My friend Thaddeus recently sent me a Wicker Man comic book starring the Muppets. Kermit is Sergeant Howie, Gonzo is Lord Summerisle, and of course Miss Piggy takes up the role of the ass-shaking innkeeper’s daughter played by Britt Ekland (and her ass-double) in the 1973 film.
It’s clever and funny and well-executed but naturally the creators of it couldn’t include every scene from the movie, and my favorite one of all is missing: May Morrison’s sweet shop. It’s such a brief scene but it made a big impression on me. Ever since I first saw the film I’ve longed to walk into a sweet shop stocked with chocolate hares and turtles and creepy baby-shaped cakes.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s in the shop, starting with the big chocobaby in the window:
more after the jump, along with the beginnings of an inquiry as to how to recreate these goodies . . .
Moving on to some rams’ heads, with skulls and large toads above them:
A big baby cake surrounded by pink elephants, chocolate turtles (sea turtles?), fish, a couple of hedgehogs (I think) and, in the bottom row, skulls of various sizes, much less ornate than the sugary Día de los Muertos-inspired ones on the other side of the window:
I can’t make out what those black circles with red orbs in their centers are meant to be — apples surround by licorice whips? Or by snakes? Moving inside the shop we see more of them, arranged in front of more rams’ heads, skulls, and what appear to be a couple of rats:
Another big baby cake:
The most prominent display in the shop is the hares. There’s a nice fat pig nearby on the left, maybe some fish and ladybugs, and more toads above:
I would love to recreate this shop as some sort of installation. This scene in the film was shot on location in Kirkcudbright, Scotland and May Morrison’s shop is now an art gallery. I can’t help wondering if they ever put a chocolate toad or two in their window.
Small frog molds are easy to find but one needs nice fat toads to do this right. Likewise, finding a hare-shaped mold is a little tricky. The Easter bunny is a popular guy and the hare’s long ears and lean body give him a look that’s slightly too feral for blending in on that holiday. It looks like the original Easter bunny was a hare — sacred animal of the Teutonic goddess of spring, associated with fertility — but, similar to the way Mickey Mouse’s appearance changed, the rat-like snout becoming more bulbous and less pointy, the eyes rounder and less beady, the head larger and more toddler-like, the lean, fast-moving hare has become a big-eyed, floppy-eared bunny. This mold from Bittersweet House is more hare-like than bunny-ish but it’s single-sided. This place seems to have a good selection of antique molds, including at least one nice big hare, and although they’re not advertised I see a very promising toad and a fish on the wall there.
We’ll need babies too. This great big 1930s kewpie doll is perfect, a dead ringer for the chocobaby in the window, but it’s $375. I don’t suppose any of you happen to know of an organization that gives grants to pagan candy-makers? Grafting these suitably-anguished faces onto a more generic kewpie body might work. I’ve also got my eye on this mold, which is a relative bargain at $150. The same seller also has a nice fish.
A reasonably-large turtle mold is easier to come by than I thought: this one makes a 5 1/4″ turtle and it’s under $3, and the same supplier has elephants similar to the pink ones in May Morrison’s window. The pigs are more difficult to match but I like this seated one, and it looks like it’s a sturdier mold than the clear plastic ones. (Pricier too; it’s $27, but it makes a nice big 6 1/4″ piggie).
Although I didn’t see anything like it in May Morrison’s shop, this green man mold is hard to resist; it looks like the sign on the inn Sergeant Howie stays in. With a little edible gold dust daubed on the eyes it would be a close enough match. As long as we’re departing from a strict recreation, I think there’s room in the shop for a marzipan Diana of Ephesians too:
As for flavoring the chocolates, the first thing that comes to my mind is a corn and barley ganache. One of the most memorable songs in the film for me was the one that goes “Corn rigs and barley rigs and / Corn rigs are bonnie . . .” (based on a ballad by Robert Burns). The great thing about ganache is that it’s a mixture of chocolate and cream and you can infuse cream with the flavor of pretty much anything you can fit in a saucepan. So, using the same technique I relied on to make a chamomile crème anglaise, one could make a sweet corn and barley ganache. (That link is to my food blog; I thought of giving this post a home there instead but somehow it feels like a more like a Lunar Camel Co. project). Simmer sweet corn, toasted barley or barley malt powder in cream, strain it and voilà, infused cream with no revolting niblets or grainy bits in it. Meanwhile, in another pan, we’d also have to infuse more cream with smoked hay. (The reason will make perfect sense if you’ve seen the film; if you haven’t, I don’t want to tell you why). There was a restaurant in D.C. that had a smoked hay sauce on the menu for a while and I don’t think it would be difficult to capture the flavor; a stovetop smoker and some organic hay ought to do.
One would also need pink chocolate for the elephants. You can buy it in bulk for $3.79/lb. but it’s got partially hydrogenated palm kernel and cottonseed oils in it, and it would be much nicer to flavor and tint a basic white chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, and milk) with natural ingredients. The most appropriate choice would be preserves because the residents of Summerisle export all their fruit and vegetables. Remember when Sergeant Howie tries to order an apple for dessert at the inn (after his dinner of turquoise tinned broad beans) and has to settle for canned peaches instead? A terrible restriction in terms of meals but in terms of candy-making the possibilities are not at all discouraging; how about if the elephants were to get their pink hue from a puree of preserved sour cherries? I saw some nice-looking ones in a Hungarian grocery recently and I’ve been trying to think of a reason to go back for them . . . more than one reason, really, because they come in a gigantic jar. I suppose I could spoon them over ice cream but pagan candy-making is much more tempting right now.