspiracy and treason go hand in hand. Throughout history, conspirators have huddled in back rooms and dark corners in secret, concocting schemes that are both dangerous and illegal. So it’s no surprise that their plans often spiral out of control and end in disaster.  A good example of a conspiracy plot gone wrong happened during the Regency. It’s been dubbed the Cato Street Conspiracy because of where the conspirators were caught. This is a tale that, according to historian J.B. Priestley (author of The Prince of Pleasure and his Regency) “begins in absurdity and ends in horror.” The year was 1820. Though the Napoleonic Wars were over, Britain had paid a heavy price for its victory against the French. The costs of the war had strained the country’s economy. The working classes were hit hard by periods of famine, rising food prices due to the Corn Laws, and high unemployment, the latter driven by soldiers returning from th