Citizens! The chill of Autumn can now be fully felt through to the bone, and the Swami of Soups has the cure for what ails you with a unique and rarely-recorded recipe from the hoary past of civilization! From a land near and dear to My antiquarian heart, I bring you today’s recipe for Manx Broth from the Isle of Man which is always eaten with a unique set of customs that hearken back many thousands of years in that ancient land!
Manx broth looks very similar to Scotch broth – and it is indeed quite a close cousin, as the Island of Manx is one of the 7 cornerstones of the ancient Celtic world (along with Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall (their version of Gaelic is now sadly extinct), Wales, the province of Brittany in France (their version of Gaelic is gone too) and the province of Galicia in Spain (where you can still see bagpipers playing along the shoreline – Gaelic has vanished here as well). Manx Gaelic almost followed its other cousins into the grave, but today it is undergoing a renaissance of usage in its native land! The Isle of Man has many recipes similar to those of Scotland, including Mollag, their version of the infamous Scots dish of Haggis.
The culture of the Isle of Man is influenced by its Celtic and, to a lesser extent, its Norse origins, though its close proximity to the United Kingdom, popularity as a UK tourist destination, and recent mass immigration by British migrant workers has meant that British influence has been dominant since the Revestment period. Recent revival campaigns have attempted to preserve the surviving vestiges of Manx culture after a long period of Anglicization, and significant interest in the Manx language, history and musical tradition has been the result. The official language of the Isle of Man is English.
The Manx Gaelic language is a Goidelic Celtic language and is one of a number of insular Celtic languages spoken in the British Isles. Manx Gaelic has been officially recognized as a legitimate autochthonous regional language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, ratified by the United Kingdom on 27 March 2001 on behalf of the Isle of Man government.
The Manx language is closely related to the Irish language and to Scottish Gaelic. By the middle of the 20th century only a few elderly native speakers remained: the last of them, Ned Maddrell, died on 27 December 1974. By then a scholarly revival had begun to spread to the populace, and many had learned Manx as a second language. The first native speakers of Manx (bilingual with English) in many years have now appeared: children brought up by Manx-speaking parents.
Primary immersion education in Manx is provided by the Manx government: since 2003, the former St John’s School building has been used by the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh (a Manx language-medium primary school). Degrees in Manx are available from the Isle of Man College and the Centre for Manx Studies. Manx-language playgroups also exist and Manx language classes are available in island schools. In the 2001 census, 1,689 out of 76,315, or 2.2% of the population, claimed to have knowledge of Manx, although the degree of knowledge in these cases presumably varied.
In common use are the greetings moghrey mie and fastyr mie which mean good morning and good afternoon respectively. The Manx language uses “afternoon” in place of “evening”. Another frequently heard Manx expression is traa dy liooar meaning time enough, which is supposed to represent a stereotypical “mañana” view of the Manx attitude to life.
For centuries, the island’s symbol has been its ancient triskelion: three bent legs, each with a spur, joined at the thigh. The three legs are reflected in the island’s Latin motto (adopted late in the symbol’s history): “Quocunque Jeceris Stabit”; traditionally translated into English as “Whithersoever you throw it, it will stand”, or “Whichever way you throw it, it will stand”. The origin of the Three Legs of Man (as they are usually called) is explained in the Manx legend that Manannan repelled an invasion by transforming into the three legs and rolling down the hill and defeating the invaders.
The name of Isle of Man is eponymous after Manannán mac Lir, a Celtic sea god, according to an old Irish lexicon (Cormac’s glossary or Sanas Cormaic). A further tidbit of Manx mythology provides that Manannan, who was “the first man of Man, rolled on three legs like a wheel through the mist” (O’Donovan, the translator of the glossary. Manannan was called “The Three-Legged Man” (Manx: Yn Doinney Troor Cassgh) and all the inhabitants were three-legged when St. Patrick arrived.
A “traditionary ballad” entitled Mannanan beg mac y Leirr; ny, slane coontey jeh Ellan Vannin (“Little Mannanan son of Leirr; or, an (whole) account of the Isle of Man”)(dated to 1507–22), states that the Isle of Man was once under the rule of Mannan, who used to impose a token tax from the island folk, until Saint Patrick came and banished the heathen. One quatrain runs: “It was not with his sword he kept it/ Neither with arrows or bow. / But when he would see ships sailing, / He would cover it round with a fog.” (Str. 4) “.
So Mannanan here is said to have raised a mist or fog to conceal the whole island from detection (cf. Féth fíada). The fee or rent that Mannanan demanded was a bundle of coarse marsh-grass like rushes (leaogher-ghlass), to be delivered every “Midsummer Eve” (24 June)
In the Manx tradition of folklore, there are many stories of mythical creatures and characters. These include the Buggane, a malevolent spirit who according to legend blew the roof off St Trinian’s Church in a fit of rage; the often helpful but unpredictable Fenodyree; the Glashtyn who may be a hairy goblin or water-horse who emerges from his aquatic environs; and the Moddey Dhoo, a ghostly black dog who once wandered the walls and corridors of Peel Castle and frightened the guards on duty.
Mann is also said to be home to the mooinjer veggey) or the little folk in the Manx language, though they are sometimes referred to obliquely by locals as themselves. There is a famous Fairy Bridge and it is said to be bad luck if one fails to wish the fairies good morning or afternoon when passing over it. Other types of fairies are the Mi’raj and the Arkan Sonney or Arc-Vuc-Soney “Lucky-Boar-Pig”.
An Irish folktale attributes the formation of the Isle of Man to Ireland’s legendary hero Fionn mac Cumhaill (commonly anglicized to Finn McCool). Finn was in pursuit of a Scottish giant, and hoping to prevent his escape by swimming across the sea, scooped a huge mass of clay and rock from the land mass and hurled it; but he overshot, and the chunk of earth landed in the Irish Sea, thus creating the island. The hole he gauged out became the Lough Neagh.
Traditionally the national dish of the island is Spuds and Herrin, boiled potatoes and herring. This plain dish is chosen because of its role supporting the subsistence farmers of the island, who crofted the land and fished the sea for centuries.
A more recent claim for the title of national dish would be the ubiquitous chips, cheese and gravy. This dish, which is similar to poutine, is found in most of the island’s fast-food outlets, and consists of thick cut chips, covered in shredded Manx Cheddar cheese and topped with a thick gravy. Baked potato with a variety of toppings such as chili beans is a popular fast-food dish not typically served in English take-aways.
Seafood has traditionally accounted for a large proportion of the local diet. Although commercial fishing has declined in recent years, local delicacies include Manx kippers (smoked herring) which are produced by the smokeries in Peel on the west coast of the island, albeit mainly from North Sea herring these days. The smokeries also produce other specialities including smoked salmon and bacon.
Crab, lobster and scallops are commercially fished, and the Queen scallop (Queenies) is regarded as a particular delicacy, with a light, sweet flavor. Cod, ling and mackerel are often angled for the table, and freshwater trout and salmon can be taken from the local rivers and lakes, supported by the Government fish hatchery at Cornaa. Cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry are all commercially farmed, Manx lamb from the hill-farms being a popular dish. The Loaghtan, the indigenous breed of Manx sheep, has a rich, dark meat that has found favor with chefs, featuring in dishes on the BBC’s MasterChef series.
Manx cheese has been a particular success, featuring smoked and herb-flavoured varieties, and is stocked by many of the UK’s supermarket chains. Manx cheese took bronze medals in the 2005 British Cheese Awards, and sold 578 tonnes over the year. There are not many unique desserts, although the Peel flapjack is a popular one. Beer is brewed on a commercial scale by Okells Brewery (established in 1850), Bushy’s Brewery and Hooded Ram Brewing Company (established in 2013). The island has a beer purity law, resembling the German Reinheitsgebot, dating from 1874.
Now – as to Manx broth, the soup itself is very similar to Scotch broth with one critical difference: it uses beef instead of lamb! The circumstances around which the islanders enjoy this particular dish are particularly ancient and fascinating, as noted in this fascinating treatise I am excerpting from IofM.net:
“I don’t know how to make it, but I know when it is good” A.H. Laughton, former High Bailiff of Peel. The traditional dish served at a Manx wedding feast was broth which was eaten from wooden bowls knows as piggins and supped with mussel shells called sligs.
The guests travelled to church on horseback and when the ceremony was over they would gallop as fast as they were able to the bride’s house. The first person to reach the house tried to catch a slipper from the bride’s foot, and small pieces of wedding cake were scattered over her head as she was going inside. All the friends and relatives brought something towrads the feast and there would be a lavish spread of fowls and cold meats to follow the broth.
A barrel of ale was put on top of a hedge outside the house for people who were not at the wedding, and inside there would be pleanty of jough (ale) and wine.
This recipe is simple and delicious and my version shall remain equally so – it will not be complicated by My pathological need to add flavor complexity to My recipes. Try and buy a good set of wooden bowls, talk to your fishmonger about getting some cleaned mussel shells and enjoy this soup as it has been for MILLENIA, My Citizens! May TFD Nation remain as obdurate and eternal as the Manx themselves! 😀
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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