The history of the crumpet 🔥🥞🧀
Curiosities and oddities that we've loved and learned this week
It’s impossible not to be drawn to the playfulness in Lyubov Panchenko’s vibrant folk art. Each piece is made up of colourful blocks of fabric that together depict lively characters and animals with an array of Ukrainian motifs throughout. Her pieces are part of a much bigger story - the Ukrainian artist continued to create through a life of oppression.
Panchenko’s career in the arts had always involved textiles – first as an embroidery pattern designer for magazines, later as a fashion designer – but in the 1960s she was determined to let her art speak. She joined The Sixtiers – a political art group who strove to revive Ukrainian culture. Her activism and refusal to change her creative style meant that she was forbidden to exhibit her artwork for decades during the Soviet Era. Her first public exhibition wasn’t until 1992. Panchenko’s work was transferred to The Ukrainian Sixtiers Dissident Movement Museum in Kyiv before the war began, and when Russia invaded her hometown of Bucha earlier this year, she went on a hunger strike. She died on 30th April.
A nice bit of crumpet
There’s a lot we can get done in the time our crumpets are in the toaster: eating cheese from the fridge, completely ignoring that pan we “left to soak”, getting annoyed at the Duolingo owl when we get our Italian verbs wrong. And, earlier this week, googling the history of crumpets.
The name dates back much further than the modern iteration of our favourite 11am and/or 4pm snack. In 1382, theologian John Wycliffe translated “Crompid Cake" from the Latin Old Testament. The cake wasn’t actually that similar to crumpets, but it was cooked on a hot stone, which is vital for the crumpled edges, or the “cromp”. There’s also some similarity with the Welsh “crempog”, which is a flatter pancake, but still cooked on a hot stone.
Earlier iterations of crumpet recipes involve beaten egg, but we can thank the Victorians for our modern version: they introduced baking powder, which gives crumpets their lovely bubbly texture that soaks up all of the butter, jam and whatever else you fancy. This is also when the crumpet ring was introduced, a canny contraption that held the batter in place and made for a thicker and doughier snack.
Crumpets were widely popular with all classes – they were beloved with afternoon tea by the upper crust of society, but street hawkers made them accessible to the masses. There’s also no single origin – variation on the concept existed around the UK. The ubiquity of the snack actually helped to cement its longevity and space in our toasters.
Bridge over troubled water
When we’re in need of a holiday but have nothing but a vast expanse of work ahead, we like to take a vicarious trip around the Landmark Trust website of a lunchtime. Currently top of our list of fantasy weekend getaway venues is this chocolate-box-worthy pink thatched cottage in North Devon. One of the best things about the Landmark Trust – after their stellar conservation work and array of incredible lighthouses and castles, of course – is the fact that they often tell you a bit about who lived in each property in the past. Bridge Cottage was once home to the Hockin family, who had nine children. The most recent resident was one of their daughters: Mrs Packington, as she became, lived there until the 1970s. Nowadays, four nights at Mrs P’s old place start at £297 (though you’ll need Lady Luck on your side to bag a break that cheap), and there’s still some availability this year. Send us a postcard, please.
Rub it in
If midgies and mozzies love you as much as they love Laura, take her advice and carry a little tin of Zam-Buk around with you at all times. It’s £3.99 from Victoria Health and works a treat, soothing the itchiness and calming the redness. This magical old-fashioned ointment works on chapped skin, aching muscles and cuts, too, and if you happen to be an escape artist, Harry Houdini recommended it for sore wrists.
Hug and be hungry
Instagram is a weird place these days. We would love to double-tap your holiday snaps (your sunshine freckles are so cute!) and that cool photo of the big bumble bee in your garden, but first we have to swim through a sea of reels from people we don’t know. Just as we think of deleting the app, something stops us. That something is usually the artists and illustrator accounts that we love like Maggie Cownes, Tessa Perlow, TheJealousCurator and – our most recent Seinfeld-inspired joy – arthistoryvandelay. Last month Rubyetc shared this beautiful sketch, and dozens of people requested it as a print. Our wishes were granted and it’s available to buy for just £18. Send it to your favourite person to hug and hug again until dinner time.
Read all about it
We’ve got a lot of time for the Italian man who built himself an amusement park.
Jeremy Lee’s debut cookbook is out soon, and we can’t wait to get stuck in. Among the simple but sensational recipes, it also promises “the most useful jams and jellies from a Dundee childhood,” which has obviously piqued Laura’s interest.
What working at a secondhand bookshop taught an author about literary rejection.
This weekend, Sian is headed to Bath and Laura is off to the Highland Games in Drumnadrochit. Like what we do? Buy us a cuppa.