Saturday, November 27, 2004
Even though the files, being text-only, do not take up much space (less than 2% of the 100 MB capacity of a free Yahoo mail account) I thought something needed to be done.
So I went back into the files, one by one, and changed the setting so that it will not send files, except for two, the Russell Kirk quotation at the top of this page, and the G.K. Chesterton quotation on the home page of the group, both of which I am very fond of.
Now, new members no longer get 600+ e-mails from the group on joining, just three, which seems to be average for a Yahoo Group.
While you pay a visit, you might notice that I have dressed it up for the season, as Advent starts with the evening Masses today.
Newbies will have to browse the categories in the Files sections for the texts (and while they are looking around, I've posted some 700 links to images since April in the various photo albums, and have a good section of links, as well).
So join. It's completely free. Browse around. Enjoy.
Friday, November 26, 2004
Saint Teresa of Avila
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
"They begane now to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitte up their houses and dwellings against winter, being well recovered in health & strenght, and had all things in good plenty; for some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd, & bass, & other fish, of which yey tooke good store, of which every family had their portion. All ye somer ther was no wante. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter aproached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degree). And besids water foule, ther was great store of wild Turkies, of which they took many, besids venison, &c. Besids they had aboute a peck a meale a weeke to a person, or now since harvest, Indean corne to yt proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their freinds in England, which were not fained, but true reports.
"William Bradford. "Bradford's History Of Plimoth Plantation." Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co., State Printers... 1898. p. 127
"Our Corne did proue well, & God be praysed, we had a good increase of Indian Corne, and our Barly indifferent good, but our Pease not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sowne, they came vp very well, and blossomed, but the Sunne parched them in the blossome; our harvest being gotten in, our Governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a more speciall manner reioyce together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst vs, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoyt, with some nintie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed fiue Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed upon our Governour, and upon the Captaine, and others. And although it be not alwayes so plentifull, as it was at this time with vs, yet by the goodneses of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
E.W., Plymouth, in New England, this 11th of December, 1621. in A RELATION OR Journal of the beginning and proceedings of the English Plantation settled at Plimoth in NEW ENGLAND, by certaine English Aduenturers both Merchants and others. LONDON,Printed for John Bellamie,..1622. pp. 60-61
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And so the Lord be thanket.
To Grandfather's house we go.
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through white and drifted snow.
Over the river and through the wood --
Oh, how the wind does blow!It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.
Over the river and through the wood
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,Ting-a-ling-ling!
Hurrah forThanksgiving Day!
Over the river and through the wood,
Trot fast, my dapple gray!
Spring over the groundLike a hunting hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow --
It is so hard to wait!
Over the river and through the wood --
Now Grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for fun!Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
May God have mercy on us, and bless us: may He cause the light of His countenance to shine upon us, and may He have mercy on us.
That we may know Thy way upon earth: Thy salvation in all nations.
Let people confess to Thee, O God: let all people give praise to Thee.
Let the nations be glad and rejoice: for Thou judgest the people with justice, and directest the nations upon earth.
Let the people, O God, confess to Thee: let all the people give praise to Thee:
The earth hath yielded her fruit. May God, our God bless us,
May God bless us: and all the ends of the earth fear Him.
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.
All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.
For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.
Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.
We thank Thee for the gifts of life, free will, and good health of both body and mind.
We thank Thee for the bountiful food we eat, the warm clothes we wear, the shelter of our homes, the love and comfort of our families.
We thank Thee for gainful and challenging employment.
We thank thee for a free country, made prosperous by Thy grace and the effective exercise of our free will.
We thank Thee for the rights to earn our bread, speak our minds, elect our leaders, choose our friends, protect our families, and worship Thee.
We thank Thee for those who make our freedom possible, EMTs, doctors and nurses, firemen, policemen, soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines, Coast Guardsmen, agents, analysts, and national leaders.
We thank Thee for the sacrifice of so many brave young men who have given the last full measure of devotion, and for all who have served, so that we may live free in this land Thou hast provided for us.
We thank Thee for the gift of Faith which helps us to understand that we shall transcend all difficulties through Thy grace.
We thank thee for Thy Church here on earth, divided as it is, troubled by sin, beset by Satan, yet ultimately triumphant.
Most of all, Lord, we thank Thee for Thy Sacrifice on Calvary, which opened the gates of Heaven to us, giving us the promise of eternal life.
We adore and thank Christ, Oh Christ, and we praise Thee, because by Thy holy cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
An excellent illustration of this is the Thanksgiving dinner described in her diary by Juliana Smith, the daughter of Massachusetts minister Reverend Smith in 1779. It is published nearly in full in We Gather Together, by Ralph and Adelin Linton, and published by Henry Schuman of New York in 1949 at pages 73-77.
This little-studied diary entry shows that the pattern for the American Thanksgiving celebration that people in the early 21st century continue to observe was in place even at the time of the nation's founding.
The dinner took place in the third year of the Revolutionary War, but reflects little wartime privation. Indeed for a country engaged in a great conflict to establish its independence, one is struck by the normality of the celebration. There is a prayer for absent friends, but one doubts that this prosperous family has supplied much in the way of cannon fodder for Washington's army. One son of military age is instead at college.
The Smith clan was a fairly prosperous one, but not great merchants. One of Juliana's uncles was a doctor, another an apparently prosperous farmer. Her father was the local Congregationalist minister.
Given the family's level of prosperity, it would be reasonable to question the typicality of their Thanksgiving feast. One must ask how representative their celebration is of their region and time. The participants in the Thanksgiving ritual we will closely observe all seem to be familiar with their expected roles, even when they do not come from the same household or class. So we can at least say that this mode of celebration was familiar to these people. But larger characterizations regarding typicality would require evidence outside the diary.
Such evidence does exist. It corroborates the contention that the Thanksgiving gathering described by Juliana Smith was indeed typical in its broad outlines, though perhaps more elaborate than most.
Miss Smith begins her description with some facets of the celebration that will be familiar to the modern householder. "This year, it was Uncle Simeon's turn to have the dinner at his house". So this family group, which by modern standards is rather large, is in the habit of rotating the responsibility for hosting the annual feast. This is a reasonable arrangement given the size and composition of the family group.
The titular heads of the family are the two grandmothers. Their children and their spouses, and their childrens' children form the core of the family group. In addition to them are neighbors, orphans, and stranded students, old people with no place else to celebrate the day, and servants.
Given such a large group, and the prosperity of at least two branches of the family, it would be entirely reasonable to share the responsibility for hosting this ritual gathering, not putting too much of the burden on any one branch year after year.
This custom speaks to the absence of any controlling pater familias, a Squire Bracebridge, if you like, who would not hear of Thanksgiving being celebrated anywhere but in the ancestral seat which he occupies. One wonders if this would be the case if one of Juliana Smith's grandfathers were still alive.
"All the baking of pies and cakes was done at our house & we had the big oven heated & filled twice each day for three days before it was all done". Yes, this is very familiar to moderns hosting a family gathering for Thanksgiving.
Food preparation is time-consuming. Then, without food processors, canned pumpkin, standardized measurements, a hundred utensils and conveniences, or pretty much unfailingly accurate and reliable ovens, it was more so. Three days seems reasonable for making all the pies for such a large gathering. Even today, with all the conveniences in the kitchen, a large meal like this needs to be started days in advance. The difference is in cold storage. There was no refrigeration per se, but the New England weather in late November was often chilly enough to make the cold storage of a farmhouse adequate to the task.
Also note that the guests are doing some of the cooking, sharing the labor of preparing the holiday meal. People still do this today. When several households combine to celebrate the day, it is often a communal event with shared cooking responsibilities.
This clan's Thanksgiving is a great family gathering. At least one of the participants in the ritual, a college student, has had to travel a considerable distance on horseback to be there for the feast.
And it is not just the grandmothers, their children, and their childrens' children who gather together. A family of six living next door joins them. Five orphans cared for by Reverend Smith participate, as do two of the students from his school whose families live too far away for them to journey back for their own feast. Four elderly and unattached women "who have no longer homes or children of their own & so came to us," are also partaking of the feast.
This is another aspect of Thanksgiving that should be familiar to the modern reader. In every media market the news on Thanksgiving Day is sure to feature footage of the city's poor and homeless being treated to Thanksgiving dinner. Charity in 1779 began at home. One invited those known poor to sit at one's own table and share one's own feast.
Still, though people today provide dinner to the poor at arm's length through the offices of the modern bureaucratic state and large charitable foundations, the concept of feeding the poor at Thanksgiving remains a strong Thanksgiving custom.
Miss Smith gives a detailed account of what could not be served at the feast because of the war and the British Blockade. They had to do without and compromise in some respects. But there is no genuine deprivation in this family.
Raisins, which would normally be imported from Europe or the wine islands, could not be bought by "neither love nor money." They substituted dried pitted red cherries in the mince pie and the pudding.
"Uncle Simeon still had some spices in store." But they all had to be used in the pies. There was nothing, apparently, in the way of cinnamon and nutmeg left for the pudding. The result was that the pudding, normally a plum pudding with suet, raisins, cinnamon, and nutmeg, was a haphazard affair with the cherries and "a jar of West India preserved ginger which chanced to be left of the last shipment which Uncle Simeon had from there." So this was a using up of the dregs of the pre-war stocks. Nevertheless, Miss Smith describes the result as "extraordinary good."
Roast beef apparently was the family's meat of choice on Thanksgiving. It is absent. "None of us have tasted beef these three years back as it all must go to the army, & too little they get, poor fellows." Another wartime privation.
One wonders why, if so many dedicated families like this one had not eaten beef for three years, the army was constantly so close to starvation.
"Of course we had no wine. Uncle Simeon has still a cask or two, but it all must be saved for the sick & indeed for those who are well, good cider is a sufficient substitute." Miss Smith means fermented or hard cider, a New England staple since the first orchards were producing enough apples. With the trade with Madeira and the Canary Islands cut off, even this prosperous family, used to imported wines, falls back on the locally produced cider.
There are so many guests at this dinner that the dining room is quite packed. "Even that big room had no space to spare when we were all seated." This will be familiar, too, to the modern reader who has tried to squeeze twelve people into a dining space designed for eight.
Servants do the work of serving the family and guests. This is an interesting contrast to the Christmas custom in England at the time, when the family's faithful servants would sit at the table themselves. But one presumes that the servants got to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner afterwards. Even modest families at this time employed servants, so we should not read too much into this. These are locally prosperous people, but not grandees.
With regard to the menu for the day, it is very clear that the family tries very hard to stick to traditions handed down from generation to generation. "Everything was GOOD, though we did have to do without some things that ought to be used,"(my emphasis). We see in that sentence that a strong custom was in place, one that the Smith family, at least, strived to maintain year-after-year.
Because these are farm people, and fairly self-sufficient, they are fairly well able to keep to their customs, except for a few ingredients unavailable due to the war and the blockade. We can discern in Miss Smith's description something of what the menu should have been, as well as what it was.
The meal should have featured roast beef as the main entree at each of the two tables. Instead, there was a haunch of venison (itself known to have been served at the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1621) on each table. The secondary meat was a turkey on one table, and a goose on the other. Notice that turkey is distinctly in a supporting role, not the star. Then there was a pigeon pie on each table. This evolved into chicken pie in later years.
There was an "abundance of good vegetables," but only one is specified. This one is making its first appearance on the Thanksgiving table of this family: "sellery." It was eaten raw and Miss Smith recorded that it was thought to be "very good served with meats."
The seed her Uncle Simeon obtained just before the war shut off trade with England (perhaps violating various non-importation covenants called for by the Continental and Provincial Congresses, as well as local Committees of Safety). The result was ready for the table in three years. Uncle Simeon hoped to have enough celery in 1780 to give family members his surplus.
One can assume a few other vegetable dishes from what we know of Massachusetts' agriculture of the time. We can assume that pumpkin, diced, boiled, and served as a vegetable with vinegar or butter (or both), and spices would have been on the table. Onions, perhaps creamed, perhaps baked in a pie with cheese and bacon would have been present. Peas might well have been there, though they might have been dried. Cranberries, sweetened with sugar and boiled into a sauce, were also likely. Applesauce would have been very likely. A bread sauce or dressing for the poultwhether also likely.
What we cannot tell is whether these vegetables were served as they were, or as what the period called "made dishes." Was corn present? If so, was it served on the cob or in the form of a corn custard? Were the onions creamed, or baked into a pie? Were the peas dried and served as pease pudding, or fresh? Miss Smith fails us in this regard.
There was undoubtedly bread also. The bread would very likely have been based on a mixture of rye flour grown along the Taunton River and corn meal. The more expensive wheat bread would be unlikely, as trade with Pennsylvania, its largest source, would be difficult and limited.
Wine, probably Madeira or Canary would normally have been on the table. But the Blockade and the need to conserve what wine they had for medicinal purposes rendered that impossible. So apple cider was substituted, to Miss Smith's approbation, recorded earlier. The fact that imported wine was normally served at the Thanksgiving table of this family is an indication of its prosperity. Less well-to-do citizens of Massachusetts would not have thought cider on the table a privation.
The meal seems, from the absence of conflicting evidence, to have been served as a single remove or course, instead of the English custom of two removes followed by dessert. And the sweets seem to have been reserved for the dessert table, as they are mentioned last. In England, the custom was to mix in sweets with the savory foods served in the first two removes, and then have a light dessert of fruit, nuts, wine, and maybe a little cake.
Dessert of course was based on the pie. If Miss Smith is providing a complete catalog, there were three types served. Undoubtably, given the numbers around the tables, there several of each type. Mince pie, with dried cherries instead of raisins, we already knew about. Pumpkin pie was of course present. And there was an apple tart, presumably an apple pie lacking the top crust.
But pies were not the only dessert served. There may have been cakes, as Miss Smith mentions baking pies and cakes at her home. But "cakes" could have several meanings in the 18th century. The word could mean bread, or what the 21st century would call cookies ("Shrewsbury Cakes," were in fact, cookies), or cakes as we know them. In any case, Miss Smith does not specify.
But about puddings she is specific. We know that there were at least two served. The first was the New England favorite, Indian Pudding: molasses, cornmeal, flour, sugar, and spices. Its presence indicates that, despite the blockade, there was enough imported molasses on hand. New Englanders used so much of that commodity that not only would they have had much stockpiled, but illicit trade through Canada for it might have continued despite the war. There is evidence of such an illicit trade that the British military was virtually unable to stop.
The second pudding should have been plum pudding, but for the wartime conditions that force the family to substitute the suet pudding with ginger and cherries. The presence of plum pudding on a Thanksgiving table in Massachusetts is a cause for discussion. Plum pudding of course is a staple of the English Christmas celebration. But as Thanksgiving grew in importance in New England, and as Puritan religious fervor lessened in the early 18th century, plum pudding and mince pie made the trek from Christmas, which New Englanders would remain chary of until the 1810s at the earliest, to the holiday they celebrated in either late November or December, Thanksgiving.
It was the absence of Christmas celebration that led to the adoption of some of its cherished food customs for Thanksgiving. The reasons for the slow acceptance of Christmas in new England society are admirably set out in Stephen Nissenbaum's book, The Battle For Christmas.
On a similar note, we see on the guest list that six members of the neighboring Livingston family were present. "They had never seen a Thanksgiving dinner before, having been used to keep Christmas Day instead, as is the wont in New York and Province."
That single sentence speaks volumes about the interplay between the two holidays at that time. Miss Smith provides confirmation, if any were needed, that in 1779, Thanksgiving was still a New England custom. Christmas was celebrated in New York, but not Thanksgiving. In New England, Thanksgiving was celebrated, but not Christmas, except at the margins of society.
But within 50 years of Miss Smith's diary entry, New York would be celebrating Thanksgiving, and New England, Christmas. So that in the Northeast, there would be two-family oriented holidays, each with some pre-Christian customs still attached to them, that would be celebrated within a month of each other.
How this family and its connections marked Thanksgiving in 1779 resembles our own celebrations in other ways as well. One of the most obvious is the formal giving of thanks to God.
Reverend Smith that morning presided over a Thanksgiving service at the meetinghouse. We are told by Miss Smith that the day was bitterly cold, and that Reverend Smith did not tarry over the service. It probably consisted of little more than a reading of the governor's proclamation of the day of thanksgiving, the singing of a few Psalms appropriate to the message of giving thanks, and a short sermon on point.
Miss Smith does not say so, but undoubtably there was grace said before the dinner as well. After dinner, Reverend Smith "led us in prayer, remembering all absent friends before the throne of grace."
Today, this aspect of the holiday has declined somewhat. There are still Thanksgiving prayer services said in almost every city and town. But they are not necessarily on Thanksgiving morning (a time in New England for high school football games and watching the Macy's Parade in New York on television). And they are very likely to be ecumenical in nature today, since no one denomination can fill its church with the number of people willing to come out for this service.
Most families, even those in which grace is said on no other day of the year, at least go through the form of saying grace before Thanksgiving Dinner. Catholic families have the crutch of a short standardized grace that does not let the food get cold while gratitude to God is being expressed.
We note that the Smith's dinner must have started in early-mid afternoon. "We did not rise from the table until it was quite dark." That means the long dinner ended around 4-5 pm. So, with a late-morning prayer service at the meetinghouse, and a time for recovery afterwards, dinner probably started around 1-2 pm, which would have been the customary time for starting dinner in a moderately upscale Massachusetts household in 1779 anyway.
What the family did after dinner would also be familiar to moderns with a living memory of the time before television. "We all got round the fire as close as we could, & cracked nuts, & sang songs, & told stories. At least some told and others listened."
Today most families don't have working fireplaces, but central heating instead. Today they gather around the television and watch some family-oriented programming that is still offered by some of the networks on that day.
But in 1779, before electricity, central heating, and television, the members of the family provided their own entertainment. Such is the case with the few modern families that eschew television, even for special occasions.
It is the elders of the Smith clan who lead the storytelling. "You know nobody can exceed the two Grandmothers at telling tales of all the things they have seen themselves, & repeating those of the early years of New England & even some of Old England, which they had heard in their youth from their elders." This is very much what one would expect.
This passing on of oral tradition is sagely recommended by Reverend Smith. "My Father says it is a goodly custom to hand down all worthy deeds & traditions from Father to Son, as the Israelites were commanded to do about the Passover & as the Indians have always done, because the Word that is spoken is remembered longer than the one that is written."
Thus we see in the Thanksgiving Dinner described by Juliana Smith a great deal of similarity to our own modern day feast. A modern person transported back in time to that table would implicitly grasp what was going on, and probably be more familiar with it than the members of the refugee Livingston Family were. Some items on the menu have varied. And with television and movies, the mode of entertaining the family has changed.
But the customs are still similar enough to be quite familiar. There was, and is, a gathering together of family, thanks to God, generosity to the poor, a great harvest feast including turkey and pumpkin pie, and intimate and jovial family time.
One other thing has not changed from that Thanksgiving Day to this. "The pumpkin pies, apple tarts, & big Indian Pudding lacked for nothing save appetite by the time we had got round to them."
I'm deeply drawn to medieval monasticism, and have been since minoring in medieval studies at college. There is just something about the chant, the solitude, and the silence that I really like. The simple life has its appeal.
Of course, medieval monasticism is not what cloistered life is like today. Little of the chant in the "mainstream" orders today is in Latin. The new Liturgy of the Hours, to be blunt, is a poor substitute for going through the psalter once a week. Agricultural work has been dismissed from monastic life. The stalwart lay brothers were virtually wiped out. There is way too much hidden, and sometimes not so hidden, homosexuality going on.
Peters' portrayal of the prior as an arrogant, sanctimonious dolt does not bother me in the least. I know some Catholics take offense to that. The Church has always had its share of arrogant, sanctimonious dolts: just look at most chancery rats today.
Now I am not claiming that Peters is an edifying Catholic writer on a par with Chesterton. That would be going way too far. But I plowed through the five Father Brown books in October last year, and was looking for something similar.
And I did come across an insight or two that explained some things to me. Sometimes, God speaks to you in unexpected places and through unexpected means. Since the voice booming from the Heavens pretty much only happens in Monty Python, one has to look for messages He might be sending in more subtle ways. Often, especially in the last year or so, when I am at my most troubled, some insight comes to me from my reading. At least 5 times in the last year, this has happened.
In Wales, a young nobleman has apparently found the murdered body of the father of the woman he loves (but does not love him). He promptly finds an arrow belonging to the man the object of his affection does love, and sticks it into the wound, hoping to rid himself of his rival.
The man's emotions are hugely in conflict, as he does not hate, but in fact loves the fellow he is incriminating. He also loved as a second father the murdered fellow whose body he mutilated.
He has now confessed his misdemeanor, and Cadfael is preparing a poppy-seed draught for his distraught mother.
"After a moment he said, very low: 'It's strange! I never could have done so shabbily by anyone I hated.'
''Not strange at all,' said Cadfael bluntly, stirring his potion. 'When harried, we go as far as we dare, and with those we're sure of we dare go very far, knowing where forgiveness is certain.'
We hurt the ones we love the most, perhaps because we know that we would forgive it of them should they do the same, or even what we perceive as much worse.
But what happens when the wronged loved one doesn't forgive as expected?
Ultimately, it is easier for God to forgive than for man. God is infinite in mercy. Man's mercy is finite. One must accept that human forgiveness may not be as forthcoming as divine forgiveness.
And what does one do while waiting for human forgiveness to catch up with divine?
Live. Try not to give further offense. Wait for an opportunity for reconciliation, and pray for it and for the person you have hurt daily, even if it takes years.
And what happens once that forgiveness does come? How do you get on with life? That I don't know. Perhaps the next novel I read, the next movie I watch, the next Bible passage I happen upon, the next priest I talk to will provide the answer.
"For my part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character....For in truth the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird withal, a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey is peculiar to ours...he is besides (though a little vain and silly, it is true), a bird of courage who would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guard who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on."
Others, including John Adams objected that the turkey was notoriously stupid as well.
But the country has settled into a happy compromise.
"May one give us peace in all our states,
The other a piece for all our plates."
The breaking waves dash'd high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods against a stormy sky
Their giant branches toss'd;
And the heavy night hung dark,
The hills and waters o'er,
When a band of exiles moor'd their bark
On the wild New-England shore.
Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame:
Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear;–
They shook the depths of the desert gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.
Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard and the sea!
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.
The ocean-eagle soar'd
From his nest by the white wave's foam;
And the rocking pines of the forest roar'd–
This was their welcome home!
There were men with hoary hair,
Amidst that pilgrim band;–
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?
There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.
What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of seas, the spoils of war?–
They sought a faith's pure shrine!
Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod!
They have left unstain'd what there they found–
Freedom to worship God.
An early 18th century rhyme answers that question.
For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and and parsnips are common supplies;
We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon,
If it was not for pumpkin, we should be undone.
But the Huswives manner is to slice them when ripe, and cut them into dice, and to fill a pot with them of two or three Gallons, and stew them upon a gentle fire the whole day, and as they sink, they fill again with fresh Pompions [pumpkins], not putting any liquor to them; and when it is stewed enough, it will look like bak'd Apples; this they Dish, putting Butter to it, and a little Vinegar, (with some Spice, as Ginger, &c) which makes it tart like an Apple, and so serve it up to be eaten with Fish or Flesh. It provokes Urin extreamly and is very windy.
In Massachusetts, sad to say
From Gloucester down to Cape Cod Bay
They feed you 'til you want to die
On mincemeat and pumpkin pie.
Until at last it makes you cry,
"What else is there that I can try?'
They look at you in some surprise
And feed you apple and custard pies.
Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o'er Nineveh's prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.
On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden
Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;
And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold
Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,
On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun of September melts down on his vines.
Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South come the pilgrim and guest,
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?
Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,--our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam,
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!
Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E'er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own pumpkin pie!
Mr. Whiting was minister of the Puritan church in Lynn during part of the 1600s.
"Mr. Whiting had a score of apple trees from which he made cyder. And it hath been said yt an Indian once coming to hys house and Mrs. Whiting giving him a drink of ye cyder he did sett down ye pot and smacking his lips say yt Adam and Eve were rightlie damned for eating ye appills in ye garden of Eden, they should have made them into cyder."
Monday, November 22, 2004
Maybe what I said about them not being likely to be invited to a January 1st bowl can be disregarded.
Sugar Bowl? I'd say it is an outside shot, but not nil.
There are still more Democrats who call themselves Catholic (88), but that would include a lot of pro-abortion people like Pelosi, Kerry, Kennedy, Markey, etc. Despite what they call themselves, there is really no middle ground. You cannot be truly Catholic and pro-choice.
Amy gave birth Friday evening to Michael Jacob Dubruiel. God bless mother and son (as well as the rest of the family).
What an awful blow! This is a great loss for St. Blog's Parish. We are all the poorer for the loss of this kind and helpful soul.
V. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
R And may perpetual light shine upon him.
V. May he rest in peace.
The selection includes my mincemeat and fruitcake recipes, as well as Martha Washington's plum pudding recipe, my pumpkin pie recipe, sausage puffs, and spinach squares, 10 varieties of holiday cookies, a boiled cider pie, spiced beef, Indian pudding, my Black Forest Trifle, and various beverages, both loaded and not, appropriate for the holidays.
There are also menus for Thanksgiving, a tree-trimming party, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and St. Stephen's Day (as well as Easter and, among the recipes, some ideas for non-meat dishes for Fridays and Lent).
There is a prominent account of how Father Porter laced mincemeat pie with drugs and raped someone named Fitzpatrick!
And all I wanted was my own mincemeat recipe!
Appetizer Course (though usually served after dinner & before dessert)
Brie With Table Water Crackers
Goose Liver Pate With Club Crackers
Pepperoni & Cheddar Cheese on Rye Rounds
Pickled Watermelon Rind
Tomato Aspic With Horseradish Sauce
Large Roast Turkey or Hotel-Style Turkey Breast
Turkey Gravy (made from the giblets and spicy)
Butternut Squash with Maple Sugar & Cinnamon
Mushrooms In Cream
Nottingham Yam Pudding
Beaten Biscuits With Sage
Buttermilk Biscuits With Cheese
Sally Lunn Bread (great toasted later)
A Basket of Walnuts & Hazelnuts
Date and Nut Bars
Pumpkin Pie With Cointreu Cream
Apple Pie With Cheddar
Mince Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream
Pleides Aldebran cigars
Cream Sherry to start
May Wine with the early courses
Beaujolais Noveau with the entree
Eggnog, both for the non-drinkers
Starbuck's Pumpkin spice Coffe with dessert
Vintage Tawney Port (Offley Baro de Forester?) with the cigars
Ranitidine, Alka Seltzer, & Tums
Today's paper gives him his first bit of ammunition of the year.
An image of Saint Cecilia is, for today, the home page image at Recta Ratio: The Yahoo Group.
This universal frame began:
When Nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
"Arise, ye more than dead!"
Then cold and hot, and moist and dry,
In order to their stations leap,
And Music's power obey.
From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
When Jubal struck the chorded shell
His listening brethren stood around,
And, wondering, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound.
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
The trumpet's loud clangour
Excites us to arms,
With shrill notes of anger
And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat
Of the thundering drum
Cries "Hark! the foes come;
Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat!"
The soft complaining flute
In dying notes discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.
Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains, and height of passion
For the fair disdainful dame.
But oh! what art can teach,
What human voice can reach
The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their heavenly ways
To mend the choirs above.
Orpheus could lead the savage race,
And trees uprooted left their place
Sequacious of the lyre:
But bright Cecilia raised the wonder higher:
When to her Organ vocal breath was given
An Angel heard, and straight appeared -
Mistaking Earth for Heaven.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Thanksgiving in my house traditionally exalts the flavors of early New England. Turkey with dressing and gravy, clam chowder, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, squash with maple sugar, corn bread, apple cider, baskets of nuts, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and mince pie are all on the groaning board every year.
I throw in a few staples from other parts of the country and even other cultures like sweet potatoes and pickled watermelon rind from the South, pate de foie gras and brie from France, pepperoni and cheese appetizers (presumably inspired by Italian cuisine) and French or German wines (depending on my mood).
When I entertain, which I am not doing this year, I add a few items to the menu, like carrot pudding, Nottingham yam pudding, Harvard beets, onion pie, corn custard, (all solid fare from the British Isles or colonial New England) tomato aspic with horseradish sauce, and shrimp with cocktail sauce (which became popular in the US in the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively).
But most of what we eat on Thanksgiving is reminiscent of foods that would have been familiar to the pilgrim fathers, or New Englanders of the first hundred years or so after 1620.
One may quibble about authenticity here and there, of course. Wild turkey is gamier than our domestic birds. The pilgrims roasted turkeys over spits instead of baking them in an oven as we do. Cranberry sauce probably wasn't so popular then, since the white sugar needed to make the cranberry palatable was expensive. Perhaps they used honey or maple sugar for it, but all sweeteners were both expensive and rare.
Pumpkin and squash are of course native to this part of the world. The early English settlers made extensive use of both. But their pumpkin pies were probably less spicy and sweet than ours, again because of the expense of the ingredients. And they tended to be baked in the pumpkin shell, not in a pastry crust.
The early New Englanders did drink a lot of apple cider. Water was not commonly consumed. Neither was milk. Now what we drink is fresh cider, not the stuff you can buy in the juice aisle of the supermarket year round. However, what all ages in colonial America drank was fermented or hard cider. They probably did not drink the sweet cider we drink today, except when first pressed. Without pasteurization, it does not keep long. You can still buy hard cider at the liquor store (Woodpecker is an English brand I am very familiar with, as it is a favorite around re-enactors' campfires, if only because it is British), though I don't care much for it or for beer, another favorite of early Americans.
The pilgrims seem to have eaten a lot of onions. On my last visit to Plimouth Plantation, onions and pumpkins were ubiquitous, though apples were nowhere to be seen, since the pilgrims' apple trees were still seedlings in 1629. Onions of course go back to Roman times, and can be served baked, fried, in pies (with cheddar and bacon) cut up in dressing, and probably other ways as well.
My favorite is the onion pie. This is a two-crust affair that uses three large Spanish onions (Vidalia are wonderful if you are doing this in spring or early summer, but they don't keep for use at Thanksgiving) sliced (I don't fry them in advance, as the raw onions give the pie a more peppery taste), some freshly grated Vermont or English cheddar (you could use parmesan or maybe a little of both) and crumbled bacon (no Bacos, please). Add some black pepper and perhaps some mustard, as well as a little cream and butter, and you have an authentic onion pie, pretty much as it would have been eaten in colonial America or pre-Industrial Revolution Britain or Ireland.
Mince pie, of course, would not have been indulged in by the pilgrims, because it was associated too strongly with Christmas, which was associated, above all with "idolatrous popery," but also with rowdy and sometimes bawdy popular Christmas merry-making like dicing, gaming, whoring, drinking and feasting to excess.
Making mince pie was actually against the law in Massachusetts for part of the 17th century (banned along with dancing, making music on instruments other than the drum, trumpet, or Jew's Harp, and celebrating Christmas and Whitsuntide). But one wonders how much of the ban was caused by puritan religious concerns, and how much by sumptuary concerns (and to what extent the two fed each other).
Some time in the 18th century, mince pie made a comeback in New England, but was first moved to Thanksgiving (along with plum pudding), before becoming acceptable for both Turkey Day and Christmas (once celebrating that became common by the 1810s).
Mince pie is one of my favorites. I make my own mince meat each year from apples we pick and shredded sirloin tips. I gave you the world's greatest recipe for mince pie just the other day (it is an adaptation of the recipe that appeared in Yankee Magazine's 1976 Colonial Cookbook). Enjoy your mince pie, and think of it as sticking a finger in the eye of anti-Catholicism.
Turkey reigns supreme over the Thanksgiving feast. The pilgrims may or may not have had turkey. All we know is that their hunters brought in an unspecified "fowle" for the feast. Goose duck, or turkey? Your guess is as good as mine. All I can say is that wild turkey does exist in Eastern Massachusetts to this day. I've seen them twice in the last five years despite being pretty urban.
In my childhood, turkey also was the fare of choice at Christmas (with ham holding sway at Easter). But two large turkeys so close together is too much for the modern palate. Turkey has remained the ruler of the Thanksgiving table, but other options have supplanted it at Christmas.
Reading the first-hand accounts of the first Thanksgiving, you will see that venison seems to have been the main attraction. But most people today find venison a little too gamy or too tough for their taste.
Eggnog is something we drink at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. The concoction of eggs, cream, milk, sugar, spirits, and spices was popular in the South, but fairly unheard of in New England until the 19th century. For Thanksgiving, we stick to the dairy kind (Puleo's Dairy in Salem makes a heavenly eggnog; H.P. Hood, New England's largest dairy, makes a very good one also, but it needs extra nutmeg). The eggnog that will leave you either puzzled over your own name, or very merry indeed, we reserve until Christmas.
Punch was common in colonial America, but I save that, too, until Christmas time.
Clam Chowder, my soup course for Thanksgiving, would not yet have been on the menu in 1621. The word "chowder" comes from French. The chowders known to the French in Canada were relatively thin affairs, nothing like the rich creamy soups of our own day. The chowder did not enter New England's bill of fare until later in the 17th century, after considerable illicit trade contact with Canada. The colonists took the thin seafood soup of the French, and followed their English penchant for cream and butter, producing what we now know as chowder.
Some of the very best chowder comes from Legal Seafoods here in Boston. It is sometimes available through Costco, and on-line (along with lobsters) from Legals. Snow's canned concentrate is a decent chowder and will do in a pinch (just don't dilute it much, add cream, not milk, plenty of butter, and fresh black pepper in abundance; their corn chowder is good, too).
Patrick O'Brian, when he was introduced to clam chowder, said that it "must be served every Friday in Heaven." Let us hope that great author has been able to verify that.
Nuts seem to have been on Thanksgiving tables since the time of the pilgrims. Which nuts? Mostly walnuts and hazelnuts, which grow here in New England. Brazils? Macadamias? Don't even think about them. Peanuts? Well, first of all, they are not technically nuts. Secondly they, like pecans, grown down south, in that area that had to be introduced to the joys of turkey and mince pie and pumpkin pie at the point of the bayonet after 1865. Almonds? Maybe.
Cheese could not have been on the menu in 1621. The pilgrims had no way of producing dairy products for the first few years in New England. But nothing goes with apple pie like a Vermont Cheddar. And cream cheese is very nice with mince pie. So feel free to indulge in this later-day addition.
But whatever you do this Thaksgiving in terms of food, don't forget to show your gratitude to God for living in this wonderful country, a country so blessed with His grace that even our poorest are able to feast on this day.
Stir-Up Sunday is the time for starting Christmas cakes (fruitcakes) if they are to cure properly by Christmas. I know I just blogged the other day about allowing Thanksgiving to be Thanksgiving, and not turning it into a weak imitation of Christmas, but some things do have to be done ahead of time.
Fruitcakes are, regrettably, not as popular as they once were. Part of the problem, of course, is that some people don't make them correctly. They don't cure them properly. Which means, they don't start them early enough (this week).
Beyond that the seemingly growing detestation of things like mince pie, plum pudding, and fruitcake that we see is utterly beyond me. They were the things I looked forward to all year (aside from Christmas carols, Santa Claus, presents, and Christmas cookies, that is).
The recipe that follows is a modified version of Martha Washington's recipe for what she called "Great Cake," or her cake for great occasions. Her recipe calls for taking forty eggs, separating them, and beating the whites to a froth with a bundle of sticks. Well, eggs were smaller then. And the bundle of sticks has long given way to the electric mixer. Thank Heavens!
If you want to try it, read the recipe through first, so that you will be sure to have everything you need.
1.5 pounds raisins
11 oz. currants
1 cup candied orange peel
1 cup candied lemon peel
1 cup citron
1 cup of candied red cherries
1 cup of candied green cherries
(warning: this is not a recipe for those recovering from a drinking problem)
Put all the fruit into a large bowl, and cover it with the brandy. Cover the bowl, and let the fruit soak in the brandy for a couple of days.
41/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
4 sticks of butter softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
10 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/3 cup of cream sherry
the remainder of the bottle of cream sherry
(I use Savory & James: inexpensive but tastes nice)
Once the fruit has soaked for at least 36 hours (sometimes, I let it soak for 5-6 days on the counter), sift together the flour and spices, and set it aside. Work the butter until it is creamy, then add one cup of sugar a little at a time. Beat it until it is smooth. Beat the egg yolks until they are thick and light. Then add 1 cup of sugar to the yolks. Add the lemon juice to the yolks after the sugar is added. Combine the yolk mixture with the butter-sugar mixture. Add the rest of the sugar. Add the flour/spices and 1/3 cup sherry both little-by-little and alternating with each other. Once all the flour/spices and the 1/3 cup of sherry have been added to the egg yolk/butter/sugar mixture, drain the fruit and add it also.
(I've never tried to drink the brandy, but I don't suppose it would do much harm),
Now beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan (don't forget to grease the tube itself). Pour the batter into the pan. Put a pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven, and pre-heat to 350 degrees. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for another hour and forty minutes.
The cake is done when a knife inserted in it comes out clean.
Turn the cake out gently, and let it cool on a rack.
Soak lots of cheese cloth in the rest of the sherry. Wrap the cake in the sherry-soaked cheese cloth, then put it in an airtight Rubbermaid (or other airtight plastic cake container) for at least three weeks.
Each week, check the cheese cloth to see if it is still moist. If it has dried out, soak it in more cream sherry, and re-apply.
The longer the cake cures, the better.
Just this past summer, I found in the pantry a Christmas cake made two years ago, and happily sliced it up. It was delicious. All the sugar, spice, and booze in the mix makes it almost as everlasting as the Twinkie, except it improves with age, unlike the Hostess Twinkie. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!