It was the crimson, scarlet, fire colours of Autumn that underpinned Euan and the Elder form the start, both through its words it has Rowan berries ‘…forged by lightening rouged by blood…’, the story of a man’s search for wood for his pot bellied stove in a native Scottish woodland.
A search that sees him find berries and nuts for sustenance and health and ultimately leads him to disrespect nature and be admonished in a most poetic way by a green man type figure.
So it would only seem appropriate to ensure that the launch of our little book was done in a way that was ‘decent, respectful and true’ ….I like tying things in and like to pay attention to the details.
The first step was to approach the local venue The Glad cafe , a great spot with great credentials, co owned by a storyteller and her son and run as a social enterprise intent on providing affordable music lessons for local people, with a great atmosphere, nice food and an exciting list of events . they were fab….not only did they let us use the space for free, they were charming and friendly throughout and tolerant of plan changes and small children….a nice place indeed! So next up the menu…..The Glad cafe said I could bring the food myself to keep costs down…..brilliant that meant I could fit the menu to the book…..this was going to be fun. I kept it fairly simple ….as local as possible, Scottish cheeses, apple and rosemary jelly from the lovely people at the farmers market, chilli oatcakes, dressed the table with a vintage Liberty print tablecloth in colours that echoed the book that was my mums for twenty years before she gave it me, apples hazelnuts and pine branches from the garden and some of the antique lace I scanned to provide some of the background to pages in the book. Then onto my favourite bit: the baking! The child says shortbread is ‘the Mary Queen of Scots of biscuits’ and I need to give you all the recipe, but I’m not going to…..(I won’t tell the child if you don’t), after all what I did was add a generous quantity of bashed up hazelnuts to a standard flour/brown sugar/butter shortbread mix. The cakes? well enough people asked me for the recipe and they’re the perfect Autumn opposite to the Spring elderflower cakes I made for the herbal storywalk earlier in the year, so it seems only right that I share the recipe for theapple and elderberry cakes I made for the launch party:
In essence all my cake recipes however exotic sounding work on the 4oz sponge mix principal (if vegan then I use and 2:3 oil and water mix instead of butter and an extra tsp of baking powder and 4oz of pureed fruit instead of egg), but this time I had some local free organic range eggs which had unbelievable sunset yellow yolks to hand and no one booked to come had said they were vegan so I was going to go rich, and use 4oz organic butter, beaten to a creamy smoothness with 4oz of soft brown sugar, 2 large free range eggs whisked in, then a grated russet apple a tsp of baking powder and 4oz of white organic spelt flour folded in. The 25grams of elderberries I had soaked overnight in a hot (when I put poured it over) infusion of elderflowers (dried from the summer….and the perfect immune boosting complement to the later borne berries), these were now plump and tart and were folded in last to preserve the contrast of colours and the integrity of the berries……they were pretty yummy…..after cooking (no idea of temperature or time ; )…..probably 180 degrees ’til light brown and springy to the touch covers it!).
It was only a few bites to keep appetites sated but in its own way it was part of the story itself, Euan is called by trees as he goes reminding him of their uses beyond firewood, there were berries here to boost the guests immunity, hazelnuts to cosset the brain, apples so vital historically to our winter larders, and resinous pine clearing our airways.
People came loads of lovely people everyone bought a book or two or a bag….we signed lots of copies and felt very supported and appreciated by our friends, a few faces made themselves known….previously hidden facebook acquaintances, people we shared interests with or who had thought it sounded interesting come to find out more, It was a bit overwhelming in the loveliest way…..everyone loved it, I read the book, they enjoyed it, its amazing and an incredibly positive experience when people you like and respect truly enjoy something you’ve put so much effort into.
On a final note, because I’m torn between not wanting to say what a great job Caroline and I did, but wanting to encourage more people to read and enjoy our book, and understand the type of stories I tell and why I tell them, I’m going to let someone else speak for me! I received this lovely message this week from a friend of a friend a professional herbalist (link to her website here: Womanwise herbal) and mother of two, a dynamic woman also self employed and making her own paths down in the South of England, she couldn’t come to the launch but had ordered a copy online and this is what she wrote:
“hello dear Amanda…thank you…Euan and the Elder is one enchanting and touching tale with so much love and care in the telling…it made my spine tingle and my eyes fill…such a beautfiully crafted rendition and book…congratulations on a fine piece of important work….looking forward to the next one…love x ”
Anyone wanting a copy of Euan and the Elder £5 or the fab canvas bag printed with Carolines gorgeous illustration of native Scottish trees and filled with samples of the plants in the story in organza bags, the book, some postcards one with its own wee story, and the missing appendix £15, can click here to go to the products page of the website and order it and I’ll pop it in the post…..and anyone interested in booking the story as a woodland story walk please get in touch here