Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Luxury of Time

One of the most interesting features of Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe is the detailed accounts of how the protagonist learns to survive on an uninhabited desert island.  Once he has built and furnished his shelter, he begins a journal (using paper and ink that he had found on the wrecked ship) and, through this, documents his attempts to build his own version of English society on the island.  He describes making different shelters, building a boat, civilizing a savage – Man Friday whom he rescues from cannibals - and, most importantly for my purposes, growing and cooking food.

In my last post – see - I wrote about the goats that live abundantly on the island which are Crusoe’s principal source of meat – he does also eat turtle and wild fowl – and his only source of dairy food.  But whilst the goats provide ready food – they just need to be captured or shot, then cooked – other food requires time.  Fortunately Crusoe – who spends 28 years on the island – has plenty of that.

Writing in his journal ten months after his arrival on the island, Crusoe tells of how on one of his expeditions into the heart of the island he came across fruit:  “particularly I found melons upon the ground in great abundance, and grapes upon the trees”.  Despite his delight at finding new products, Crusoe is cautious, specifically of the grapes since he remembers a previous experience in Barbary when many English men died from “fluxes and feavers” caused by eating grapes.  However, ever resourceful, Crusoe realizes that if he gives them a little time, he can make good use of the grapes, drying them in the heat of the sun to make raisins.  And so, that is what he does.  Having discovered the grapes on the 16th July, he notes that by 3rd August “the grapes I had hung up were perfectly dry’d, and indeed were excellent good raisins of the sun”.  And to mark his first year anniversary of being on the island, Crusoe eats “a bisket cake”, which he had taken from the ship, “and a bunch of grapes”.

Robinson Crusoe might have eaten a biscuit accompanied by dried grapes; I decided to combine them and make raisin-studded flapjacks, adapting Nigella Lawson’s flapjack recipe in How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

DESERT ISLAND FLAPJACKS (makes approximately 18)

450g rolled oats
75g soft brown sugar
300g unsalted butter
50g golden syrup
50g raisins

Grease and line a 23cm square brownie tin or 2 sandwich tins.
Pre-heat the oven to 190C (170 fan), Gas mark 5.
Mix the oats with the sugar in a large bowl.
Melt the butter and syrup in a large saucepan over a low heat.  When melted stir in the oats and sugar.
Stir in the raisins (or alternative).
Press the mixture into the tin and cook for 25 – 40 minutes (depending on how crunchy you want them).
After they have been out of the oven for about 10 minutes, cut into squares or wedges.  Leave to cool completely in the tin.

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