Fog and marzipan

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It’s a chilly, drab kind of morning at present, I wondered what it would bring once the sun came up to show us the day. The question was soon answered. Fog. The kind of heavy mist that lets through no light and paints the familiar landscape ghostly grey. Shrouding the distance in mystery it makes the mind question what it knows as looming giants that stretch grasping fingers towards unwary walkers resolve themselves into trees beside the lane.

My brain was a little on the foggy side too, it seemed. For me the day began, for some unknown reason, by waking to question the origins of the name ‘marzipan’. Strange things often linger when I wake up, so I am not in the slightest surprised… just curious. I like marzipan and I had been looking through my recipes yesterday so no doubt the source of the query lies there…

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Marzipan has always seemed an Eastern confection to me, though it has become part of so many traditional treats these days across Europe. Between bedroom and coffee cup, however, I went back to the older English name for the confection… marchpane… and wondered if that refers to the month or the traveller’s gait …and does ‘pane’ come from the French ‘pain’… which would make it March-bread or waybread…

It would work as the latter… nuts, sugar or honey, sometimes eggs or oil…a high energy and protein food. Why March as in the month though? Something to do with Mars? God of war.. soldiers marching…the speculation goes all over the place at this point. But it does seem to suggest that a diet of lembas might not be so bad…

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Does it actually matter and is it in any way relevant to the day? No, not a bit, though curiosity set me on an etymological search as my coffee cooled, only to find the origins more complex than I had supposed and rooted in ancient Persia… or Germany… or China… perhaps.

In what way was this a productive use of the time I have to spare in the morning? How did this tie in with the ante meridiem contemplations with which I am supposed to be occupied? I had to wonder myself for a minute, but it was staring me in the face from the start. Even the fog should have given me a clue.

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How often have I used that word in varied languages without considering what it really means or where it comes from? And by blithely accepting the word on face value, associating that collection of syllables only with the definition first taught to me as a child… that marzipan is a paste made from almonds and found on Christmas cakes…how much had I missed of its real meaning, origins and possibilities?

By extension, just how much do we miss by accepting our habitual definition of the world and ceasing to explore further, finding out for ourselves what it might mean? Within the Silent Eye, we suggest that the student accept nothing they cannot verify for themselves, either through the objective experience of the outer world or the subjective understanding of the inner. Yet here was just such an example of the habit of blasé acceptance with which we define our reality.

The fog and the marzipan had given me food for thought.

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29 thoughts on “Fog and marzipan

  1. Lovely photographs, so evocative of memories when there were npmore fogs than no. I often do wha you have done, stop on a ord and wonder where it coms from. What derivatives change where we think it comes from nd where maybe, it actually starts out and becomex changed by various means. Thus us the love of language, i reel in horror at sime of the changes/ short versions of certain words these days.
    Evelyn

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  2. Do you remember Tottie,the stories of a doll’s House. I remember it from the 80s I watched it with the boys occasionally, probably just the youngest! But there was a beautiful doll in there call Marchpane, the others were the Plantagenet family, husband, wife and son. Also Tottie is was a strange take a tad stressful for children…..bit like life maybe 💜💜💜

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  3. Definitely food for thought with the marzipan – I would have loved to get your reaction of a New England coastal fog –
    we always called it a pea soup fog, so dense that you could feel it and your vision was limited to only a few feet!

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  4. I love marzipan, but never gave an iota of thought to its origins other than almonds, sugar and honey, plus apricot jam to stick it to Christmas cake before being covered with sugar paste. I have such a terrible sweet tooth Sue!!
    Funny the things we wake up thinking about.

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  5. I’d bet if you asked any writer s/he would tell you that s/he, too, awakens some mornings with a strange word roiling in around in the brain and has to search out the origins. Perhaps writers brains are sculptured to do that?

    Thanks for continuing to post.

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