Persephone, goddess of Spring, has returned from the dark regions of the Greek Underworld!
To celebrate the return of Persephone, I whipped up a dish for breakfast on Sunday 21st of March which ushers in the Calendar Spring.
It is not unlike French Toast, baked, not fried, with apple slices in between, apples left over from golden October days. This dish is mysteriously named “Scheiterhaufen” (pyre) by the Germans. Or maybe it is not so mysterious, with Easter approaching and Easter bonfires. (More later.)
A well-buttered fire-proof glass dish, approx. 30cm x 19cm x 6cm
3 Cox Orange apples, pared, cored, thinly sliced (5cm)
Baguette, preferably one day old, thinly sliced (5cm)
Arrange bread and apple slices to alternate in the glass dish. Set aside.
1 cup (1/4 liter) milk (or cream or coconut cream if you want it rich)
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup(50g) fine brown sugar or cane sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Mix the sugar with salt and cinnamon. Whisk eggs, add sugar mixture and continue whisking until well-mixed. Stir in milk. Pour this mixture over the bread and apples. (You can leave this overnight in the fridge to avoid the whole work of preparation for breakfast.) Before baking, sprinkle a tablespoon or two of brown sugar over the dish and dot with butter. Bake at 360 F or 160 C for about 30 minutes or till lightly browned. Serve hot.
Alternate bread slices with apple slices. Pour egg-milk mixture over the whole. Sprinkle brown sugar on top and dot with butter before baking.
French Toast with apples, baked. Enjoy!
Every spring I am reminded of the cult of Persephone and Demeter, of Life and Death and Rebirth (more of which later, come Easter).
In Greek mythology, Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, while picking flowers in a meadow, was abducted by Hades, god of the Underworld, to be his consort. Demeter, the corn (cereal) goddess, searched the Earth in vain for her daughter. She learned finally that Hades had abducted her and that Persephone, having eaten the seeds of the pomegranate while in the Underworld, was condemned to remain there forever.
She went to Zeus and demanded that Hades give back her daughter. Zeus just shrugged. Rules were rules. In fury, Demeter caused all plant life to shrivel. Seeing the destruction and the dying earth, and recognizing her unprecedented power over life and death, Zeus ordered Hades to return Persephone to her mother, albeit for a period of time – the months that we know as Spring, Summer and Autumn. The Earth died in the months that Persephone stayed in the Underworld – Winter. Persephone is thus known as the goddess of Seasons.
Demeter, who causes seeds to grow and life to reproduce, is known as the life-giver, corn-mother, goddess of agriculture, goddess of harvest and goddess of fertility. In a cult pre-dating the Olympian deities, Demeter has no name. She is a Mystery, referred to only as the Mother.
Picture on the right: Depiction of goddess of Spring in the Art Nouveau style.