Wednesday, November 25, 2020



This illustration by William Ladd Taylor is from my treasured November 1896 Ladies' Home Journal. The artist studied in Paris and did illustrations for popular magazines. 

The delight on the young woman's face, and her body language, perfectly express her admiration for the hunter returning with the wild turkey for their Thanksgiving meal. 


Years ago I read in this old book by George F. Willis called Saints and Strangers that turkey was not served at the 1621 Thanksgiving but that didn't inspire me to serve venison or goose or even duck for Thanksgiving Day Dinner. It is an excellent scholarly book about the Pilgrims and inexpensive copies can be found here.

This year, I am cooking a bone-in turkey breast and there will only be the two of us, maybe a third person if RH's brother decides to eat with us. He and RH have been working outside here all week insulating and paneling the new workshop. 

And it won't be nearly as fulfilling an experience as cooking my favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipe from November 1986's Bon Appetit. As Laurie Colwin says in her More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen, "There is a je ne sais quoi about turkey cooking--the air of festivity, the family squabbles, the constant basting--that does not apply to turkey breast, which is really, a convenience food." 

But I will do my best with the breast, salt it for 24 hours first and cook it in our large iron skillet in the oven. But in memory of previous decades when it took an 18 pounder to feed our large family, and for the family cookbook that I might someday pull together from blog posts, here is the Bon Appetit recipe I used for nineteen years. The maple glaze gives the turkey a golden color that's hard to improve on. There was a sauce that went with the recipe, but I don't make that. It seems too much like unnecessarily gilding the gobbler. I don't truss my turkey either, simply because I forget to buy the string for it, and God forbid that I ever put my mother's cornbread dressing inside the bird. Pictured below is the last large turkey I cooked before we sold Valley View four years ago.


 Bon Appetit's Maple-Glazed Turkey

1 16-pound turkey

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup applejack or Calvados [I use true French Calvados and save the rest for my fruitcakes.]

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 475 F. degrees. Sprinkle inside of turkey with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Truss turkey to hold shape. Rub butter into skin. Arrange breast side up on rack in roasting pan. Cook 45 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. 

Combine maple syrup and Calvados and baste turkey. Continue cooking until thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh registers 170 degrees, basting frequently.

A very blessed Thanksgiving Day to my U.S. family and friends. Please stay safe to celebrate many more!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Holiday Grocery Shopping--Pre-2020


I wish I had known what a grand time it was and not taken it for granted. 

It was November and the holiday season was heralded in retail outlets across the land. In all the grocery stores, smiling cardboard turkeys sporting Pilgrim hats swung from the ceiling of every aisle. Boxes of Christmas candies and the ingredients for fruitcakes and cookies appeared overnight in beautiful displays. Store employees wore Santa caps and sat at prominently placed tables taking orders for spiral-cut honey-baked hams and other specialty items while chatting with customers about how many people would be around their table that year. [Dorothea Benton Frank in Full of Grace]


[Picture source]



Thursday, November 19, 2020

Favorite Christmas Books: A Day of Pleasant Bread


A Day of Pleasant Bread by David Grayson is one of my favorite Christmas books because there's so much wisdom in it, not just for Christmas but for all year round. 

The author of the little 1926 green book, David Grayson, is actually Ray Stannard Baker the biographer of President Woodrow Wilson. He writes that "sometimes we expect too much of Christmas Day."

Hello! Guilty here! 

But with what 2020 has taught us thus far, I doubt if many of us will have overly high expectations of this Christmas Day and will just be happy if our loved ones are there for it or for Hanukkah, whether we're all able to be under one roof or not.

On the particular day that Grayson writes about, he and his sister Harriet, who keeps house for him on his New England farm, find out at late notice that their cousins won't be coming to Christmas Dinner after all.

Who, besides them and the Scotch Preacher, will eat the fattened goose and the pumpkin pie?

David bundles up and goes out into the snow and zero weather, deciding he will invite the local millionaires who he's heard have lost their cook. While he's waiting to be announced in the reception-room, he looks around him and feels weary with the sight of so many beautiful things.

How they "must clutter up a man's life," he thinks. "Poor starving millionaires!" 

Mr. and Mrs. Starkweather are happy to accept his invitation and after an evening of simple good food and good talk with the Scotch Preacher and their hosts, Mrs. Starkweather tells them, "I haven't had such a good time at Christmas since I was a little girl."


I admit that this sweet story might not translate into a year of pandemic or even into a normal year when all a millionaire has to do today when he's lost his cook is hire another personal chef or order a fine meal on UberEats, but perhaps there are lots of people we never think to invite to our home because we think they are too wealthy for our humble abode. 

I can't help but think back to all the years at Valley View when we hosted large Sunday school parties for ourselves and our children on our 24 acres and 1920 farmhouse. And there were people there who were true millionaires, even local Nashville celebrities. 

What were we thinking to ask them to what was at that time a one-bathroom home? But they came and stood in line for the bathroom and trekked all over the hills and valley and some of the brave ones sat in the rope swing that swung out high over the waterfall. And ate chili on cold fall nights and hot dogs and S'mores in chilly springs. And talked and laughed and told fascinating stories around the fire. And left with hugs (remember those?) and thanks for a great time.

We don't realize that it doesn't require wealth to experience that satisfying feeling when friends and family get together and you end up with an evening where everyone seems to sparkle with wit and congeniality. (Oh, how I miss those days!)

But we can learn from David Grayson when he says of Christmas, "we try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year."

Here is an illustration of the Scotch Preacher as he leaves, telling his host, "This has been a day of pleasant bread." The illustrations are done by Thomas J. Fogarty who taught Norman Rockwell at the Art Students' League in New York City. [Just realized I used the wrong pic here and this is not the Scotch Preacher but David, calling out Merry Christmas to Harriet--sorry!]



I was so happy to see that someone bought the $40 copy of The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas on eBay that I linked to in my first Favorite Christmas Books post--I just know it had to be one of you! I see that the $250 copy is still for sale...๐Ÿ˜.

Here's a link to copies of A Day of Pleasant Bread at Abe Books, both reissues and the old original green book, at very reasonable prices. 

And just because I want to include a favorite Vincent Price recipe for pumpkin pie from his Come Into the Kitchen Cookbook--and not waste my pictures--here it is. It's a custardy pie that we think is better than ones that call for evaporated milk. 

1. Make your pie shell and chill for 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin and 3 eggs, well beaten. 

3. Stir in 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon mace, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon ginger. Blend well. Pour into pie shell.


4. Bake 15 minutes at 425 and then reduce to 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until knife in center comes out clean.

Vincent suggested I add a dollop of whipped cream to the top of our slices but I was too tired by the end of day to do that. Next time I positively will but it was so good even without it.


I wish you a Day of Pleasant Bread on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and every day. And dreams of the family and friends who will someday once again share a meal around our table.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

"No house too poor..."


No house too poor to set some simple feast;

No heart too stern to feel at very least,

Some thrill of human joy and passion fine

Ring through his prayer: "Lord, keep us,

me and mine."

from "A Colonial Thanksgiving"

by Augusta Hortrecht

in November 1905 Good Housekeeping


Saturday, November 14, 2020

My Bedroom in Autumn


In May I posted about turning my bedroom into my private art gallery. Before touches of Christmas begin to go up, I thought I would show other pieces of art that I've added, begging you, pretty please, to remember that "Art is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone will have their own interpretation." 

The vintage "Dutch" pictures above and below stole my heart this summer on my one trip out to our local antique mall.

They seemed to go so well with my old mirror and washstand that serves as my bed table.

I've delighted in bringing in warm cozy colors of our beautiful autumn.

 And burning another Milkhouse Candle is something I look forward to each evening. 

 Brown Butter Pumpkin smells good enough to eat as it lights the photograph of my dear Aunt Etta. No, this is not a sponsored post. I just love their candles that are pure beeswax and natural soy wax with no artificial dyes and no lead in the wicks. 

It was so difficult not to get a reflection in the glass of another "art" find, so I just gave up on trying.


 The Hermitage is the home of President Andrew Jackson and I drove carloads of children to visit it every year as room mother to my four children. It was a special place to me, especially Rachel's Garden where I would go alone and sit on a bench to take in the beauty. When I found this embroidered picture of it, it had to come home with me.

I didn't want to go to the expense to frame my other French pictures and decided to use bulldog clips to make an arrangement of them on one wall.

 I added a small photograph of Notre Dame that I bought years ago, simply for the beauty of it. On the back is written, "Choir, Notre Dame de Paris, October 1951." With it were other pictures from around Europe taken by an American military family.

Below is my favorite art wall of all, art by our granddaughter! Notice the dappled dachshund with the blue eye she drew just for me.


Art is many things to me. It is an obviously married wood knob on my old washstand...

It is the vintage blanket I found on Etsy that I tried (and failed) to drape stylishly across my bed...

It is even a shopping bag that is cute enough to hang on my old floor lamp. 

And of course the best art of all are these two darling dachshunds on my old Karastan rug in Rue de Provence's Summer Trellis pattern.


And James Mason, himself...

 I behold them as living art!



Thursday, November 12, 2020

Raise Your Glasses!



In November of 1905, Good Housekeeping magazine advised Americans on the order of toasts at Thanksgiving Day Dinner:

"The toasts should be in the following order:

Our Mother Country

Plymouth Rock

Oceanus--the Youngest Colonist

Our Indian Allies

Pilgrim Fathers

Pilgrim Mothers"


And my esteemed author Richardson Wright advised his readers in my first edition 1926 copy of his The Bed-Book of Eating and Drinking on the wines we could serve with our Thanksgiving Day Dinner:

If the purse and the menu allow, the climb up to this should be gradual. A cold, still wine could precede the march to the table. With the soup a glass of Sherry or Madeira. The heights of a good Claret or Burgundy type captured with the roast turkey, then you finish off, according to taste, with a sweet wine or a lively Champagne. Each of these plays a part in digestion. One rises from such a dinner glowing--granted you have had no second helpings--and a walk will finish off what has been well begun.

Thank you, my dear Richardson! Everything possible in 2020 should be glowing!  

[And my heartfelt thanks to the Steenbock Memorial Library of Madison, Wisconsin for my rare original 1926 copy of this book that I read month-by-month. There are very few of this book to be found online and they are 1943 editions. Here's one on Amazon.]


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Favorite Christmas Books: The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas

 Madeleine L'Engle's The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas was my four children's favorite Christmas book when they were little--little meaning from toddler to the day they grew up and moved into their own homes!

 It was tradition for me to read it to them after we had decorated the Christmas tree, them lying on the floor in their pajamas with all the lights off except the tree lights. This was the 1984 paperback issue I read our two younger sons but when our older two children were little I would check out the original hardback 1964 book from the library.

A few years ago I began trying to find a copy of the original book but the cheapest one I could find was almost $200. And then one day I got notice of a first edition, first printing copy on eBay for...$9.99! 

 No dust jacket but in great condition. 

 The illustrations by INGA are lovely.

 The only artists by the name of Inga I could find online were far too young to have been this Inga so I'm not sure who she was. But lovers of children's literature know Madeleine L'Engle--the author of A Wrinkle in Time and many other children's books as well as books for adults including my favorite, Two-part Invention, the Story of A Marriage.

 When I bought the old hardback copy on eBay I was delighted to realize that it was not only longer than the paperback edition but that it was written in third person instead of the first person point of view that the later editions were, in daughter Vicky's voice.

Last December I took these pictures to illustrate this post, making the hamburger and milkshake lunch that Mrs. Austin makes for her family. Her fourth baby is due any day and meals are becoming simpler as Christmas approaches.


The newer 1984 paperback edition reads like this:

Our kitchen is a big wandery room.

It turns corners and has unexpected nooks and crannies. In the dining-room section in the winter the fire crackles merrily.

This morning the smell of applewood mingled with the smell of pancakes and maple syrup and hot chocolate. One of the cats was sleeping, curled up on a cushion in front of the fire.

 The original 1964 book reads:

On the twenty-second day of December when everybody is home from Sunday school and church Mother makes hamburgers and milkshakes for lunch because that is the quickest thing to have. Vicky and Suzy help with the dishes and Mother puts on a Christmas carol record, and everybody sings loudly, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Dr. Austin and John bring in the tree from the garage and set it firmly in a bucket of wet sand.
The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas shows the Austin family doing one special thing each day of Advent, usually one Christmas craft thing. Meanwhile, Vicky goes to practice for the church Christmas program where she will be an angel, an awkward angel at first. When the children's wish for snow comes true but might prevent their father from getting home on Christmas Eve and their mother shows signs of going into labor, the Austin family Christmas may not be what they expected. 

Our children loved this book so much! So much that when they left home I gave each of them a copy for Christmas and then they read it to their children. This first edition hardback edition I have now is promised to our daughter who loved it with a passion and who has a new granddaughter who will be celebrating her first Christmas.

If you would like a copy of it there are many paperbacks available, and some hardbacks of a later edition like the ones I gave each of our children (no picture here) and prices range drastically so keep searching for them. 

And if you want  to spring for the 1964 hardback, with dust jacket, here are two on eBay.

One here... 

And a less expensive one here... 

The first one is $249.00 and the second one is $39.99. Or you could put a watch on eBay and maybe someday get one for $9.99 like I did! 

Either way, if you have young children  or your children have young children you don't want them to miss out on this book being part of their childhood if your family celebrates Christmas. 

I have more of my favorite Christmas books that I'll spread throughout November and December but I wanted to show this one first in hope that you would have time to find one for your own.