“Mommyo, can we have an old-timey Thanksgiving?”

The reference texts. (Photo: Shala Howell)

The reference texts. (Photo: Shala Howell)

We are hosting Thanksgiving this year, and per form, back when hosting was still a hypothetical prospect, The Seven-Year-Old and I got pretty excited about the possibilities.

The Seven-Year-Old, brilliantly: “Mommyo, can we have an old-timey Thanksgiving?”

Mommyo, enthusiastically: “Sure! Let me grab my old cookbooks.”

My 1905 New England Cookbook is on loan to a friend right now, so I pulled out my 1896 Fannie Farmer instead. Conveniently, it includes a menu for a Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner on page 520.

Ok. Let’s see here.

Traditional Thanksgiving Menu from the 1896 Fannie Farmer cookbook.

Traditional Thanksgiving Menu from the 1896 Fannie Farmer cookbook.

The roast turkey, mashed potatoes, squash, apple pie, cranberry jelly, crackers & cheese, and nuts & raisins we’d have anyway. And really, how hard could it possibly be to set out celery, salted almonds, ice cream, fruits, fancy cakes, and bonbons as well?

Cafe noir turns out to be extra-strong black coffee, served after dinner, with or without sugar. Let’s call it espresso, and we’re done.

So that leaves…

  • Oyster soup
  • Onions in cream
  • Chicken pie
  • Fruit pudding
  • Sterling sauce
  • Mince pie
  • Squash pie

… as the stretch foods, so to speak.

Squash pie was the least disgusting sounding of the remaining foods. At least to me. I assumed that it was just a variant of pumpkin pie, which I’d serve anyway. So I looked it up first.

Skimming the recipe, it’s basically squash, sugar, salt, cinnamon, lemon extract, milk and an egg.  Sounds a lot like pumpkin pie, I thought. In fact, immediately under the Squash Pie recipe were these words:

“Pumpkin Pie, is made same as Squash Pie, using pumpkin in place of squash.”

There you go. Sounds fine.

The Seven-Year-Old, disgustedly: “To you, maybe. I’m not eating that.”

Ok. It’s not like The Seven-Year-Old would have eaten the pumpkin pie anyway.

Next least disgusting was mince meat pie. I’d had mince meat pie every year growing up. How bad could the original recipe for it be?

The Seven-Year-Old, curiously: “What’s mince meat?”

For the curious, the mince meat recipes referenced in this post. (Source: 1896 Fannie Farmer)

For the curious, the mince meat recipes referenced in this post. Click to enlarge. (Source: 1896 Fannie Farmer)

Mommyo, informatively: “Says here it’s made of apples, quinces, sugar, molasses, cider, raisins, currants, citron, some brandy, a few spices, and beef.”

The Seven-Year-Old, gagging: “Beef pie? ICK!”

Mommyo, helpfully: “There’s a vegetarian version, if you want to try it instead.”

The Seven-Year-Old, resignedly: “What’s it made of?”

Mommyo, didactically: “Raisins, apples, citron, suet…”

The Seven-Year-Old, disgustedly: “Stop. We’re not making that.”

Mommyo, encouragingly: “What about the fruit pudding? Would you like to try that?”

The Seven-Year-Old, decisively: “No. Just make me mac and cheese.”

Well, that takes care of that.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

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The Seven-Year-Old misses her teeth

The Seven-Year-Old, wistfully: “I can still feel those teeth. I can feel their little souls still in me.”

Of course, this didn’t keep her from trying to hit up the Tooth Fairy for some bling.

The note reads: "Dear Tooth Fairy, you will find my teeth in the place pointed to. Please take the container." (Photo: Shala Howell)

The note reads: “Dear Tooth Fairy, you will find my tooth in the place pointed to. Please take the container.” (Photo: Shala Howell)

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Wordless Wednesday: Wake up, sleepyhead!

 

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

“Look, if you’re going to make me wear this collar, the least you can do is play with me.”

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Caterpickles consults Daddyo: What does “fever and ague” mean?

Little HouseSeems like every 30th second grader we passed while trick or treating this year was dressed up as Laura Ingalls Wilder. Second grade must be when everyone reads Little House on the Prairie. The Seven-Year-Old, succumbing to the happy sort of peer pressure, pulled down our copy of Little House from the office bookshelves and dove right in.

Almost immediately she was struck by one of the things I love most about reading old books. The weird medical terms you can find buried within them.

The Seven-Year-Old, curiously: “What does ‘fever and ague’ mean?”

Daddyo, authoritatively: “A nonspecific illness involving a fever.”

(A moment later) Daddyo, quietly: “Mommyo, is that really what ‘ague’ means?”

Mommyo, loudly: “Why ask me? You’re the doctor.”

Daddyo, quietly: “Yes. But I wasn’t practicing in 1875.”

For the curious, yes, Daddyo was right. According to Merriam-Webster, ague is:

“a fever (such as malaria) marked by paroxysms of chills, fever, and sweating that recur at regular intervals.”

Strong work, Howell.

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Grandpa takes The (then) Six-Year-Old to the beach

I miss summer. (Photo: Shala Howell)

I miss summer. (Photo: Shala Howell)

The Seven-Year-Old, proudly: “And I dug out all that too.”

Grandpa: “You dug out all of that? You don’t even have your shovel. You could have dug all the way to China if you’d had your shovel.”

The Seven-Year-Old: “Maybe not.”  (pause) “I’m just too realistic for you, Grandpa.”

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Wordless Wednesday: Safety First

 

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

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Why does putting an apple in your brown sugar keep the sugar soft?

This fall, The Seven-Year-Old and I went apple picking at Radke Orchards in Indiana. While there, I picked up a little paperback book of Old Fashioned Apple Recipes (Bear Wallow Books, 1980) on the principle that there are only so many apple pies one family can be expected to eat. Nestled among the recipes for Apple Corn Bread, Apple Fritters, Apple-Sweet Potato Bakes, and Honey Apple Cake, I found this tip:

“An apple in your brown sugar container will help to keep the sugar moist.”

I was  dubious. After all, I’ve been taken in by these sorts of claims before. Brown Sugar Bears, hermetically sealed containers, slices of bread … none of it works for me. The brown sugar ALWAYS hardens up. Since I’ve given up on spending money and switched to storing my open sugar bags in gallon-sized Ziplocs on the At-Least-This-Will-Keep-the-Mice-Out principle, the hardening usually happens within 24 hours.

Still, I had an apple or two to spare, so I decided to give it a try. Something about plopping the apple directly into the brown sugar seemed a bit unsavory, so I found a gallon-sized Ziploc, dropped an opened bag of brown sugar into it, added one of my less yummy-looking apples, and sealed the whole thing up tight.

Storing an apple with your brown sugar will help keep your sugar soft. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Storing an apple with your brown sugar will help keep your sugar soft. (Photo: Shala Howell)

The next morning, when I pulled it out to make oatmeal, the brown sugar was still soft. Interesting, given my track record, but not yet impressive.

Impressive is pulling the Ziploc out all these weeks later and finding the brown sugar still as soft as the day I first stored it.  Impressive is the fact that I now expect to find soft, pliable brown sugar in my pantry.

So why does putting an apple in the bag work when all those commercial approaches have failed?

Apparently, the brown sugar sucks up the moisture from the apple, and that added moisture keeps the sugar soft. This article says you can just use apple slices, but by the time I found it, I had already plopped an entire apple into the bag. Two months later, the apple is still fine, and the brown sugar still fresh. I’m not entirely sure that a mere slice would have lasted this long.

My old-fashioned cookbook also claims that storing an apple with your potatoes will help keep them from sprouting. I am so trying that.

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The Seven-Year-Old talks to Grandpa

Grandpa, irritably: “I can’t find my reading glasses.”

The Seven-Year-Old, sympathetically: “If only they had beepers like iPads.”

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Wordless Wednesday: The Seven-Year-Old takes Canelo to the movies

The Seven-Year-Old has decided to introduce Canelo to all of her favorite movies. First up, the Aristocats. Canelo seems to have enjoyed the movie almost as much as The Seven-Year-Old.

There, there. Canelo comforts the small sad one. Who says cats don't have empathy? (Photo: Shala Howell)

There, there. Canelo comforts the small sad one. Who says cats don’t have empathy? (Photo: Shala Howell)

I hear The Seven-Year-Old plans to screen The Cat from Outer Space next week.

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What’s that green and red-striped bug?

Yesterday we met some friends for a Sunday afternoon meander through the Spring Valley nature preserve in Schaumburg, Illinois. As part of her program of studying trees (a project made easy by the fact that the park has little signs identifying each of the major types in the preserve), The Seven-Year-Old came across this little guy crawling along an old log:

Candy Striped Leafhopper (Photo: Shala Howell)

Candy Striped Leafhopper (Photo: Shala Howell)

“What is that bug?” she wondered.

No one in the group knew, so Mommyo whipped out her camera (which comes in a handy iPhone case) and took a picture, promising all and sundry to ask Caterpickles at some point this week.

While doing my homework this morning, I came across a rather fabulous bug identification site. Billed as being for the casual insect observer, InsectIdentification.org helps you identify a host of wee wild beasties by answering a few questions about their primary and secondary colors, the state where you saw them, and the number of legs they have.  Results include pictures, which makes identification easy.

Based on my quick search, the bug we saw is a Candy-Striped Leafhopper. Although lovely, The Seven-Year-Old and I have since learned (courtesy of InsectIdentification.org) that the leafhopper can be lethal to blackberry bushes, roses, and rhododendrons. Apparently, it likes their juices the best, and has been known to suck plants dry. Worse, the leafhopper leaves behind a trail of sweet-smelling bubbly liquid waste (“Just call it bug poop, Mommyo”) that attracts flies, wasps, and other pests to the infested plant.

So, what did you find out in the world this weekend?

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