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...😏.

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.