Just Don’t Sit Under The Melon Tree With Anyone Else But Me

Meanwhile, there is much work to be done. Repeat after me:

Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes, and prism, are all very good words for the lips: especially prunes and prism.

Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit


Mary’s Sandwiches

I sat cross-legged on the blanket with my two babies – our treasures set before us – the delicacies I’d climbed up onto the kitchen chair to pluck from the furthest reaches of the high wood-planked cupboards. Pastel colored tiny marshmallows, breadsticks, rusks, cheese, salami, mandarin oranges, baking chocolate, crackers, roasted peppers, marzipan, big soft pretzels, bean dip! Nothing ‘matched’, none of these foods were anything that ‘mattered’, really. They were just the usual things that somehow live along the edges of the kitchen. Like the Tree That Grows in Brooklyn. Weeds of food. But set out on that blanket on the floor cocooned in the tiny house under five feet of snow and all the world a solid frozen white, the forest with its trees fat and heavy falling towards and almost over the rooftop of this encapsulated scene where we sat talking nonsense and singing nursery rhymes – these ‘nothing’ foods became the most magnificent feast one could imagine.

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Mary, the blonde wisped woman, didn’t have a car. I’d stopped to ask if she wanted to go to the grocery store with me, since town was a good five miles from this steep mountain with the perilous rutted roads we’d somehow both ended up living on. She never wanted to go.

“Tim gets the groceries,” she’d say. Tim was the man at the head of the table. Tim was her second husband. Tim, she’d married to have a ‘good father’ for her children. Tim’s job was as a guard at the State Prison. Tim, left Mary day after day in their home with no money, no car, and not enough food.

The women of the town started talking about Mary. Her girls had been dropped off by their stepfather at more than one of the fun summer things planned for the town kids, and  everyone agreed – they were ‘nice kids’. But there was that one big problem: children were supposed to bring their own lunches and snacks for these day-long summer activities. And Mary’s girls always turned up empty-handed. They’d said they ‘weren’t hungry’, that they would eat at home later – and that’s what Mary said too when asked about it. That they would eat later, they didn’t need a snack they didn’t need a lunch they didn’t need anything all day long.

The other children shared with the girls. Some did. Some were instructed by their mothers to not share. “I don’t care how poor she is,” was the trumpeted final opinion voiced by first one then all who would say anything at all about it. “She can still send a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Anyone can afford to send a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

The thing was, I thought it likely that she didn’t have peanut butter and jelly in the house. And I also knew that she would not accept help.

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This is part two of the story, part one can be found here.

To be continued.

Cutey Pie Roasts Man

I keep falling asleep and having the strangest dreams. There’s something about being a little chick in your big hands . . . that must be the reason.

This time I had a dream that I was a human woman. Naturally I was in a yellow dress, pretty much the color of my natural feathers, but of course not as fluffy or as alluring! My face was rather peaked and chicken-like, but that may have been because sitting directly across from me was my natural enemy (at least as a chick!) – a dog. His teeth were hanging out and he was panting. I had a sense he wanted to eat something.

But it wasn’t me he wanted to eat. It was the little man. I was doing what – normally – people end up doing to me! I was roasting someone, over a nice wood fire burned down to the hottest of coals.

And I was saying to him: “Why don’t you pop?”

I don’t know why I was saying that. But I do know that he didn’t smell as nice as I do, roasted. But it was just a dream. Maybe in real life he would?

Danger! Danger! Do not let your love leek out!!!

Yes, of course I will marry you! As soon as you get off that hobby horse and get rid of the little whip! (And it would be great if you could get some new shoes, too)

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Vegetable people were rather in vogue for a while (scroll down to view). Really, who is to say that vegetable people are not always in vogue?!

The social status of the young leek lady may have risen somewhat over time, though. Leeks were once called the ‘poor man’s asparagus’ but that has changed. Leeks are now more precious than the average yellow, white, or red onion and generally are much more expensive!

It is the season for love – and leeks bond nicely with potatoes. I’ve yet to be bored with a well-made leek and potato soup. But if the urge arises for something other than the ‘usual thing’ there is always this recipe (most charming)!

A “Herby” pie, peculiar to Cornwall, is made of leeks and pilchards, or of nettles, pepper cress, parsley, mustard, and spinach, with thin slices of pork. At the bottom of the Squab pie mentioned before was a Squab, or young Cormorant, “which diffused,” says Charles Kingsley, “through the pie, and through the ambient air, a delicate odor of mingled guano and polecat.” That “lovers live by love, as larks by leeks,” is an old saying; and in the classic story of Pyramus and Thisbe, reference is made to the beautiful emerald green which the leaves of the leek exhibit. “His eyes were as green as leeks.”

Well, it seems we must sacrifice Leek Girl to soup or to pie or . . . to marriage. Which will it be . . .

A Cup of Tea and a Biscuit with William Shakespeare

Hello, William! How nice to see you for a visit! Yes, yes I know we are just married but I’m still trying to sort out what to bring with me when I leave my cottage (and its 90 acres, let’s not forget that) and besides, we haven’t paid for the marriage license bond yet and the fellow standing over there is waiting for me to give him 40 pounds. What? You say you forgot to pay it? Well, that’s fine. Just let me toddle over here to find a bit of old silver to give him.

Do sit down on one of my nice hard uncomfortable chairs there and we’ll have some tea. I’m sorry it may take some time – the microwave hasn’t been invented yet and I’ve got to get the girl to boil the water over the fire in the fireplace in the other room, but in the meanwhile you can enjoy the sunshine and cold draft on your neck coming from the window! There’s a book there. You might enjoy reading it. I know you like words.

Let me see what we have to eat today! I’m not feeling all that perky – you know, being three months pregnant can make one that way, but I’m sure we’ll come up with something tasty. Ah, here we are! You’d like to see the recipe? Why of course. Here it is!

To make Banbury Cakes
Make a Posset of Sack and Cream, then take a Peck of fine Flour, half an Ounce of Mace, as much of Nutmeg, as much of Cinamon, beat them and searce them, two pounds of Butter, ten Eggs, leaving out half their Whites, one Pint and half of Ale-Yest, beat your Eggs very well, and strain them, then put your Yest, and some of the Posset to the Flour, stir them together, and put in your Butter cold in little pieces, but your Posset must be scalding hot; make it into a Paste, and let it lie one hour in a warm Cloth to rise, then put in ten pounds of Currans washed and dried very well, a little Musk and Ambergreece dissolved in Rosewater, put in a little Sugar among your Currans break your Paste into little pieces, when you go to put in your Currans, then lay a Lay of broken Paste, and then a Lay of Currans till all be in, then mingle your Paste and Currans well together, and keep out a little of your Paste in a warm Cloth to cover the top and bottom of your Cake, you must rowl the Cover very thin, and also the Bottom, and close them together over the Cake with a little Rosewater; prick the top and bottom with a small Pin or Needle, and when it is ready to go into the Oven, cut in the sides round about, let it stand two hours, then Ice it over with Rosewater or Orange Flour and Sugar, and the White of an Egg, and harden it in the Oven

I’ll be right back, dear. Must go get another shawl. It’s rather chilly in this house!


On this day in 1582:

On 28 November, 1582, two husbandmen of Stratford, named Sandells and Richardson, became sureties for £40 in the consistory court of Worcester to free the bishop from liability in case of lawful impediment, by pre-contract or consanguinity, to the marriage of “William Shagspeare and Anne Hathwey” which might proceed hereupon with only one publication of banns. The episcopal register records the marriage bond granted to one Wm Shakespeare stating that the condition of this obligation is such that if hereafter there shall not appear any lawful let, or impediment by reason, of any precontract, consanguinity, affinity or by any other lawful means whatsoever, that William Shagspere and Anne Hathwey may lawfully solemnize matrimony together…

The documents apparently refer to two different women; Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton and Anne Hathwey of Stratford. The interpretation of these documents have led to all sorts of speculation. Was Shakespeare involved with two women, both called by the same first name? Did he intend to marry Miss Whateley but as soon as the license was issued did Anne Hathaway intervene saying that she was pregnant? Did he really love Miss Whateley but was forced to marry Miss Hathwey due to her pregnancy? Or was the name simply entered incorrectly on the first document? Or was she in fact a widow and therefore known by either Whateley or Hathwey ( Hathaway ) by local people?

The postcard shown above appears to be from the 1950’s – 1960’s, printed in England. There was no writing on the back, so it may have been bought as a souvenir on a trip to Anne’s ‘cottage’.

For a modern-day look at Banbury Cakes, which are often now called tarts (and which of course are not a biscuit) take a look at this wonderful post at Baking for Britain. Delightful!