Sunday, January 22, 2023

Revels and Traybakes: Cooking with Celia Wakefield

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: If it's Sunday, it must be time for another delicious recipe from our own Celia Wakefield. As usual, I got to taste-test this easy-to-make dinner (and by test, I mean I had two large helpings) and you are all in for a treat. Vegetarians, I'm afraid you may have to look away from this sausage-y, bacon-y goodness, but for those of us who like a little meat now and again, oh, my, please give this a try. It pairs nicely with a bottle of red brought from my house!

 

 

 

Happy New Year to you dear Reds and Readers, it’s lovely being invited to join Julia and everyone in January when the year is still new and we can all feel hope and freedom to travel and visit each other.  

I have two goals for this year. This is opposed to resolutions, usually I don’t make them, too exhausting, or "intentions" - well I do have some of those but this is about come hell or high water I’ll be there. First, for my younger, taller grandson, Connor, who graduates High School in June like the rest of the seniors around the country. He is heading to Tulane and is thrilled. I am hoping that I might, maybe get to visit him but probably not this year. 

But the second is that I will be at NE Crime Bake and I will need lots to help etc as I have never (full disclosure) been to a mystery convention or in fact to any convention around a single topic other than business ones which are not the same, are they? I won’t need a suit will I? But will I need a costume? Or a hat? Perhaps Edith can loan me one, though I do have a big head, literally. But enough of pleasures ahead.

 

Among the yearly treats we have enjoyed is our visit to see TheRevels at Sanders Theater, Cambridge. In the past Victor and Olivia have performed in Revels when we had a Revels Group in NYC. I always worked backstage. Revels is such a huge part of our Christmas tradition that when they did a pandemic version in 2021 we got the virtual ticket and invited Julia over as she had attended a couple of the live shows pre-pan with us.


How to describe Revels if you haven’t seen it? Of course now, thanks to streaming, one can get a virtual ticket, but in the past you could attend if you lived in or near Hanover, NH, or Seattle, in Washington, D.C. or Houston, or in Santa Barbara, Boulder, Portland, Oregon, and Puget Sound. The chorus is always made up of community people who audition as well as local traditional English dance teams.  Though the theme is not necessarily English tradition, there are certain elements which are tradition too and somehow the directors manage to fit in these loved pieces and carols year after year. In fact the year, many years ago, Revels in Cambridge decided not to have the Sussex Mummers Carol to end the show. Well the audience stood and sang it anyway before they left. That’s how traditions begin and a lot of singing and dancing will drive the dark away. 

 

 

While I don’t want to witter on about what Revels has meant in the life of our family, I do want to share some of the tradition with you. January is the start, but it is a month rather devoid of fun or tradition so let me introduce you to John Langstaff, Revels founder. 

John, or rather Jack as we all knew him, was a man with more energy than 10 teenage boys. We first met him in the ’70’s at Pinewoods Camp, a traditional dance and music camp outside Plymouth, MA. It was Family Week and the camp was filled with families of all ages from the grans to the newborns. We were gathered in the large open air pavilion for the morning session when on the hill path above us came the sound of singing and an extraordinary creature appeared. Dressed in black with a tall pointed headdress and a huge circular skirt which stuck out around them and then hung to the ground. This being, the 'Obby 'Oss, hails from Cornwall, England and is part of a very old fertility rite. 

Accompanied by dancers dressed in white with red kerchiefs and hankies, everyone danced down to where we all stood singing lustily - "Unite and Unite, now let us all unite for summer is a comin’ in today.” Soon everyone was singing and Jack was leading us. I learned he decided the morning gathering needed a little something. So he had left Camp early, driven back to Cambridge to the Revels costume store and taken the ‘Obby’ costume and other items to do the Padstow May Day processional for us. What fun, what joy and glee. 

They've taken to wearing pants in our modern age.

In Padstow they gather at one of two Inns at midnight; there are two processionals which weave their way through the streets and huge crowds to celebrate the arrival of May. In times past we read that the ‘Obby had tar on the skirt of the garment. They would ‘capture’ young women by putting the skirt over their heads, where the girls found that the ‘Obby was as nature intended. This was my introduction to Jack, who wanted to share traditions with everyone.

Having bought our Revels virtual ticket and found some space on Julia’s schedule I needed easy dinner. I wasn’t thinking so much of recipes but ease was to the forefront. So I made a dinner tray bake as opposed to a dessert one. Having done some cursory research on tray bakes  the origins seem to be Irish bakes made on a cookie sheet and then cut into squares. How can I not after 53+ years know the name for American cookie sheet bakes? But during the pandemic Melissa Clark of NYT and cookbook authorship fame started write up recipes using a cookie sheet and mixing veggies and other ingredients. The term used by Food52 is sheet pan meals, I do think tray bake sounds more beguiling. I don’t know if anyone made any of Melissa’s sheet pan recipes but here is my version. I’m sorry there’s no video to give you all a laugh but nothing in this is complex. 


Making my Revels Tray Bake:


Rimmed Sheet Pan lined with foil (to save the washing up)

Sharp chefs knife and cutting board

Shallow bowl

Oven 350F

 

EV Olive Oil

Rosemary & Thyme or other mixed herbs

1 rasher Bacon per person, or more

1 or 2 Sausages each, we had Irish Bangers

1 or 2 sweet onions cut into chunks (I love sweet onions they don’t make me cry)

Peeled mixed veggies cut into chunks. No thin slices here please

I used the following veggies, but you should use whatever is in your veggie drawer - Carrots, sweet potato, fingerling potatoes, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, whole peeled garlic cloves etc. salt and pepper


Pour about 1/4 C Olive Oil into the bowl and add herbs

I used a frying pan for this as I wanted to spread the veggies around in the oil rather than having them piled up in a mixing bowl. So I only put in enough veggies to cover the bottom of the bowl at a time, then stirred them around with the olive oil and herbs. 

 

Add the rest of the veggies and mix

Add all the oiled veggies onto the baking sheet and spread out

 

Cut the sausages in half both long ways and wide and set on top of the veggies (cutting is optional)

Cover the sausages with bacon rashers

Place in heated oven


Cooking time: Set your timer for 20 minutes, then mix the tray around as much as you can do and turn over the bacon and sausages. If you want the sausages to crisp up remove the bacon on to the veggies only. Cook another 20 minutes and test if the sausage is cooked to 160F and the bacon is crisp. Keep warm or serve with a good helping of a Brit Mystery.


 

58 comments:

  1. The Revels sounds like a lovely tradition . . . .

    I keep seeing recipes for sheet pan dinners, but until now I haven’t been intrigued enough to try one. This looks delicious, Celia . . . thanks for sharing the recipe with us.

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    1. From Celia: you're right Joan it is a lovely tradition. Try a tray bake sometime, the biggest job is cutting the veggies and it’s a great way of clearing out the veggie drawer in the fridge. Then if you don’t finish it, what’s better than a nice pot of veggie soup creamed with an immersion blender.

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  2. So delicious, Celia - thank you. I often make a version of this in the winter, although I've never added bacon. That's got to add great flavor. I usually bake at 400 but then you have to check it more often. Next time I'll fall back to 350.

    I think I only went to the Revels once or twice, but I have a friend who was a regular. What a production! These days it would horrify me to be so close to so many people I don't know, all singing (one of the easiest ways to virus-transmit, I hear). I've also never been to Pinewoods but have heard about it for years. Traditional music and dance is wonderful. Back in Indiana I knew some Morris dancers who wore white and bells and red scarves and danced up the sun on May 1. Similar to those May dancers?

    Delighted you'll be at Crime Bake. I also have an enormous head and would love to loan you a hat, except the only posh one I have (and it fits!) is the red one I got for last year's Bake. Costume at the banquet depends on the committee, but if there's a theme, it'll be centered on Debs' work. I hope we can grab a glass of wine together during the conf.

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    1. From Celia: Starting at the end Edith, yes please I accept your invitation to a nice glass of wine. I’m not sure if I hope for a costume or not as my costume days are played out. Yes, lots of folk together. Our last Revels was 2019, it was set between the wars. This year they widened the seating which is bench like in Sanders so folk weren’t so squashed together but they are really hurting on the money side. I thought you would have made a tray bake or two and enjoyed them. I’m thinking it would be popular in Indiana diners! Throw a couple of eggs on top, it’s the BIG Breakfast special.

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    2. Ooh, brilliant idea for a breakfast special. Hmm, am writing one of those books right now. Thanks you!

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  3. Celia, I live in New England, too and have decided to attend Crime Bake this year. It will be my first convention of this sort, too. I am very excited about meeting so many authors and also the JRW contributors who will attend.
    Edith, should I make reservations now? I would appreciate advice on this. I plan to stay at the hotel and not with Boston relatives for the weekend.

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    1. I'm delighted to have new people come to the Bake! After the conf registration goes live, which used to be in May, there will be a conference hotel rate. You shouldn't have to reserve until then. I am no longer on the committee, but you should be able to sign up for email notifications.

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    2. From Celia: Judy, that’s great, wine or drink of your choice too. See us newbies already have a date. Do find me on Fb if you’re on, I’m friends with several JRWs. Perhaps one of the Reds will add Crime Bake info when it’s published as I’ve had no luck finding a place to ask for info on the NECB website. So exciting.

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    3. Celia, I just found the NE Crime Bake page on Facebook. Maybe they will have more info?

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    4. From Celia: my apologies everyone. I am immobilized with a wonky leg plus neither of my devices charged themselves. On strike I guess so out of juice and feeling rather grouchy. Maybe there’s room in Oscars can for me too. Still, here goes, I’ll look for Crime Bake on the dreaded Fb. I will be there.

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    5. Try this email and ask to be on the email list for conf notifications, Celia and Judy: contact@crimebake.org

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    6. Also, sorry about the leg, Celia - may you feel better soon and be fully mobile!

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    7. Connie Johnson HambleyJanuary 22, 2023 at 4:40 PM

      Celia! You've warmed my heart on this cold January day with a delicious recipe and hearing you'll be attending Crime Bake! This will be my 4th year as co-chair (!) and we always strive to make the conference welcoming to all! This year, Deb will be our Guest of Honor so our awards banquet will be aptly themed but no word yet on costumes! Did I see someone mention a gathering of Reds! Swoon! We'll roll our the Red carpet! (Registration opens in June and we'll post updates on FB and other places.)

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  4. That looks yummy! I have made a couple of Melissa Clark's sheet pan meals and love them. Long ago I learned a similar recipe that has been on repeat: Italian sausage (we like the hot kind), chunked, lots of sweet onion, likewise, a couple of chopped bell peppers, a couple of chopped potatoes (skins on), and the marinade of extra virgin olive oil and lots of herbs--fresh or dry and the ever important sliced garlic cloves. It is especially good for cold days, as in revel season. I've played with adding other veg. Always good.

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    1. From Celia: Glad to learn of others who have adopted this easy method for a good winter meal. I tried a recipe which I think was Melissa’s which was frozen peas plus other veggies of choice cooked under chicken thighs. The thinking was the moisture from the peas would help steam the chicken. I’ll have to try and find it.

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  5. There's nothing better than some fun entertainment followed by a tasty, easily made meal. You can call it sheet pan or tray bake, Celia,whatever you like, and I'll gladly join you at the table for one! I put parchment paper on my baking tray when I roast cauliflower, as it does help at washing up time -- and I can scrunch it up and put it into my commercial composting service bucket for that week's pickup.

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    1. From Celia: You’re right Amanda and I’m most grateful for all the live streams. Parchment paper is a good idea. So great while dessert baking but unfortunately I don’t have a great recycling service like you. Wish we did.

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  6. Wonderful recipe! In past years I've made a salmon dish with veg on a baking sheet. I'll have to dig it out for Lent. Attending the Revels and Crime Bake will be fun. Two of my children and my daughter-in-law are proud Tulane graduates. I hope your grandson receives the same excellent education and experiences all New Orleans offers.

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    1. From Celia: You’re right Amanda and I’m most grateful for all the live streams. Parchment paper is a good idea. So great while dessert baking but unfortunately I don’t have a great recycling service like you. Wish we did.

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  7. Celia, my grandson is another of those seniors graduating this June. We were just talking about it yesterday, making plans. No confirmed college destination yet, though, just finger crossing so far!

    Yum, to the tray bake! I've made one or two sheet pan meals, but mostly with chicken.

    Oh. 'Obby 'Oss, you devil, leaving your pants at home! What a wild tradition.

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    1. Every generation is the first to think they've invented sex, aren't they, Karen? :-D

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    2. From Celia: congratulations to your grandson Karen, I hope he gets the college of his choice. Yes, that ‘Obby was quite a pagan ritual.

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  8. CELIA: Great intentions this year! Crime Bake will be a good intro to mystery conventions for you. I last went there in 2005, when they did not have costumed banquets, and it was fun. I have been going to conventions since 1992 and personally prefer going to Left Coast Crime & Bouchercon.

    And sheet pan bakes are a nice easy meal before the Revels. I usually make mine with chicken and lots of veggies.

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    1. Grace, it's hard to pass up a convention that is a 2 hr drive from home in favor of one 3,000 miles away, even if Left Coast is more fun.

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    2. Grace, the Crime Bake sounds like fun.

      Someone told me last year that they had captioning available though by that time it was too late for me to go!

      Speaking of captions, sorry to go off the topic here. Did anyone hear about the Sundance Jury walking out of the theater at Sundance because Marlee Matlin was NOT able to see a movie due to the LACK of captioning? MM was one of the jurors.

      Diana

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    3. JUDY: I totally get it why you and Celia are going to Crime Bake. Crime Bake was more of a writers convention than a fan convention when I went. It also takes place in the same location each year and I prefer going to conventions that rotate to different cities and/or countries each year.

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    4. That makes sense. It does appeal to me to go to Tucson for a convention or to San Diego. As for the convention being less friendly to readers, that is an interesting observation. If I feel like an outsider, then I will not return. But, Debs is going to be the guest of honor so, I really have to take this opportunity to meet her ( and Edith, and Julia, and Hank, and Hallie) in person (and see Roberta again) this one time.

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    5. JUDY: A lot can change in 18 years. I found the program from that year. Crime Bake was a 1-day event in 2005 with no banquet or social get-together. Julia was there, but none of the other Reds. Last year's Crime Bake ran for 3 or 4 days with plenty of opportunity to interact with authors, so I'm sure you will enjoy it.

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    6. I'm grateful we have so many good and well-established mystery cons in different parts of the country, so there will be something within driving distance for almost everyone sooner or later!

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    7. Diana, it's ridiculous in this day and age that a movie at Sundance, of all places, shouldn't be accessible to EVERYONE.

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    8. It would be great to see everyone at Crime Bake! It caps the number of registrants to keep its cozy feel and ensure its accessibility. And Grace is right when she says a lot has changed! We have a special place in our hearts for all Reds, too.

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    9. From Celia: can’t wait to meet you all and yes I would love to travel but not on my list right now.

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  9. I am a huge Revels fan, although I haven't been to a show since the pandemic started. In Portland, they choose a different international tradition to focus on each year. In 2009, for instance, the show was called "An Irish Mummers Village Celebration" and the guest musician was fiddler Kevin Burke. It was unforgettable. The shows are amazing, always with a story line and great music, thanks in part to Music Director Robert Lockwood--who also sings with the choir at my church. There are some traditions that continue each year--an audience sing-a-long for the round Dona Nobis Pacem, which we practice with the music director before the show, so we will all know our parts. The first half ends with a Morris Dancer leading whoever wants to in singing and dancing to Lord of the Dance, and the finale is a reading of Susan Cooper's poem The Shortest Day and a song about Yule. It looks like I can still watch this year's show virtually. It's called Andalusian Nights and should be excellent, as always.

    My friend just made a baked dinner the other night: chicken with rosemary and spices, sweet onions, acorn squash and mushrooms. Delicious! Your recipe looks gorgeous too.

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    1. Gillian, every one of those features has been in the Boston Revels I've attended. Lord of the Dance went on for a LONG time at the first one Celia and Victor brought me too, and I was tuckered out by the time we got back to our seats!

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    2. From Celia: Gillian so exciting to think you are on the opposite shore to Julia and me who are the Portland, Me shore. I’m sure you know that the Cambridge Revels does a recorded stream for a price. Unfortunately it has a limited life which I understand. I did call them to ask if they would extend it through today so you all could have seen it should you wish, but no luck.

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  10. So excited that you'll be at this year's Crime Bake, Celia! You'll have ball.
    Tray bakes are great, I agree - the first one I made was cauliflower. Then Brussels sprouts. Then potato spears. I love the idea of making one with bacon or sausage as well as veggies for the flavor and because I'm a sucker for smoked meat.

    Most adventurous tray bake: I once made a whole fish (2-pound red snapper, head and tail on) as a try bake, propped up in the pan by its fins, a-salted and a-peppered and oiled and baked until the skin crisped and it was done through. Yum. For adventurous eaters who don't mind eating around the bones.

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    1. Oh, Hallie, that sounds absolutely delicious!

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  11. Oh, how wonderful! I knew nothing about the Revels, so thank you for that. And it's been cold here in the desert (50's) for a very long stretch - WTH? - so this is an absolutely fabulous dish to make on the fly! Thank you!

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    1. Jenn, don't you love meals that essentially use up the odds and ends? :-)

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  12. Celia, enjoy the Revels and NE Crime Bake! I've made a sheet pan meal with chicken and veg many times--chicken thighs stay moist and the veg changes with what's on hand, but always plenty of garlic cloves, onion, and potatoes--usually redskin with skin on. This version looks like one everyone here would enjoy!

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    1. Flora, I was amazed to have gotten to my age and never heard of a sheet pan or tray bake! Why haven't I been doing this for years?

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    2. Julia, my thought exactly when I first saw the recipe I adapted. And it smells heavenly when baking!

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  13. This looks delicious, the most difficult part being cutting up the veggies. One question, how many slices of bacon makes up a rasher? I've read the term for years but not in a recipe that I might want to make. My first conference was in Dallas and I had a great time. Did I say first? Truth be told, Dallas was my only conference but I did have a great time. I'm sure you will have a great time at your first writers conference too.

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    1. Deanna, Celia may or may not be able to chime in, but I've always heard "a rasher" can mean either one or up to three slices of bacon. I think the numerical difference may come from the difference in the American-style thin slices and the thicker traditional English style.

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  14. Celia, you have once again entertained and informed us! And I say "tray bake" rather than "sheet pan." I think I first heard the term years ago from Jamie Oliver, who's a big tray bake fan. Love the idea of a tray bake to use up what's in the fridge, and if no Irish bangers are to hand, I'll bet some chicken sausages would work just fine.

    I didn't know about the Revels! What absolute fun! And I'm so happy you are going to Crime Bake! We are going to have a great time. And if I'm coming from Texas I'm hoping our other two far-flung REDs can make it, too. Although I'm wondering what sort of costume theme the committee will come up with from my contemporary British novels... I know I'm behind everyone on watching Magpie Murders, but I just want to say that I want Susan Ryeland's wardrobe!! (and the figure to wear those clothes, sigh.) I did have to laugh at the episode I watched last night, where she walks across a spring meadow in at least four-inch spike heeled boots. Only on TV!

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    1. Oh, Debs, the "tough woman who wears improbably high heels at a crime scene/during an adventure" is one of my pet peeves.

      Perhaps we can all costume as something quintessentially British - attendees can come as a Marks and Sparks bag, or the A to Z, or breakfast with beans and sausage. (That last would be a clever hat idea, actually...)

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  15. Celia, agree with Deborah that you have once again entertained and informed us! I LOVE sausage and bacon, though I was surprised that there are Both in this recipe. When I was a young child, I was told that it was ok to have Either Bacon or Sausage But NOT both. Someone told me that when I was ordering breakfast at IHOP or one of these American breakfast restaurants.

    Love Aidell's Chicken and Apple Sausages. (NO, Aidell's did NOT pay me to say that. LOL). And I am very picky about the taste of bacon. I was at the butcher's and I saw different kind of bacon like Maple Bacon and Applewood Bacon and Turkey Bacon. I like Maple Bacon.

    Speaking of bacon and sausage, I recall the first time I went to England with my family. I was surprised that the bacon and the sausages were different from the American version. It seems that the bacon in the UK was more like the Canadian bacon? And the sausages were Grey, not brown?
    Are the Revels like the Morris Dance Group? I was thinking of troubadors (sp?) from the Middle Ages.

    Happy Sunday,
    Diana

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    1. There ARE Morris dancers (bells, swords...) at the Revels I've been to... (Not Mark Morris Dance Group... completely different) - Hallie

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  16. Celia, thank you for those wonderful videos! I swear it shouldn't be long before Obby Oss will be on a Midsomer Murders. So much potential there!

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    1. Pat, I was thinking the same thing! It turns out there was a real-life death involved in the Obby Oss celebration one year - some of the performers were wearing very heavy metal pieces to their costumes and a young woman was hit in the head and died afterwards. It was a tragic accident, but I can imagine if it wasn't...

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  17. Sounds lovely.
    I recently made Toad in a Hole with Irish sausage. My 6 year old granddaughter wasn't thrilled with the sausage (too spicy?), but loved the dough. It really pops up impressively.

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    1. Libby, you made me look up Toad in the hole, and I've never had the British version with dough and sausage! My mom used to make egg toad in the hole, with the egg soft frying in a circle in the middle of a slice of bread. I never thought it looked like a toad, and now I can see why!

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  18. I will try this with vegetarian bratwurst and tempeh bacon. Looks yummy.

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    1. It was so good, and so easy, JC. If your non-meat sausage and bacon doesn't have more fat, I'm thinking you might want to add some in the form of butter or more olive oil.

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    2. Excellent idea. Thanks Julia

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  19. Celia, the Revels are just delightful! I can see why it's a tradition with you to see them and to have participated. I love performances like this. And, your Tray Bake sounds like a perfect dish for my daughter and her family, using brats. Daughter and family love brats (me, not so much) and veggies, so I can imagine this being very popular with them. Thanks for your post today. You always bring something new and useful.

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  20. Wow! John Langstaff, Christmas Revels, and Melissa Clark all in one piece. I’m in heaven. Many, many years ago my husband and I would take the train into NYC, trek to Symphony Space and revel in the Revels. What else could get us up in the aisles and moving. Such fond memories. And Melissa Clark, love her recipes, and her little videos. Thank you!

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