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Clansman's Coffee

Once again we approach one of the most important dates in the calendar of our Scottish ancestors - Beltane Day on 1 May.  It was a date marked by fire, the day of Spring fire-festivals, maypole dancing, and the day when cattle were driven to their Summer pasture in the uplands.  In Scottish Customs, Sheila Livingstone writes of the herdsmen's role at Beltane - "Cattle were made to pass through the smoke of the Beltane fire on May the first in order to cleanse them.  This custom came from the Druids and was eventually Christianised as protection from evil in God's name and to guard against sickness or murrain.  At one time cattle, especially bulls, were sacrificed at Beltane and it was thought to be particularly effective if there was a crescent moon.  This was also the time in the Highlands when the flocks were taken to the shielings or Summer pastures.  Anyone meeting the procession had to give them a blessing.  The evening of the arrival at the pastures a shieling feast was held where lamb was usually served and ale was drunk.  Charms were supposed to have extra powers at Beltane and the cattle were often blessed and sprinkled with urine."

Visit for details of this year's Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh.

Unfortunately the beginning of May can also bring a cold snap of a few days which is known as The Gab o Mey.  April has proved to be anything but Spring-like so we hope that 2005 doesn't see The Gab o Mey, but instead sees the weather improve. However it might be as well to have this week's recipe Clansman's Coffee on hand in case The Gab comes.

Clansman's Coffee

Ingredients:  1 oz whisky; 3/4 oz Sambucca; black coffee; whipped cream

Method:  Wipe the rim of a goblet with a piece of lemon and dip it in brown sugar.  Pour the spirits and coffee into the glass, add sugar to taste, and float the whipped cream on top.  Decorate with grated chocolate.

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