Mincemeat Tart

cawlGrowing up Welsh in America meant mincemeat tarts, Welsh cakes, beef kidney pie, shepherd’s pie, and, of course, cawl.

It also meant Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales,  Richard Llewellyn‘s How Green was My Valley, and learning to speak a little Welsh.

Growing up we celebrated St. David’s Day, prized leaks and leak soup, ate parsnips, ate lamb—lots of lamb served with mint sauce—and learned early on we’d gotten too dirty outside when Mom called us Mochyn Du (old black pig).

And you thought I was just fibbin'
And you thought I was just fibbin’

That’s just a start. What American boy begins his first year in school wearing short pants and a tie? But then what American boy could say he’d lived in Wales for a time and travelled through Europe, too? Those were the early 1950s that I only vaguely remember.

The food, though, I enjoyed well into the 1990s. If I disappointed Mom when I gave up meat, she didn’t show it. She served my Cawl meatless, with only a brief, “It’s not as good as it could be with meat.” Ah, cawl (pronounced kaul), is, according to Mom neither a soup nor a stew. It is cawl. According to Wikipedia, the modern Welsh cawl is used for soup and broth. But what do they know. Mom knows best.

welsh-cakesIf that’s confusing, try Welsh cakes. Mom said they aren’t strictly cakes; just as they aren’t strictly cookies, either. Certainly they are not tarts. What are Welsh cakes? Welsh cakes, of course. It all makes perfect sense to me. But then I’m half Welsh—on my right side, my creative side.

Now Welsh cakes are cooked on a plank. Hum.

“A wood plank?” you may ask.
“No, of course not.” I’d answer.
“What’s a plank then,” you ask.
“A plank is a plank, what else.”

star-mince-pies-cropNot long ago, I watched the British television series Doc Martin. It’s set in Cornwall, in the south of the island, which is of Celtic origin, as is Wales. In on of the episodes one of the characters had a soft-boiled egg in an egg cup. It’s top was cut off exposing the liquid yellow yoke. The character dipped small fingers of toast into the egg and ate it. Ah, now that brings back memories.

Don’t let’s forget mincemeat tarts. In case you’re wondering, no, there is no meat in mincemeat. I never asked why. I just shoveled them down as often as they appeared magically in one of Mom’s tins. Yup. Real tin boxes filled with all sorts of good things sat on top of the fridge. I don’t recall Mom ever making them with stars as covers. And her tarts were round, not pinched. No matter. Those look like they’d taste nicely in my mouth.

If you were Welsh, perhaps you’d understand. If you’re Welsh and don’t understand, well, that’s okay. There’s generational gaps even if Wales. There’s also geographical gaps. The Welsh are tribal and territorial, after all. Wales fought many a battle to keep free and independent. It ended with the conquest of  Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (“Llywelyn the Last”) by Edward I—not an easy war, as it took from 1277 to 1283. But the Welsh were really never beat into total submission. Even in the early Twentieth Century, when Mom was in the primary grades, the Englander school masters beat the heathen—as they thought them—Welsh kids for speaking Welsh in school. Hah! It didn’t stop them at all. Welsh is still the language of the day in Wales.

Megan Jenkins Robinson, with Carreg Cennen Castle in background (near Llandeilo, South Wales
Megan Jenkins Robinson, with Carreg Cennen Castle in background (near Llandeilo, South Wales)

Mom was all American—eventually; though it took some time. Her traditional American apple pie was wonderful. Of course, we often ate it with Bird’s custard spooned over the top instead of a scoop of vanilla ice cream. No matter. Embracing America with a touch of heritage is nice. Mom told me one day, after being in America for over thirty years, she finally stopped dreaming in Welsh. When Mom turned in her “Green Card,” the man who swore her in said he’d never seen a real “Green Card.” It was well worn, yet still green after forty-four years in the States.

Terry "Bach" (small) with June Hughs
Terry “Bach” (small) with June Hughes in traditional Welsh dress.

One last reminiscence. Welsh Rabbit. No, not the savory sauce of melted cheese. A real Welsh rabbit. I so vividly recall when my uncles came back my grandmother’s house in Blaenau (in the Rhonda Valley) with a fresh-killed rabbit. My grandmother dressed it out and put in the coal-fired oven. It was the smell I so distinctly remember, and covering my face with a bandana. I remember how my grandmother held her elbow into the oven to check the temperature. What I don’t remember is eating any of the foul smelling beast.

Missing Mom’s cooking, I am. One day I may just sail over to Wales and see if I can bum a meal from some of my wonderful relatives over there.
Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

Note to my Welsh cousins. If I got things mixed up in any way, do forgive me. After all, half of me is American; the wayward side.

The Daily Post Prompt: Tart

15 thoughts on “Mincemeat Tart

    1. Soldiers. Huh. Didn’t know that. Cool, actually. The accent is nice. One of my uncles was born within the walls of Tenby, in Pembrokeshire. BBC recorded his voice as part of its documentation of various accents. His was pure Tenby Welsh. Oddly, this uncle didn’t speak a lot of Welsh, as Tenby was an English settlement, then became a great resort for Londoners. All the best. Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Beautifully written, cousin! Your mum looks beautiful in that picture. I am honored to be named after such a wonderful woman.
    I’d like to try my hand at making mincemeat one day….I do, though, make cawl often. I’m wondering if you remember her plum pudding with hard sauce. Another of my favorites and something I’d like a good recipe for. If you have any of her recipes, please forward them. Now retired I have lots of time to experiment in the kitchen and love doing so.


    1. Long time Megan. Nice to hear from you. I hope y’all are doing well. Still in Whittier? Bryan commented on FB about plum pudding. I responded that I was so silly to have forgotten it. And the white sauce that was a Mam Blaenau speciality. Mom said the ingredients for plum pudding are really hard to find. The suet is an issue, but so is the dried fruit, apparently.

      One of my brothers has Mom’s old recipe book. I can’t remember which one. Her recipe book is a total stitch to read. Changes to temperature and times made over and over depending on the oven used were dutifully tracked.

      How about Bird’s custard? I bought a tin when it turned up in a small “English” section of a local grocery. I haven’t attempted it, and probably will send it to Miki, as she likes it too. I do make mint sauce occasionally. I have several kinds of mint in the back yard, and it grows nearly year round here in north Georgia. I don’t eat meat anymore, but it goes nicely over veggies.

      I’m never retiring. I just don’t get paid anymore for the work I do. LOL.

      Good to hear from you. Y’all have a great Thanksgiving.

      Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Anne,
        Yup. Mum was a great cook. She was a musician, too. I’ll save that for another post. I just thought of one of her favorite meals–leg of lamb, roasted. We’d have it Sundays, prepared differently on Mondays, as cold cuts Tuesdays, minced or ground, formed into rissoles on Wednesdays. It didn’t stretch any farther than that. Very Frugal, was she. I forgot plum pudding with white sauce, pointed out by my cousin.

        I really had fun with that post, too. Once I grasped onto Tart and mincemeat, it all seemed to flow. The only thing missing was a tie to scripture. I didn’t bother running “tart” as a search in my Bible app.

        You still have remnants of English customs down there on the bottom of the Earth?

        All the best. . . Lord, Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

        Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I use Mincemeat Will throughout the year not just at Christmas to make small cakes, I use it as a filling, their yummy.

        The Scripture does tell us all meat too is good if we give thanks for it so perhaps it means Mincemeat Tarts too, well they do have Meat is in them Lol.

        1 Timothy 4:3 For every Creature of God is good and nothing is to be refused if it is received with Thanksgiving..

        Blessings – Anne.


      3. You’ve got my mouth watering all over again for mincemeat. I’ve never made pie crust, and don’t think I’d like the ready-made crust. I may just have to try my hand. One of my Welsh aunts was fabulous at crusts. Her secret was lard, which made if flaky and wonderful.

        I’m not sure mincemeat is available in the States anymore. There’s an English section in the local grocery that I may find some. I found Bird’s custard there once, as well as English made sweets. We have Cadbury chocolates here, but they’re made in New Jersey under license and don’t follow precisely the English Cadbury recipe–not a good.

        Mincemeat being a good “meat” reminds me of John the Baptist eating locust and honey. As a child, I just assumed John ate grasshopper coated in honey. Some years ago I discovered the truth. I was sitting beneath a tree not far from the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Hanging from the tree were long, narrow, brown seed pods. I learned these were carob and grew on mature locust trees. So John was a health nut, and ate carob and honey.

        Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .


    1. Especially the foods from our youth, the foods that seemed to bind us with our families. Sadly there are so many who haven’t had that experience for a variety of reasons, including dysfunctional families, or absent family members. For those who believe, we have the Feast with our Lord, which will be so totally cool, to look forward to.

      Lord Bless, Keep, Shine…


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