Saturday, 14 November 2009

Poppies, Poppy Seed Muffins, and Paying Tribute

I've been meaning to write a post for Veteran's Day for over a week, and finally have the time to actually do it. I'm sorry for the delay. I can only say that although the message is belated, it is no less sincere.

At 11:00 on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, World War I officially ended and peace was declared. Remembrance Day, also known in different areas as Veteran's Day or Armistice Day, began to commemorate this establishment of peace, and to honour the sacrifice and service of the war veterans and the many men and women who lost their lives during the war. The first World War, or the Great War, was considered 'the war to end all wars.
Unfortunately, the peace founded in 1918 did not last for long. We now have many more veterans to honour and remember, including those involved with WWII, the men and women currently serving in the Middle East, and those involved with all of the wars in between. War has touched all of us in some way, no matter how indirectly. My grandparents were involved with WWII: one of my grandfathers was in the airforce, the other in the navy, and my grandmother was in the women's forces until she was discharged when she admitted that she was under-age. There were many involved with the Korean War, Vietnam War, First Gulf War, Falklands War, and other modern conflicts. There are now thousands of soldiers serving in the Middle East, many of them in Afghanistan. These are men and women with families and communities back at home.
Whether or not you agree with the politics of the war, whether you are a pacifist or a military general, regardless of nationality or political affiliation, you must feel something when you think of the many many people who have been involved with these wars. I would love to imagine a world at peace without the need for military. Unfortunately, history has shown that nations are often compelled to fight, and I am thankful for the people who are willing to do so on our behalf.
Poppies have become a symbol of Remembrance Day. In Flanders, where the landscape was devastated by WWI, poppies now blanket the country side in shocking swathes of color and life. These beautiful wild flowers grow best in disturbed ground, and so the battlefields that had been bathed in blood were soon red with blossoms. One of the most famous poems from WWI centres on the image of the poppy. John McCrae, serving with the Canadian military, wrote the poem In Flanders Fields after his best friend died in battle in WWI:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarell with the foe.
To you from failing hands we throw
the torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
[I copied this from First World War Poems.]
In the UK, everyone wears red paper poppies on their coats and collars around Remembrance Day. The money donated to charity for them is used to care for Veterans and their families.
It seemed only fitting for Remembrance Day to do something with poppies. I decided on poppy seed muffins. They are easy to make, easy to share, and have a mixture of sweet and tart flavours perfect for an introspective day like this one.
Rememberance Muffins Recipe
3 oz butter (room temperature)
3 oz sugar
1 egg (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
8 oz plain flour
1/2 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup cranberries (I used dried, but you could use fresh)
120 ml (1/2 cup) milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1. Cream together the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Beat well (preferably with an electric mixer).
2. Sift in the flour and baking powder, and fold into the wet mixture.
3. Stir in 1/4 cup of the poppy seeds, 1/4 cup of cranberries, the milk, and lemon juice.
4. Put into either greased and floured or paper-lined muffin tins. Fill each muffin about 1/2 to 3/4 full. Use the remaining cranberries and poppy seeds to sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.
5. Bake at 180 C (350 F) for about 20 minutes (until a butter knife comes out mostly clean).
These are delicious hot with a little butter on them (stick in the microwave for 20 seconds to reheat if needed). They will also keep for several days, and are good cold as a snack or stuck into lunchboxes.

(A special thank you goes out to the kind Freecycler who gave me the beautiful poppy design dishes.)

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