05/11/2020 | 7 mins.
While shopping in a supermarket 5 years ago at the very end of October, María got confused. After grabbing a pumpkin to carve the next day, she nearly bumped into a tower of firecrackers and fireworks-kind-of. “Bonfire Night, 5th of November”. The sign on top of the “spark-killing” set of noise was clear. Not so much her knowledge about the date.
Bonfire Night is the night to celebrate the attempt to blow up the King and the House of Parliament in London. Better said, to celebrate the failure. About the role of Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby in the Gunpowder plot, for sure you know a thing or two.
In case you already know some data, maybe you like this list of not- so-much-known facts about the main characters involved in the 5th of November back in 1605.
James I of England (VI of Scotland), the king in the throne then, was “often short of money, criticised for spending too much in luxuries. He often swore and got drunk”. (At least on the National Archives of the UK government says). Apparently, he was also a good friend since he tried to “spread out the best jobs and rewards among different families/groups among the political nation”. The cherry? He was obsessed with witchcraft. So much he is the only king in History who wrote a book about it.
James I grandad’s is also somehow related to the Bonfire Night. Nearly a hundred years before the Gunpowder Plot, James VI hosted a five weeks tournament known as ``The Wild Knight and Black Lady”.
You know a guy likes a party when launches the very first display of fireworks over Scotland.
Well, for starters let’s visualise the people of Edinburgh getting to know the failure of Catesby and Fawkes. You could think that such a celebration wouldn’t have been complete in Scotland without haggis and tatties. Well, don’t know about the haggis, but no tatties at the table then! At least, not outside the big houses of Scotland, where a native potato of the South American Andes arrived in the 1600s. So, setting up a dining table back in 1605, we will (or won’t) find:
Vegetables (more and so on): More and more every passing year during the 17th century. The kitchen gardens attached to great houses became popular then, and so the presence of vegetable dishes in Scotts’ family dinners.
Meat (all year round): After the summer, most domestic animals were killed and their meat preserved for the wintertime. Salting, smoking, burying or even freezing (not in the freezer though) to assure the meat supply all year round. Apparently, ordinary people were lucky enough to have a hen, so I’m guessing this mighty storage could be found in wealthy houses.
Sweet enough (better be): Honey was a rare luxury until the 1600s, however, we can find the first beekeepers in Scotland in 1634. Oh! No sugar then! Only honey until the sugar market raised in Glasgow later that century.
You already know that Scotland is cosmopolitan in food terms. Surprised if I tell you Scotts were experimenting with French cuisine methods back in the 1600s? But if wealthy families started to play-kitchen with fancy dishes, the ordinary people had a cauldron. An open fire and a cauldron. Plus whatever beans, peas, oats or barley the family members could get. If lucky the day, even a hen.
Now I mention the cauldron, there’s another bit of history worth to be rescued. Placed in North Berwick, the witch trials of 1590 implicated more than seventy people and lasted for two years.
The “witches” then were accused of holding covens on the Auld Kirk Green, in the North Berwick Harbour Area. King James I himself would compile the trial on his dissertation on contemporary necromancy “Daemonologie” (1597). In fact, he was the one that blamed people of conjuring a storm to kill him and his wife, Anne of Denmark. So fascinated he was, he even interrogates some of the accused.
So, summing up! If you could bump into Guy Fawkes and ask him for light in 1604, you could have met the first beekeepers in Scotland during a witch trial. Or get invited to a coven in North Berwick right before you tried the first potato in Scottish land. Year up, year down.
If you think that such a context seems pretty interesting, ask yourself "Do I prefer the 1600s or the 2000s"? I'm pretty sure you are just fine, reading some lines on a screen and with potatoes in the kitchen... I tell you, I wouldn’t change a line. Not even for a better history.
Remember, remember, the 5th of November.
Sources and extra info:Back to traditions