The Burqa

Recently, I was in Afghanistan and I saw a few women wearing burqas. IMG_0735It got me curious about the history of these coverings, since I had never heard of them before the rise of the Taliban.

The Times of India (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/Heres-the-truth-behind-the-veil/articleshow/5516871.cms) states: According to linguistic history, the word ‘burqa’ was in use in Arabia before the advent of Islam in the first quarter of the seventh century. At that time the word ‘burqa’ meant a piece of clothing that was used as a protection, especially in winters. The well-known Arabic dictionary Lisan al-Arab gives us two examples of its use during the pre-Islamic period: the first, as a cover for animals during the winter season and the second, as a covering chaadar, like a shawl for village women.

Facing History, in its Brief History of the Veil in Islam,  (https://www.facinghistory.org/civic-dilemmas/brief-history-veil-islam) notes that the veil itself predated Islam and was practiced by women of several religions. It also was largely linked to class position: Wealthy women could afford to veil their bodies completely, whereas poor women who had to work [in the field] either modified their veils or did not wear them at all.

Though the burka often appears confining and limiting to Western eyes, many devout Muslim women choose to wear the long veil. Some say that the coverage of the burka gives them a privacy that actually makes them feel freer to move about in society. However, others say that even though the burka protects women from the staring eyes of strange men, it does not prevent the wearer from being touched or pinched by passing men. (http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports-and-everyday-life/fashion-and-clothing/clothing-jewelry-and-personal-adornment/burka)

A different perspective, and one that implies the burqa has a shorter history, comes from Professor Mohammed Qadeer from Queen’s University (https://iramz.wordpress.com/2006/10/05/the-evolution-of-the-burqa/):  This tent-like cloak that completely drapes a woman’s body and face, with only a crocheted screen as an eye-piece, has been worn by women to go out in public for almost a century or more in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and parts of the Arabian peninsula. It literally draws a curtain around a woman and allows her to move about outside the family compound, while conforming to the religious-cultural custom of remaining secluded from men. Although some Afghan women have discarded the Burqa, after the fall of Taliban, an overwhelming majority continue to wear it as a matter of choice and social norm.


I haven’t been posting lately, but I have been busy doing things. I have been working my way through spinning my fleece stash. I have been sewing up the finishing bits on many different projects. I even started a new piece of bobbin lace.

I also did some woad dyeing experiments with my friend Eluned. We used woad balls and fermented woad leaves from my garden, as well as commercial woad.


Today Elsebeth came over and taught a group of us how to make egg tempera, and then we played at painting. I quite enjoyed myself.

Saucisson sec

Tonight I made seven pounds of saucisson sec using the recipe in Charcuterie (Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn, WW Norton & Company, 2005, p. 193).

This is a delightfully simple dried sausage that could easily have been made in medieval France, with the exception of Instacure #2, because I prefer to use a modern preservative for health and safety. It is made with pork, kosher salt, black pepper, sugar and garlic. The sausage needs to be hung, ideally in temperatures slightly cooler than my basement store-room, so I am leaving it in my refrigerator for tonight. I’ll move it to my hanging rack tomorrow, as the weather is expected to cool dramatically. It will hang for about 18-20 days, until the sausages are completely stiff and have lost about 30 percent of their weight.



Mikolaj Reg in “Zywot czlowieka pozciwego” (1568) describes a sauerkraut
method: “Having removed the outside leaves of some nice heads of cabbage, cut them in half and fit them neatly into a vat, spreading beet chards & dill between the layers” (Food and Drink in Medieval Poland, by Maria Dembinska, University of Pennsylvania Press, 199, p. 124).

This recipe didn’t mention any salt or other preservative, so I combined it with “Auntie Ruth’s Recipe” which comes from Mordonna the Cook, Atenveldt, Dec 31, 1999, in Stefan’s Florilegium

3 large, firm heads of cabbage
6 handful of salt

Shred cabbage. In a large crockery churn layer the cabbage with the salt.
Cover with a clean white cloth, weighed down by a stone. Allow to sit in a
cool, dark spot for three to six weeks. Bring to a boil and can.

I shredded three cabbages and put them into my fermenting pot one at a time, with a layer of beet leaves dill and two handsful of salt between each, and 2 more andsful of salt on top of the last cabbage. Then I topped it with a plate, a wooden board cut to fit the crock, and a mason jar full of water to press the cabbage and keep it under the liquids released as it ferments. The beet leaves are a mix of leaves from my garden and leftovers from the Lebanese turnips and pickled beets with horseradish I made earlier this week. The dill is from my garden – the first year I have ever managed to grow enough to make it worth harvesting and using in a recipe.

The crock is a 6 gallon Medalta crock from Medicine Hat Alberta. It was a gift from a friend of my mother’s. She is of Polish heritage, and used it to make sauerkraut for many years.


On Sunday I collected a lovely big bag of windfall apples at a harvest for Hidden Harvest, a local social business that collects fruits and nuts that would otherwise rot on the trees, and shares it with our food banks and shelters. Most of the apples were destined for the stable where my horse lives, but as I was browsing through Sir Kenelm Digby’s cookbook, I  spotted this recipe for apple sauce.

To Stew Apples

Pare them and cut them into slices. Stew them with wine and water as the pears, and season them in like manner with spice. Towards the end sweeten them with sugar, breaking the apples into pap by stirring them. When you are easy to take them off, put in goo store of fresh store of fresh butter, and incorporate it well with them, bag them together. You se between two dishes. The quickest are the best.

To stew wardens or pears

Pare them, put them into a pipkin, with so much red or claret-wine and water, as will near reach to the top of the pears. Stew or boil them gently, till they grow tender, which may be in two hours. After a while, put in some sticks of cinnamon bruised and a few cloves. When they are almost done, put in sugar enough to season them well and their syrup, which you pour out upon them in a deep plate.

The Closet of Kenelm Digby’s, Kt., Opened
Brewing and Cookery
1677, p. 194
Falconwood Press

To make this, I peeled and sliced about 6 cups of apples, added a cup each of water and red wine brought them to the boil and then let them simmer for a bit. Then I added a cinnamon stick and 6 cloves plus 3 Tbsp of sugar and simmered for a bit longer. From time to time, I gave the apples a good stir so they would run to mush. The apple sauce is like a tart apple pie filling. I like it tart, but you may wish to adjust the sugar quantity to your taste.



Since I had beets leftover from yesterday’s pickled turnip experiment, I went searching for a way to use them up and came across Marx Rumpolt’s 1581 recipe in Ein New Kochboch. As a bonus, it called for horseradish, so I was able to use up all that remained from this harvest.

3. Rote Ruben eyngemacht mit klein geschnittenen Merrettich/ Aniss/ Coriander/ und ein wenig Kuemel/ sonderlich wenn die Ruben geschnitten/ gesotten mit halb Wein und halb Essig.


3. Red beets preserved with small cut horseradish/ anise/ coriander/ and a little caraway/ special if the beets are cut/ marinated in half wine and half vinegar. (Source: http://www.florilegium.org/?http%3A//www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD/pickled-foods-msg.html)

I used 6 beets, about 3/4 c of horseradish pieces, 1 c each of red wine and vinegar (mix of balsamic and white vinegar), 1 tsp caraway seed and 1/2 tsp each ground anise and whole caraway seed. Put everything into a jar, covered it, and left it to sit on my kitchen counter for 24 hours. The result is a delightfully crunchy beet pickle and a remarkably edible horseradish root that is tinted bright red.


I have too much horseradish. Despite best efforts, it takes over my garden. I usually let it go until fall because it is supposed to be sharper, but this year I stead the space for something else so I ripped it out. Now what? Horseradish mustard seemed like a good idea.

Grey Dragon, which is an excellent resource for mustard recipes, has one from Sir Kenelm Digby (The Closet of Kenelm Digby, Kt., Opened. Brewing and Cookery, 1677, p. 187. Falconwood Press).

To make Mustard

The best way of making Mustard is this: take of the best Mustard-seed (which is black) for example a quart. Dry it gently in an oven, and beat it to subtle powder, and searse it. Then mingle well strong wine-vinegar with it, so much that it be pretty liquid, for it will dry with keeping. Put to this a little pepper beaten small (white is the best) at discretion, as about a good pugil, and put a good spoonful of sugar to it (which is not to make it taste sweet, but rather quick, and to help the fermentation) lays good onion in the bottom, quartered if you will, and a race of ginger scrapedndbruised; and stir it often with an horseradish root cleansed, which let always lie in the pot till it have lost its vertue, then takea new one. This will keep long, and ow enter for a while. It is not good till after a month, that it hath fermented a while.

Some think it will be the quicker, if the feed be ground with fair water, instead of vinegar, putting store of onions in it.

My Lady Holmeby makes her quick fine Mustard thus: choose true mustard-seed; dry it in an oven after the bead is out. Beat and searse it to a most subtle powder. Mingle sherry-sack with it, stirring it a long time very well, so much as to have it a of a fit consistence for Mustard, then put a good quantity of fine sugar to it, as five or six spoonfuls, or more,to a pint of mustard, stir and incorporate it all well together. This will keep good a long time. Some do like to put to it a little (but a little) of very sharp wine-vinegar.

I used the GreyDragon redaction as a base, because I also like hot mustard.

1/2 lb of brown mustard
A 2″ piece of ginger
1/4 tsp freshly ground black mustard
1/4 large onion, chopped into tiny pieces
3″ piece of horseradish (from a thick root, so it was about 1″ thick)’ chopped into tiny pieces
1/4 tsp sugar
About 1 c apple cider vinegar

I ground the mustard in my amazing new giant granite mortar and pestle, and put the ground mustard into a bowl. Then I ground the ginger and horseradish. I added a bit of mustard seed in with the vegetables to ensure they got fully ground. Next, I transferred the vegetables to a bowl and added vinegar, mustard and sugar, then stirred everything together. I transferred this mix to the bowl of ground mustard and stirred again, and added more vinegar until it was nice and liquidy. Then I covered it with cloth and it is now sitting on the counter, where is will stay to ferment and mellow for the next month.