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groaning cake


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In the northern counties, women recovering from childbirth were given rich fruitcake, gingerbread, or Cheshire cheese, and female neighbours were invited in to share it, as part of the celebration. Several writers from the late 18th to the late 19th centuries mention a form of divination, similar to that done with wedding cake, but more boisterous. Slices of the cake or cheese would be cut into chunks by the new father, tossed in the midwife's smock, and given to unmarried girls so that they could put them under their pillows and dream of their future husbands (Opie and Tatem, 1989: 183). Sometimes, another slice was given to the first person of opposite sex met on the road as the child was taken to its baptism (Radford, Radford, and Hole, 1961: 175).

In Cambridgeshire, the term was differently used; it referred to a pain-killing cake which included gin and crushed hemp seed (cannabis) among the ingredients, which midwives gave women in labour (Porter, 1969: 13).


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