Midsummer Meadow Mudcakes
Flowers? You're eating, flowers? Said as if you've admitted to eating your own boogas. And at first it does seem wrong. I remember being handed a mallow flower stuffed with hummous a couple of years ago and finding big resistance. I believe I scowled at the flower in question for quite some time before deciding to give it a try. Even though I regularly (albeit unwittingly) ate plenty of flowers in the form of broccoli, cauliflower and artichoke.
Fast forward to now and you couldn't find a bigger fan. From the humble Dandelion, the teeny tiny Violet, the big old Day Lily to the extraordinarily beautiful Columbine, they have to be the most delightful tucker there is. I love teaching children what flowers they can eat because it feels somehow subversive. Like you really shouldn't be eating something so pretty.
So check out this birthday cake Gemma made for last Saturday's Urban Harvest Edible Flower Celebration at the Meadow Orchard Project in Crouch End. Look at the ramparts of rose petals, the oozy filling, the candles simply unable to stay upright, buckling at the knees. Unlike most of her other concoctions, the ingredients weren't particularly local; it featured coconut and chocolate. But for melt in the mouth gorgeousness it was a treat beyond compare. Especially in combination with the other three vegan cakes. Yes we had four cakes. Four vegan cakes. There were four birthdays to celebrate. Our Sara did a gorgeous gooey rhubarb cake, there was a mouth melting rosemary and lemon cake and a scrummy carrot and cashew loaf. And then there was a massive flower salad, saffron biscuits, flower cordials, Corina's sloe gin, elderflower champagne and oodles of elderflower cordial. Recipe for the rosemary and lemon cake is here.
While we were overdoing it slightly on the cordial/spirit combinations, there was a little face painting going on in the solar powered sweat lodge – a.k.a. 'the polytunnel' in full sun. Along with the bought face paints, birthday girl, Rebecca, had brought along some burnt sienna. We worked it into a thick smooth paste which was a pleasure to use. What I noticed with the face painting was that no matter how pretty the design, we were all determinedly elemental – down to earth – in our posturing. No simpering smiles. Put it down to the crazy wind.
The Urban Harvest Celebration flowed seamlessly into Hearthland's Solstice Celebration. As ever, Rebecca did a sterling job of leading us with stalwart support from Andy. We spent some time honouring the plants and animals living in the Meadow, connecting with the place and then thinking about the changes we'd like to see. A fire was lit and we took it in turns to leap across it, as a way of manifesting the changes we want to bring about, the transformations that are necessary. There was a model Phoenix onto which we wrote our wishes. The children carried it around the circle and then onto the fire. It felt powerful, watching it burnt, sending our wishes into the sky. Again, this was to do with effecting transformations. We sang a song written by Mary, especially for the Meadow, and then the conversations, singing and instrument playing carried on into the afternoon.
It was hard to leave the Meadow Orchard Project that day. The children, having found the clay pile from digging the pond, were (almost literally) embedded in a stick and mud game. But more than that, it felt like we had somehow come to a stopping point in time … we had lost the sense of what time it was ... looking at the time seemed almost meaningless. Something to do with it being near the turning point at the centre of the year, the pause before the pendulum swings back the other way. Going back into the real world, the bus stop waiting of it, felt like an effort. Going back into the real world, where flowers should be seen and not eaten, or at least not eaten with such brazen flourish, felt like stepping back onto the pavement of the past.
I leave you with my favourite picture of the day: The Hand That Feeds Me. 'Hand' here is modelling the latest in burnt sienna lippy, a couple of understated beauty spots, a classy bendy straw. She is dreaming about sipping a lavender/vodka cocktail and eating cake drenched in petals, of leaping the quick fire and being as still as mud, of flying free and of getting stuck in, of being beautiful just being, of melting in the mouth, of becoming the moment that decided to be fashionably late. All things are possible.