Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday was also known as 'Refreshment Sunday', Pudding Pie Sunday (in Surrey) or 'Mid-Lent Sunday'. It was a day in Lent when the fasting rules were relaxed, in honour of the 'Feeding of the Five Thousand' story in the Christian Bible.

On this day, hundreds of years ago, people made a point of visiting their nearest big church (the Mother Church), the church in which each person was baptised. People who visited their mother church would say they had gone a mothering.

Young British girls and boys 'in service' (maids and servants) were only allowed one day to visit their family each year and this,too, was usually on Mothering Sunday. Often the housekeeper or cook would allow the maids to bake a cake to take home for their mother. Sometimes a gift of eggs; or flowers from the garden (or hothouse) was allowed.

The most favoured cake was - as it still is in some families -  the 'Simnel cake'.

‘I’ll to thee a Simnell bring
‘Gainst thou go’st a mothering,
So that, when she blesseth thee,
Half that blessing thou’lt give to me.’

Robert Herrick 1648

The Simnel cake is a rich  fruit cake. A flat layer of marzipan (sugar almond paste) is placed on top of and decorated with 11 marzipan balls representing the 12 apostles minus Judas, who betrayed Christ. It was the only cake that I baked successfully in domestic science class at school.