The Great Fair of Saint Thomas Ye Martyre is held in May and October in Haverfordwest. Until recently it was situated on the Green, (loads of complaints in the local paper), close to St Thomas a Beckett's Church, before moving to the edge of the town.
Fourteen years ago I took my twin grandsons to the opening of the May Fair, when they were four years old. Suspended above the crowds, they watched as the Town crier rang his bell, the vicar said a prayer and a richly caparisoned Mayor declared the revelry could begin. Harry and Oliver twirled round and around, unaware they were taking part in an ancient custom.
There were hot dogs and candy floss, but no bear baiting or cock fights and no slabs of sticky gingerbread either, which were a feature of the medieval fairs.
To provide sweetness and moistness, iron rich molasses or golden syrup was used in the gingerbread. Nita does not have a gingerbread recipe in her book but she does have one for Ginger Cake.
As well as ginger, cinnamon is used. Spices, highly prized and priced in the Middle Ages were introduced to this country by the Knights Templars when they returned from their foreign travels. (No Gift Shoppes then).
Nita's recipe is undated, but the inclusion of powdered egg suggests it was wartime. I've substituted a fresh egg.
Take 12 ounces of Self Raising flour, half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, 1 ounce of powdered ginger, 1 ounce of cinnamon, half a pint of hot water, 1 egg, 2 tablespoonfuls of treacle or syrup, quarter pound of lard (butter for me, darlings), quarter pound of brown sugar. (I would add a good spoonful of marmalade for the flavour and the chewy pieces of peel).
The next part is simplicity itself, which is what I like. Put butter, sugar, treacle in a bowl and pour over the hot water. Mix and allow to cool. Add beaten egg and the rest of the ingredients. Mix again. Bake in a moderate oven for about 45 minutes. (Molasses burns easily, so be careful). I have made this with honey instead of treacle and it's good. I mix the juice and grated rind of an orange with icing sugar and pour it over the cooled cake. This is not Atkins, so don't worry about the carbs girls.