Thursday, July 1, 2010

Scott's Farewell Slice

My favourite thing about having a blog is that it's a fun way to be in touch with the world, but my second favourite thing about blogging is that I'm always learning new things. For example, when I made Scott's Farewell Slice from Ladies, A Plate, just the other day, I thought to myself that I must find out more about poor Captain Scott and his ill-fated mission, just to put this slice in context.

Captain Scott was in a race with a Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, to reach the South Pole. England whipped itself into a frenzy of excitement and financed the mission, and a party of 65 men set off aboard the ship Terra Nova in 1910, well provisioned and enthusiastic. They sailed from England to New Zealand, and left Dunedin (my home town, incidentally) for the pole on 29 November 1910. They were farewelled by thousands of people who had been given a half-day off work for the occasion. Five men from that mission reached the North Pole, but only a month after Amundsen, and were disappointed but not entirely surprised. On the way back one of the men died when he fell down a glacier. Next, Captain Oates, who felt he was slowing the party down as a result of his frostbite, walked out into the snow never to return. As he left, he said "I am just going outside and may be some time."
The three remaining men made it to within 11 miles of safety, but died when they were caught in a storm. Realizing that they would not make it home, they wrote some notes and letters, which are rather moving reading. Here is one of Captain Scott's:
"... I do not regret this journey, which has shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of providence, determined still to do our best to the last ... Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for."
The final letter to his wife, which he begins "To my widow" is described in some detail here, and it is one of the sweetest love letters I've ever seen.
Also sweet, of course, is the slice. It's a chocolatey kind of slice, with lots of other delicicous things in it too. Here is the recipe:

4 oz butter
6 oz brown sugar
1 D golden syrup
1 egg
6 oz flour
pinch of salt
1 t baking powder
1 T cocoa
3 oz coconut
2 oz walnuts
4 weetbix, crushed
4 oz chopped dates
2 oz raisins

Cream butter and sugar, then add egg and combine well. Sift in the dry ingredients and add the weetbix. Mix to combine, then add the fruit and nuts. Tip into a sponge roll tin, press flat, and bake for 15-20 min at 190 degrees celsius. Cool, ice with chocolate or chocolate icing (1 c icing sugar, 2 T cocoa, 1 T melted butter, and hot water to mix) and sprinkle with coconut.

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  1. And let me tell you readers, that slice is a beauty - I had three pieces in 90 minutes. I could have had more but I didn't want to make a pig of myself. Kx

  2. I've made that slice a few times myself - it is a pretty "sturdy" recipe, if that is a baking term. (I like the picture of the Dolly varden cake the best - so fancy!).

    Poor old Oates. Apparently he clashed with Scott quite a bit and if Scott had listened to his advice earlier on, they may well have survived - but he still did the heroic thing. I like Scott's last entry "For Gods Sake, Look after our people'. Dad used to say that quite a bit when we were kids and we had no idea what he was on about.

    You just can;t imagine people today going off on such gruelling adventures.

    Right - off to scoff some choccie and have a cuppa.

    Love mary

  3. What a sad story for such a lovely slice. Amazing what people of that generation did for King and Country. Can you imagine getting a letter that started, "my dear widow" I mean REALLY. It's like coming home from work to find the wardrobe empty and a letter from your now former partner which reads, "my dear ex-wife." It's a hell of an introduction to the sad facts.

  4. So yummy... and in our house, it has a different name and has been handed down at least 3 generations as "Dorothy Square". No idea who Dorothy was. I like your name better.

  5. Oh yes, we've enjoyed that slice too. It's the only thing from the book I've made (because they put the recipe in the paper). Quuite a history, great idea to commemorate those lives in a simple but enduring way.

  6. mmm, those ingredients light my fire - weetbix, dates, coconut. The only thing that seems to be missing is rolled oats - or would it be called something else if they were added?

  7. If it had rolled oats added it would be called Captain Oates farewell slice.


    Oh I am so funny.

  8. OK I admit it. I laughed. Love a good bad pun. I haven't heard of this slice but it sounds like great lunch box stuff so I am going to tell the kids the dates are something else and give it a go.

  9. On second thought, it probably isn't a pun, is it? But it still made me laugh. And I'm still trying out the slice.

  10. it is an amazingly sad story to go with such a delicious slice. Today feels like a baking day and this yummy slice is on the list.

  11. I also baked this slice from the recipe book, beautiful book, delicious slice, it was all around amazing. i posted a picture of it on my blog too:

    look forward to more of your posts!

  12. Totally love the way you combine baking with a history lesson. YOu could so come from a family of teachers!!