So, Imbolc, that time of entering into the season of Spring is almost upon us [2 February], and here’s a few ideas to really celebrate that event, that festival in food, whether you’re thinking of entertaining for a few people or celebrating by yourself on that day, especially if you’ve never celebrated Imbolc before in this way.
So, choose which time of the day (and I prefer evening), and then which day you’ll be celebrating Imbolc. Remember, some using the ancients’ way of reckoning the calendar would understand the start of Imbolc as happening on the evening of 1 February, by our modern view, rather than 2 February. Yes, to the ancients the new day starts in the evening (before). You get to chose.
But, it’s about celebration, so let’s plan to make it a time to enjoy.
And because it’s a celebration, what follows are a few ideas – not recipes – of things you can incorporate into you main meal of the day (or other meals, as you feel appropriate).
You might like to do the whole meal as an Imbolc celebration, or just one part of it. If in doubt, or if this in the first festival celebration, I’d suggest you plan part of the meal as a celebration. On a number of occasions I’ve had a normal meal, and ‘focused’ on part of the meal (to celebrate the event) and bought a special bread for after the meal. A remembrance of bread being a staple food, the Bread of life?
Also, because we’re all busy people I’ve suggested below, small but significant ways and items that can be shop-bought for convenience sake (though if you have time to bake and make, why not…but you don’t have to do that to celebrate and make the event really meaningful). But, to do that, buy a few special things (even if they cost a few pence more – quantities don’t have to be gargantuan. Just token meaningful foods, ‘treats’, maybe, if the item is really expensive!)
The suggestions below are just that: suggestions. They are ideas to try something different, to experiment with something that you may not usually buy, and may be ‘richer’ in fats etc, but it is a celebration and a time to enjoy the moving into a new season. So, do ‘splash out’ and enjoy yourself, and try the following food ideas (unless, ofcourse, you’ve been otherwise advised (medically) or have an allergy, intolerance etc to the foods suggested. In all things, do follow medical advice and common-sense).
So, that said…let’s prepare to party.
Whether it’s a meal for yourself or a few others, too, preparation can be fun, meaningful and easy to accomplish. If you’re not usually into formality or table lay-out I’d suggest having just one or two additional elements.
Candles! I love candles, and though they can be expensive, I’d suggest the simpler the candle, the better. One candle, lit, on a table looks great. Go for ‘minimalist’ if you wish – it can, in many circumstances, make it even more meaningful.
Because the sun would still be low in the sky and light in the evening would be dim, and because early Romans believed candlelight would scare away evil, and because Jesus is the light of the world, candles were specifically used (for all or some of those reasons) at this time – hence in many churches it’s Candlemas. So, candles are quite apt and meaningful.
Later, as you gaze upon that lit candle, remember, the sun rising higher in the sky and Spring returning, new life, a ‘chasing away’ of the dark and light dawning, and ponder on growth, good things, and hope.
Nature on display! I really like those displays that contain berries and fir cones etc and they look great as a table display. If, however, you have children who may think they’re edible, then how about a bowl of nuts and fruit (containing strawberries, oranges, apples, bananas etc)? And, the latter are a great desert. Or, what about a small bunch of inexpensive spring flowers! Both can look great, and act as a great reminder of gratitude to the earth, to nature, to the Source of All behind it.
For this event, celebrate with foods that honour the earth, hearth and home, such as milk products vegetables, bread etc, and these are incorporated in the suggestions below.
Milk: Imbolc is about milk – think of baby ewes being born and their mother’s milk flowing to nurture them. It’s a time of fertility, new life. So, why not something different, milk-wise to pour over your breakfast cereal?
You might like to try full-fat milk instead of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk if one of the latter two are your normal diet. I know this seems like awful and unhealthy advice – but it’s a treat to celebrate the festival, and only for one day. I confess, for that day I intend to indulge (and for one day only I’ll be buying a bottle of Jersey milk. Great for coffee!). But, to encourage healthy eating you might like, instead, to try organic or lactose-free milk for the day? Whatever you do, make it special to you, try something different and really enjoy it.
How about yoghurt?
Fruit with cereal?
How about free-range or ‘happy’ eggs for an omelette? Maybe, even a cheese omelette. It’s a great way to start the day.
Main meal ideas
For starters to a main meal you could have a vegetable soup to celebrate the event – to remember the simple, natural things in life – something cheese-based, or combine the two with cheese soup! Sainsbury’s stock some really nice soups, such as:
- Spring vegetable soup,
- Broccoli & Stilton soup,
- Mediterranean Vegetable & Balsamic soup,
- Tomato and Basil soup,
- Tomato, Lentil & Red Pepper soup (my favourite) and others.
For the main meal, this again, is personal choice. I’m not a vegetarian, but my special meal at this current time, and one that I’ll use as a main meal for this event is fish. I love lemon sole, and especially if that includes sweet potato ‘chips’ (or ‘fries’ to some, though these are even-cooked), onion rings, and lashings of mixed vegetables (to include peas, haricot-vert beans, broccoli, spring onions, and sweetcorn). And, maybe, a creamy white (cheesy?) sauce for the fish?
And For Desert/Sweet ideas
Also, for after the meal, why not put some cheeses out with those cracker-type dry biscuits, and some real butter? Okay, maybe some might go for some kind of lighter spread as we’re all cholesterol conscious, but enjoy it. You might like to try a few cheeses, such as:
- goats cheese
- French brie
- Stinking Bishop (is a favourite, and recommended to try if you’re in the UK)
- Caerphilly cheese (Last, but by no means least. Caerphilly cheese is a hard, crumbly white cheese that originated in the area around Caerphilly in Wales. I’m biased, I know, but I’ll be buying this.)
Bread is also another great, traditional food to include in your Imbolc meal.. Use it with your sandwiches for lunch, maybe? It can be used in the main meal, throughout the meal, but I like to use it, especially at an event such as this, after the main meal (and with that cheese, later).
And then bread takes on an almost magical existence. For just a few minutes the bread is cut, a little butter or spread is added, each person takes a little, and all eat together. Communion? Eucharist. It ‘works’ even if you do this by yourself – as somewhere in the world others are doing the same and are ‘connected’ with you in that act of ritual and reverence!
As you eat it by yourself or with others, it’s a great way of remembering the bounty of the earth, all those that have been involved in bringing it to your table, and ofcourse it’s a great time of expressing gratitude to the Giver of All. Take time to ponder.
But what type of bread? Because time seems to run by so quickly, I usually buy some shop-bought bread, but I always seek out something rather special at times like this. I’d suggest:
- wholemeal, organic bread
- Irish soda bread
- traditional Welsh bread, bara brith, or Irish barmbrack bread, and the latter is also sold in Sainsbury (both are favourites of mine, and have the consistency almost of a fruit cake which you can spread it with butter – especially warm butter, so it can rightly be regarded as a desert, too!).
Throughout the meal, maybe between courses, or at the beginning and at the end, it’s good to pause, to give thanks, and look forward to the Spring, the season of growth and new opportunities in nature, and in our lives!
Some may like to recite a poem or prayer at certain times, and more about those ideas will be covered in tomorrows article on: ‘Your Powerful Imbolc Ritual & Liturgy: Ideas & Resources’.
So, plan a great event, enjoy it, and take your time. We all rush around far too much, and here’s an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the simple, natural things in life as we yet again mark the season’s change, and give thanks.
But, do remember, the abovementioned are only ideas, and even if you cannot afford anything but the simplest of meals without the trimming of candles etc, the Source of All will not be overawed by your food or table display, won’t be looking to mark your efforts out of ten, but will be gazing at you with unbounded love! You matter. So, enjoy Imbolc.