Page 25 - Autumn Brilliance - We Wish You A Scary Christmas! Winter 2020
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 Wassail is a beverage originally made from a base of warmed mead or fine ale, eventually evolving into a drink with a base of mulled cider or wine. One of the earliest additions was roasted apples, but with refinement over the years sugar, cinnamon, cloves, honey, ginger and nutmeg, and other spices were added to the mix. Thick slices of toast as sops were even added to some recipes (giving rise to the phrase “giving a toast”). It has become strongly associated with the holiday season (Christmas through Twelfth Night), and originated in merry olde England (or possibly its Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian antecedents). Other countries have similar concoctions (just ask my friend Mark about Glühwein).
Stirring the Wassail bowl by Arthur Dovey. 1912
As the custom of wassailing (see below) spread, different regions developed their own recipes which could vary widely, including brandy or sherry, curdled cream, oranges, or eggs beaten into a meringue. Wassail was sometimes called “Lamb’s Wool” because the pulp of the roasted apples and the froth of the stiffly beaten egg whites resembled fresh-shorn fluffy wool. Some say, however, that the appellation derived from “La Mas Ubhal” (pronounced “Lama-sool”), which was an ancient pagan festival celebrating the apple harvest. The word is properly pronounced “wass- ALE´” (with lusty emphasis placed on the second syllable). The word wassail comes from Old English “was hál,” related to the Anglo-Saxon greeting “wes þú hál,” meaning “be you hale”—i.e., “be healthful” or “be healthy”. The word is said to have derived from the early fifth century. Rowena, a daughter of the Saxon Hengist, on presenting a bowl of punch to the English king Vortigern, greeted him with “Louerd king, wass-heil!” (“Be of good health”).

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