To me, fairies have always been about the holiday season — think the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker Suite ballet and Tinkerbell, the blonde-haired imp who wore a green outfit with matching translucent green wings in the 1904 play Peter Pan and knew how to handle a wand and pixie dust. Imagine then my delight when my friend Lily Lopate sent me a copy of The Faerie Handbook: An Enchanting Compendium of Literature Lore, Art, Recipes and Projects by Carol Turgeon with Grace Nuth and the Editors of Faerie Magazine (Harper Design 2017; $35). And yes, there is a Faerie Magazine.
This beautifully illustrated book containing all things faerie (the archaic literary spelling) is divided into chapters, including Flora & Fauna with such headings as “A Select List of Fairy World Inhabitants” and their history, a “Fairy Herb and Flower Almanac,” as well as instructions on making such fairy necessities as houses, furniture, pressed flowers, and terrariums. In the section on Fashion & Beauty we learn about such style icons as Morgan Le Fay, Titania of the Fairy Realm and La Belle Dame Sans-Mercy — a woman with eyes that mesmerized helpless, handsome men (way to go, La Belle, we say). The Fashion & Beauty chapter gives us the low down on fairy couture including fairy shoes which are totally inappropriate for walking particularly the ones with five-inch heels made of flowers. It also contains directions on how to make a fairy crown — a clothing item no one should be without.
It isn’t easy being a fairy. You have to get up early to gather the right beauty ingredients. After all, according to Samuel Pepys, the great 17th century diarist, his wife was a big believer in maintaining her looks in a fairy manner by collecting early morning May dew. Another requirement is being able to make fairy dust. That’s what Tinkerbell used to get Peter Pan to fly. You wouldn’t want to be without it.
Want to hang with the fairies? The authors tell about how to find fairy portals and pathways. You’ll need to read the chapter, but we can give some hints. Look for a strange circle of mushrooms (those are fairy rings), bridges (but be careful of the trolls, country crossroads are good places to run into fairies (but devils hang out there too) and natural portals like ocean cliffs and tangled branches with an open center in the middle.
Of course, what interested me the most was fairy food. As one might expect, fairies love parties and the authors show us how to host a Midsummer Night’s Dream Garden Party. Fairies main ingredient when it comes to cooking seems to be edible flowers. Their menus consist of such goodies as Flower Lollipops, Honey Ricotta Tart with Lavender Scented Crust, Candied Violets and Lavender Shortbread Cookies.
Fairies also love tea parties — ones with lots of flowers in pastel colors of pink, lavender, violet, pale blues and even moss. What to eat at such a party? Fairy Tea Cakes and flower teas.
40 fresh violets, pesticide free, with stems intact
1 egg white
1 cup superfine sugar
Fine-tipped paintbrush, preferably new
Small sharp scissors
DIRECTIONS: Place a wire rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet and
In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy.
Holding a violet by the stem, dip the paintbrush in the egg white and carefully coat each petal, front and back.
Sprinkle the superfine sugar over the violet and shake off any excess. Sprinkle again until the whole flower is lightly coated.
Gently place the violet on the drying rack. Repeat with the remaining flowers.
Allow the violets to dry for 24 hours, then use the scissors to cut off the stems. Candied violets may be stored in an airtight container for up to eight weeks.
Lavender Shortbread Cookies
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried lavender, pesticide-free
1 stick plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons whole milk (optional)
½ cup sanding sugar (optional)
DIRECTIONS Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the sugar and lavender in a food processor and pulse to achieve a fine texture.
In a large bowl, combine the lavender sugar, butter, and salt. Use the electric hand mixer to cream the ingredients until light and fluffy.
Gradually add the flour, mixing until the dough comes together. If it’s too crumbly, lightly wet your hands with water and knead the dough in the bowl until the flour is completely absorbed, and the dough is smooth.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a ½-inch thickness.
Use a cookie cutter to cut out the dough. Transfer the cookies to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
If desired, use the pastry brush to lightly coat each cookie with milk, then sprinkle with sanding sugar.
Transfer cookies to the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, rotating the pan once, until the cookies are golden brown.
The cookies will be very soft when you remove them from the oven, but will set once cool. Allow them to cool completely on the baking sheet before transferring them to a plate.
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups granulated sugar, plus 1 cup for dusting
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
2 cups fresh cranberries
DIRECTIONS: In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes before stirring in the cranberries. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, set a wire rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the berries onto the rack and set aside for 1 hour. Meanwhile, line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the remaining 1 cup sugar in a shallow dish. Working in small batches, roll the cranberries in the sugar until they are completely coated, then transfer to the clean parchment-lined
baking sheet. Make sure berries are in a single layer and not touching each other.
Allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour or until dry. Frosted cranberries may be stored in an airtight container for several days.
The above recipes are from the book The Faerie Handbook by Carolyn Turgeon and the editors of Faerie Magazine. Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Turgeon. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.