Old Decembers

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In the kitchen with my Great-Grandmas,

(Though I be fifty-two!) 

  To help pass a cold December along 

When e’en more baking will accrue!

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Two neighbours in the last few weeks have lent me recipe books – one was an actual one to use on a daily basis,full of Danish recipes and hints written by the ladies of this county, Victoria.  It’s had several printings but it was originally done in the 1890s. And so, as New Denmark WAS a large part of the county, Danish recipes figure prominently within.  But another very exciting book to me was written by Dr. Chase – publication date, 1862 –  it was dedicated to the in-office President at the time – Lincoln!    And it has some great old tid-bits I simply must share!

An Ontario friend also wrote and asked me for my Grandmother Johnson’s old favourite – Florida Ice (a quick dessert with orange juice and bananas she always kept in her freezer for us and our visiting friends.) And that got me thinking that I must look up some of the old recipes in the recipe book she gave to HER mother (my great-grandmother) one cold December in preparation for Christmases to come….

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I love the title page, and the dedication page in this 1862 book of Dr. Chase’s :

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I find it interesting indeed that Dr. Chase felt it necessary to ‘explain’ sandwiches to women who were very likely well-versed and experienced in every possible type under the sun!  I’m also surprised that they were making peanut butter sandwiches in 1862, aren’t you?  And do you not think that he could have just said in a line under the title: “Moisten all these sandwich fillers with salad dressing !  (mayonnaise) ”   Too funny!

But, though Dr. Chase’s book was full of recipes (the most basic of things, by the way, almost as if it was really written for bachelors, though he says it’s information for EVERYBODY) more than half of it was about other useful tips:

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If you’ve been following this blog since the summer, you’ll know that I used a similar concoction like the old milk paint (chalk/lime paint) to historically renovate many of the rooms and furniture in this old farmhouse.  I find his phrase “it is too cheap to estimate” quite humourous, especially as to purchase it in a store today, you will find it more expensive than most paints! (Why I mixed my own!)

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He is not very specific about how to ‘make’ various forms of metal as above, and the finishes on them. Like the sandwiches, I suspect you pretty much already need to know how to do these things, as he doesn’t really tell you HOW!

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I love these little asides he gives – that gentleman from Indiana who told him how to make a good black ink for a banker… and how he’s never actually tried it, but should mention it in case it’s a good way, and would be lost to the world other than from his own pen!

And most interesting of all!  So many buildings burned in days of yore ( I know the original barn on our Blue Belldon Farm, did.) that he actually advises not to use blue ink because it won’t hold up in the heat of a safe when the building is burning down! Love it!

Many of you will know that besides Rustic Revivals and Rural Revivals, another little side-line business I have is called Juliet’s Quill.  So I enjoy reading about various inks and how they are made.  Here are some of my works, to do only with recipes (the wedding and poetry works will be mentioned at Valentines and in the spring when I do some romantic/lovey-dovey blog postings!)

If you’re at all interested in the variety of calligraphy styles, you can view my Juliet’s Quill shop on etsy here:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/julietsquill

You might be forgiven for thinking that this book of Dr. Chase’s was really written for men, but then you’ll have a special smile for this:

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“Broken Breasts” ?  “Injections for female complaints”?  “Excessive Flooding” ? – Yikes!

and hey – he’s even writing for young ladies entering puberty, in ‘plain and delicate language’. Well, I ask you – how can he be both plain AND delicate?  And by the way – exactly what would the ‘failure’ be of treating a female hemorrhage with Professor Platt’s remedy.  A fainting spell, or an actual fatality?

The above is from his index.  So enjoyable I had to share a few other pages from it. Click on each circle to enlarge:

Apparently Dr. Chase knows everything in the world – from advice to give unemployed young men, to how to make a ‘gravel house’ ? – and have you ever seen currant ‘catchup’? I wonder at the latter term;  I always understood the generic term to be “catsup”, and then Heinz came along to coin “ketchup”.  If you look up ‘catchup’, there’s certainly no mention of the condiment to which Dr. Chase is referring!

Enough of the good ‘doctor’ (bet he was just a travelling Medicine Show  “doctor”, to begin with, like this: )

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Now, in order of age of books, I’ll present the Victoria  County Ladies’ Cookbook next:

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Apparently, of all the ladies of Victoria County, not ONE was talented enough to write their own ‘ditty’ for the front cover? They had to get a man to do it! grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr….

This book is quaint, as it has many delicious ‘exotic’ recipes, as well as the French, English and Danish basic ones from the area’s first settlers. Click on each photo below for a caption.

Another thing I enjoy from these books is that they just quickly write our the ingredients and amounts, and don’t make a big deal explaining how to combine and bake everything. Saves a lot of space!

Lastly, the real connection to my own relatives.  If you’ve been following the blog all along, you’ll know that I use a bread board made by my great-grandfather, for my Grandma McKenzie.  In the Juliet’s Quill shot, above, was a picture of “Hawkie”, or Gram Hawkins.  Her blind husband Will, (who died from his diabetes long before I was born, but I did know Hawkie quite well…)  made the bread board I still use for his daughter, Dorothy, pictured below:

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Now blue breadboard (orig. light milk-paint yellow) made by my great-grandfather for my Grandma McKenzie. I use it nearly every day.
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from l-r – our farmhouse a few weeks ago, Grandma McKenzie, whose breadboard I use for bread and pastries, and Grandma Johnson, whose recipe book Christmas gift to her mother inspired the next bit of blogging. If you can get these old card catalogues from libraries, they make GREAT recipe card filers, as well as junk drawers, nail and screw organizers and, like my own pigeon holes, pictured below, for spice boxes!

Both photos of my grandmothers (above) were taken on or near their wedding days.  Grandma Johnson, far right, gave this book to her mother, Maude Lipsit, of Straffordville, Ontario in December of 1936.

Maude, my Great-grandmother, was a Johnson before she married a Lipsit.  Then her daughter, my grandmother, married a different family of Johnson.  I still have some engraved “J” silverware which goes back to the great-great Johnsons.  Here’s Maude on HER wedding day, posing with one of my Rustic Revivals’ burlap and vintage lace wreaths (some of the lace actually from Maude’s own old placemats, so it’s fitting that she be seen here!).

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Incidentally, these wreaths have been a best-seller for me in the past. One was sent to California, one to England, and  TWO to the outback of Australia.  (Apparently they don’t have anything like the kind of burlap we are used to here in North America!) These primitive wreaths can be hung on doors or walls, or you can untie and remove the bent wire clotheshanger I have put on the back to keep its form when hanging, and place it on your table with a bowl in the centre full of floating candles, roses, fruit or other bowl-fillers.  The link to the wreaths is in my Rustic Revivals’ shop here:  https://www.etsy.com/listing/71210683/custom-burlap-and-vintage-lace?ga_search_query=wreaths&ref=shop_items_search_6

Anyway, it isn’t so much the pleasure of having  my grandmother Johnson’s hand-writing preserved here in several ‘clippings’ (she ALWAYS wrote in pencil), as well as that of my Great-Grandma Lipsit’s:

but it’s fun to read the quotes on the front of the envelopes meant to hold all the clippings from either the newspaper, or the hand-written collections. The quotes are amusing (and again, nearly entirely written by men, of course!)

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and, in addition to these fun verses, is perusing the many ads and articles from pre-WWII and during the war.  So many Christmassy tips for sending baked goods to the soldiers!  And of course it’s always interesting to read the prices!

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so sad that ‘the boys’ had to just receive some old candy and stale cookies from overseas for their Christmas gifts, made by their wives and mothers
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How nice it must have been, less than a century ago, to just address something as , for instance “Bovril, Park Ave. Montreal”. Three easy words, and no numbers at all in the address! Mind you, I’ve heard of old letters from the 1800s being sent simply to, for instance, Mrs. S. Fudge, Canada. That always gets me!
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Ah, me – a box of seedless tangerines , a doz. for 33 cents! No wonder they were often used in stockings as a special treat!
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all that Christmas prep. for ‘the boys’ overseas was likely being done around Hallowe’en!
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This almond paste will be used for making Richard’s favourite marzipan, as it was a tradition in his house growing up and New Brunswick doesn’t seem to have it! Don’t you love how you have to ‘send away’ for the rest of the recipes and instructions, though?

With all this interesting historical reading from clippings saved by my great-grandmother, it’s a wonder I ever actually get BAKING.  But here’s the proof that I DO – at least nearly every 2nd day:

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There I is, with Great-grandmother’s recipe book close to hand.  The Christmas apron is from my friend in England, with whom I’ve spent several Christmases, when I lived over there on the Yorkshire moors…He thought it was funny to give me that, as the only thing I ever made HIM and his family for Christmas was red and green jello.  (Which they call ‘jelly’, and which they only ever eat as a dessert). And that takes us right back to my beginning statements about the difference between “jam and jelly”depending  which side of the ocean you hail from.  And I don’t remember seeing any recipes using ‘jello’ in dear old Dr. Chase’s book!

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Speaking of old ladies at Christmas, this is the 3rd near-life size Mrs. Claus I’ve made and sold through Rustic Revivals’ primitive dolls line. (Entirely made with old rags, all natural fabrics)  She’s my favourite by far!  Reminds me of my own great-grandmothers, all ‘sugar and spice’….

I’ll write one more time later this week to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from Blue Belldon Farm.  When you live self-sufficiently it’s important to wrap in an eco-friendly way, and save everything, and not overspend on presents, but to make them instead (or buy them at surplus/salvage/sales, or buy something you have to have anyway – like Richard has a set of snowshoes as his present so he can go off in our woods in the New Year and start cutting next year’s heating!)

So, I’ll be sharing some photos of these things to help you get in the spirit!

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