Protestants, Pubs, and Puddings
Ebrington in the Cotswalds
In Spain, it is the “Catholic Guilt” that gets the faithful out of bed and off to church on Sundays. In Turkey, it is the call to prayer blasted over the loudspeakers on the minarets that starts the day. In jolly old England it is the peal of the church bell that awakes the Protestants and shakes them out of bed. This morning, we heard the bells …and answered the call. Yes, this good Lutheran boy and his eldest daughter decided that this Sunday, we were going to church.
I discovered, the other day, that our small village of Ebrington has a wonderful old church that dates from the 12th century, complete with a very scary looking, leaning tombstone laden graveyard, and still has a congregation that holds weekly services. The church was an architectural marvel to behold from the outside, and truthfully, I wasn’t even really sure exactly what denomination this church was…so I decided to go have a look-see.
So this morning as we awoke to the sounds of the church bells calling the faithful to services, Taylor and I elected to get some religion. Laura was not really awake yet and there was no way I was getting Riley anywhere near a church, protestant or not, so Taylor picked out her mos t appropriate churchgoing outfit and I put on the only long pants I brought with me…a pair of more than well worn black “fuzzy wogger” style sweats and off we went …to church…on Sunday morning…in a small village in England! And who says I am not a good Dad?
As we entered the churchyard, I could tell Taylor was taken back by the gravestones. They were a bit erie as they are old…really old…like 14th century old! The oldest date I could find was from 1642 but many of the stones were sooo old that the stones were wearing out. Literally, they were so worn and eroded and overgrown with moss and lichen that most were unreadable…now that’s old when even stone wears out! But she conquered her fears as we approached the church building.
As we approached the door, the church elders were preparing for the service and welcomed us inside. Now I am not sure if it was that I was raised as a protestant or if it is something else but I really felt welcomed in this church. The people were genuinely friendly and interested in Taylor and I…where we were from, why we were here, in Ebrington, what we thought of the village, of the church…really nice people.
As the gentleman showed us around the church, it was noticeably different from the catholic churches we have becomed accustomed to in Spain. Where those churches were dark and brooding with graphic imagery on every wall, this Anglican church was filled with light. The walls were free from the saintly images, all looking down upon you. There were no dark, richly colored paintings at all…no huge crucifix on the altar, no beautifully rendered stained glass images of the martyrdom of Saint Someone. It was actually quite refreshing.
As the service started we sang a few hymns, we listened to a few short readings from the bible…no “fear god or you will suffer a terrible torment” style messages here like I had read in the Qu’ran…all good passages that contain a clear, relavent, and actionable message. The Vicar presented a great sermon on the 5 powers that can enslave a person: Greed, Power, Revenge, Self Preservation, and a 5th one that I cannot remember for the life of me…it may have been Memory but I have forgotten what it was…anyway it was a lovely service that really inspired me to strive to be a better person. In the end, isn’t that what religion should really be all about?
I was also impressed that Taylor enjoyed the service too. Yes, they did have juice and brownies afterwards but she loved the conversation and was attentive and engaged in the whole process. We both said a prayer and tied a ribbon on the “prayer tree” that they had set up on one side of the church. She was able to pick out the “tree of life” symbology from the 17th century wooded pulpit and relate it to the same symbol we have on our Islamic prayer rug we purchased in Turkey last week…and who says she’s not paying attention. We both had a great morning and she was so excited to tell Momma and Riley all about it when we got back to the house…a great way to start the day. So that was our day with the Protestants of Ebrington, and a good one it was.
Our next activity was to enage in another very British custom: The Sunday Roast. Now I have never spent much time in Britain so I have no idea exactly what a “Sunday Roast” is, but I am a fast learner and picked up on the concept quite quickly. Growing up in our house, it was called “Sunday Dinner” but somewhere along the way, we lost the tradition in our family. Aparently, the British, being very fond of and respectful towards tradition, have not forgotten.
As it was explained to me, Sunday Roast is the early afternoon, after church, big Sunday meal. It usually involves some sort of roast meat product (hence the name), gravy, potatoes, a few veggies thrown in for color, Yorkshire pudding, a pint of warmish beer and then a coffee to stave off the food induced coma that would naturally follow. But we are traveling and our cozy little cottage in the Cotswalds, while quite well appointed, really would not support cooking a Sunday Roast at home, so we headed out down the road to the Ebrington Arms Pub, just a few doors down the road from the cottage, for our Sunday Roast.
The Ebrington Arms was voted “Ebrington’s Best Pub” in 2010. Having been here for a week I can now understand how it came to such fame…it’s the ONLY pub in town. In truth though the food is delicious and we have had 2 great meals here. For Sunday Roast, Laura and Riley split the ribs, with Taylor and I choosing the pork loin. Both were fantastic and Laura and I have decided that the Sunday Roast concept is one that we will revive and bring back home with us. Anytime you have an excuse to cook a good meal and share it with your family, it is a good thing. So let’s here it for Sunday Roast…in our neighborhood Pub!
Thus sated, we had one last activity on the daily docket…pudding. Yes pudding, but not the empty-the-cardboard-box-in-a-bowl-and-put-it-in-the-fridge kind of pudding…no this was different. The back story is that there is a restaurant in the nearby village of Mickelton called “the 3 Doors” and has become famous for it’s dessert puddings. The concept of pudding here is a very rich dessert consisting of a thick gooey, sweet cake like baked product slathered with what they call a “lashing of custard.” The restaurant has a 3 month wait for reservations and the meal consists of a very small main course followed by 4-5 samplers of the various puddings de jour. You have to love a restaurant with such a respect for dessert.
Well, today, they were hosting an open house and we stopped by to check it out. We were not disappointed. The event had the feeling of a small town wine and cheese festival, but instead of wine and cheese, they had dessert. We waited in a short line and approached the table of earthly delights with anticipation as we could smell the wondourous treat well before we could actually see it. As we reached the table, Laura and I both chose the “Sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce with a good lashing of custard.”
OMG…this had to be the best dessert I have ever had in my life! The cake like product was like sticky toffee mixed with a bit of flour to hold it together…just enough so you could call it a cake like baked product. Then, the cake was drenched in gooey caramel and then “lashed” with creamy yellow custard. I wanted to lick the plate…then lick Laura’s plate…but I didn’t as that would appear unseemly…and I didn’t think it would be appropriate to take both plates with me to the restroom. But this was the best dang thing I have ever tasted and I would not rule out a trip back to England, back to the cozy little cottage in the Cotswalds, just to have another tasting of the “sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce and a good lashing of custard”…it was that good!
So there you have it! A wonderfully jolly good day in old England filled with Protestants, Pubs and Puddings!