Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Make a Wish!...a brief history of birthday tradtions

" April"--Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry by Limbourg Brothers
April is a pretty big birthday month in my little corner of the world with several friends celebrating their natal days, including my own on the sixth. It set me to wondering about some of our traditions and just how they got started. Thanks to the wonders of the Web I ran across several interesting articles and I'm happy to share some of the research with you this week.

By Jeff Dahl (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

You can't celebrate a birthday without the aid of a calendar of sorts so the first festivities originated after the advent of means to mark the passing of time. Ancient Egyptian astronomers used the stars to note the passing of one year to the next since the movement of the heavenly bodies was constant and observable. It is no great surprise, then, that some of the earliest recorded birthday celebrations were for those of the Pharaohs who were considered gods on earth. Most birthday parties of the ancient world were reserved for royalty and this may be the origin of the later day wearing of special birthday crowns. We're all kings and queens on our birthdays! A little later on, the Greeks celebrated their goddess, Artemis, by baking moon-shaped cakes and lighting them with candles to simulate lunar light. Romans followed by being the first to celebrate the birthdays of mere mortals, with those reaching their fiftieth birthdays given special recognition with cakes made from wheat flour, olive oil, honey and grated cheese. Of course, those special days were reserved for the male population until around the 12th century when us lowly females were deemed worthy of celebration. 

By Francesca Cesa Bianchi, Milano via Wikimedia Commons
In the good old pagan days, it was thought that people were surrounded by evil spirits who especially liked to gather about on special days such as birthdays. In order to ward off such dangerous influences, the birthday honoree would be surrounded by friends and family who would bring good wishes and positive thoughts to the occasion (and if they brought gifts, so much the better!) These were noisy events with the notion that such loud revelry would discourage malevolent spirits. Noise maker, anyone? And what's a birthday without blowing out a bunch of candles and making a silent wish as the smoke of the extinguished flames drifts upward? To the ancients, smoke sent prayers and wishes skyward to the realms of the gods who might grant such desires.

Mildred and Patty Hill
Marilyn Monroe sings "Happy Birthday Mr. President"
Yale Joel/Life Magazine/Time&Life Pictures, Getty Images
It seems the ubiquitous song, "Happy Birthday to You", has been around forever but it's a relatively new tradition. The melody was written in 1893 for a class of kindergartners by sisters Mildred and Patty Hill who penned the song  as "Good Morning to All". At some point, soon thereafter, the lyrics were changed to "Happy Birthday" and the little tune has been sung with gusto and varying levels of musicality ever since. (You might recall Marilyn Monroe's infamous public Madison Square Garden rendition to President John Kennedy in 1962.) 

So, next time you celebrate a birthday, break out the noise makers, wear a paper crown, and make a good wish when you blow out the candles on your cake as your well-wishers gather around singing "Happy Birthday to You!"

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

You've Been Pranked! the press

From Connor Magan's Luck and Other Stories by M.T. W., 1881
As April 1st approaches and thoughts turn to all things foolish, my research uncovered the fact that many April Fool's Day jokes have been played upon a gullible public by the newspaper industry. As a matter of fact, it appears to be a tradition with many newspapers but somehow many of us forget from one year to the next. I have been temporarily fooled, myself, by outrageous articles printed in the April 1st editions of the Virginian Pilot. Knowing that many folk over the ages have believed anything printed in the papers must be true, media pranksters have taken full advantage of that trait and had a field day each year. I have included three historical examples, below:

On an April 1st of the 1840s, the Boston Post announced that a cave full of treasure
was discovered beneath Boston Common, uncovered by workmen as they removed 
(Wikimedia Public Domain)
a tree. Beneath the tree they discovered a stone trap-door with a large iron ring set in it which opened to a stone stairway leading to an underground cave. In this cave, reported the Post, lay hoards of jewels, old coins, and weapons with jeweled handles. As word of the discovery spread throughout Boston, a large number of excited curiosity-seekers began crowding the Common to view the treasure. As time went on and no treasure was to be seen, it finally dawned upon them that the date was 
April 1 and they'd been duped.

A notice ran in Chicago papers announcing that on April 1,1858 at one o'clock, a "famous
St Paul's Church, photograph by John Carbutt, 1832-1905
gymnast" would climb to the top of the steeple of St. Paul's Church from the outside "and stand upright on the summit, returning the same way to the ground — all to be accomplished in the space of twenty minutes." By one o'clock, over 300 people gathered, including eager reporters from other newspapers. As the time passed and no such feat occurred, the spectators realized they'd been taken in by an April Fool's Day joke and according to the Weekly Hawkeye (Burlington, Iowa) "the crowd suddenly discovered it was time to go to dinner, which they did with a rush."

On April 1, 1938, North Carolina's Twin City Sentinel ran a front page story, complete with photo, stating that "a long sleek transatlantic steamer," the S.S. Santa Pinta, had "plowed through the muddy waters of Yadkin River and anchored ten miles west of Winston-Salem."  A huge traffic jam blocked the highways as hundreds of people drove out to see the steamer
Stranded "TransAtlantic Steamer" from Twin City Sentinel, April 1, 1938
stranded some 300 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. If they'd taken the time to finish reading the whole article they'd have seen the words at the end: "An April Fool's Dream!"

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! (And don't believe everything you read in the papers...especially on April 1st!)


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

When is a Seal not just a Seal?...when it's an Irish Selkie!

"Harbor Seal" Photograph by Terry Wood (my talented brother!)
 'Tis the month we celebrate all things Irish, and having a husband with Irish ancestry, I'm happily wearin' a lot of the green and baking up the Soda Bread. Ireland is a country aglow with wondrous legend and lore so I am happy to share an excerpt from my novel, Sea Snow--the gentle haunting of a 19th century lighthouse, in which a young Irish lad relates his story of the Selkie his family claims as part of its ancestry. Selkies are also known as Seal People, Silkies, and Kelpies-- those mysterious beings who are people in seal's clothing.

Excerpt from Sea Snow-- the gentle haunting of a 19th century lighthouse:

July 29, 1898

…“Now,” I said, settling myself in front of him at the table, “just what is a selkie?”

 “Well,” he began, wiping his milk mustache away with his blue cotton sleeve, “some folks say my great-great-great-grandma was a selkie and that’s why we have this color hair,” he said, running a hand through his shock of thick, black hair.

 “Your great-great-great-grandma was a seal?”

 “No, no,” he said, laughing and shaking his head at my ignorance, “a selkie—there’s a big difference, you know.”

"Seals on Ice" Photograph by Terry Wood
 “Nope, I don’t know. Please explain, Danny.”

 “This is what Auntie Kate told me—it seems my great-great-great-grandpa was comin’ home late one night after a long day fishin’. He’d just pulled his boat up on the beach behind a pile of rocks when he heard them.”

 Danny paused to dip his cookie into his milk and bite off the dripping half. He sat there contemplatively chewing awhile. I waited.

 “He crawled up over the rocks and saw a big group of seals squirmin’ their way onto the beach—except they weren’t seals at all, ‘cause, one by one, their black skins split clear down the back and out stepped a man or a woman. The men were big and well muscled and the women were the most beautiful creatures he’d ever seen, with long, black hair hangin’ down their bare backs. The moon was full that night and he could see everything, nearly plain as day. As each selkie left its skin, it ran and joined the others—laughin’ and dancin’ in the sand.

"The Selkie" Photograph by Kathryn Louise Wood
“He saw one step out of her seal skin that took his breath away—her skin was the color of moonlight and her eyes were as dark as the night sea. As soon as she danced off with the rest of the selkies, Grandpa dashed over to the empty skin and snatched it. He hid it in a sack in the bottom of his boat beneath his fishin’ net. Then, he went back and peeked over the rocks at the selkies. He stayed there all night, watchin’ and waitin’.

“Just before dawn, when the air grew stiff and cold, the selkies made their way back to the sea’s edge to find their skins. They slipped back into them and launched themselves into the tide—lookin’ for all the world like an ordinary bunch of seals…all except for one. She searched and searched, racin’, wild-like, around the beach as her friends quietly departed. When they’d all left and she stood there alone, tremblin’ with fright, Grandpa walked from behind the rocks with his coat in his hand.

“ ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘I’ll take care of you, now.’

 “She stared at him with those shiny, black eyes, the sun just beginnin’ to lighten the sky. He saw her heave a great sigh and her white shoulders lower. She knew what had happened and, like all selkies, she resigned herself to her fate. Grandpa placed his coat over her bare skin and led her to his house. They were wed the very next day and she became a quiet and obedient wife, blessin’ him with five children.
"By the Sea" Photograph by Kathryn Louise Wood

“One day, many years later, she was diggin’ in her vegetable garden when her hoe struck somethin’ hard. She scratched all the dirt away and found an iron chest beneath the ground. She pulled it up and pried it open to find her seal skin, her husband buried there so long ago. She dropped her hoe and ran down to the beach, clutchin’ the skin tightly to her breast. Her youngest child, a girl about ten years old at the time, saw her and chased after her. When the selkie reached the water’s edge, she threw off her clothes and wrapped the skin about her. By the time her daughter reached her, all that was left was her mother’s empty dress lyin’ there on the sand. Her seal mother dove into the sea before her eyes.

“ ‘Ma!’ she cried.

“The selkie raised her seal head above the waves and stared at the little girl a long time, then rolled into the sea. From then on a seal could be seen, from time to time, driftin’ just off shore, watchin’ the beach closely, especially when Grandpa or any of his children were down there. They say it was the selkie, keepin’ watch over her human family.”

Danny stopped and took a big gulp of milk.

“Oh, my,” I said, feeling a lump rise in my throat despite my rationality telling me it was just a fairy tale.

I went to the window and looked at the seal, still lolling on the rocks with Noah.

“If your seal’s a selkie, it would explain what I saw the other night,” Danny said through a mouthful of cookie crumbs.

“What do you mean,” I asked, turning back to him.

“Uncle Samuel and I were out moonlight fishin’, when I saw a woman standin’ out there on
Front Cover of Sea Snow by Kathryn Louise Wood
those rocks,” Danny said, rising and pointing toward the rocks near the dock.

“She had long, black hair and bare arms. I couldn’t tell if she had any clothes on ‘cause of the moon shadows. I pointed her out to Uncle Samuel and asked if it was the lady who lives at the lighthouse. He turned around and looked at her. First, he squinted his eyes and then they got real big, and his mouth dropped open.

“ ‘What is it, Uncle?’ I asked. ‘Who is she?’

“ ‘It’s nothin’, Danny,’ he said, ‘just shadows and moonlight, shadows and moonlight.’

 “And he turned us around and headed home even though we hadn’t caught any fish yet. I know there was a lady there and I know, now, it wasn’t you—so it must have been a selkie.”

Danny planted his elbows on the windowsill, chin resting in his hands.

“Perhaps you’re right, Danny,” I said, fighting hard to control my voice, “a selkie.” 

"My Irish Soda Bread" Baked and Photographed by Kathryn Louise Wood
Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! And Happy St. Patrick's Day!


(You can read more about my novel, 
Sea Snow, the gentle haunting of a 19th century lighthouse, at

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Men in Kilts...Scotland the Brave

A brave piper in battle, WW I (public domain)
1918--In the murky trenches of World War I France, smoke chokes the air and the sound of whizzing bullets and screaming rockets fills your head. Exhausted, running low on water, bullets, and motivation, you sink into the depths of mud and despair. Then, above the stupefying noise of battle, the skirl of bagpipes pierces through the gloom and your spirit lifts. Inching up the side of the trench you lift a cautious eye over the top and through the swirling haze you see…men in kilts and know you have a chance to survive. The Kilties have arrived and brought their centuries-old stamina, courage, and heart. 

Scots charging with bayonets, World War I. (Mary Evans Picture Library)

The age-old military tradition of
Scotland stemmed, at least in part, from its generations of inter-clan fighting, Highland versus Lowland regional squabbles, and battles with its powerful southern neighbor: England. The Scots brought, not only a joy of fighting, but loyal and courageous natures that were welcome and necessary in times of war. In 1914, at the onset of World War I, the British army was already heavy with Scottish volunteers but the threat of Germany sent out Scottish
Piper and troops at Longueval, WW I (public domain)
regiments en masse. By 1918, half of Scotland’s male population between the ages of 18 and 45, had fought in the war. An average of 15% of Scottish regiments were killed in battle compared to 13% of the British. The Scots went full out. Their regiments became clan substitutes, adding an additional layer of loyalty and sacrifice. Many of these regiments wore the traditional kilt and earned the name, Kilties. The tartan kilts added to the soldiers’ sense of pride and helped them retain their Scottish heritage, setting them apart from the English troops. Led by pipers, encouraging the men to give their all behind the blood stirring call of the bagpipes, Kilties fought with legendary bravery. It is estimated that around 1000 pipers died in the war. Scotland the brave, indeed.
Nope, nothing beneath. Brave, indeed! World War I (public domain)

And what, one might ask, did those Kilties wear beneath those knee-length kilts? Why…nothing, of course. As a matter of fact, wearing any kind of underwear beneath the kilt was considered being out of uniform and was not allowed. The only time the soldiers were to wear something modest beneath the kilt was in competitive sport such as the Highland Games and in traditional dance. (And, I believe that is the case to this day.) 

Kilties and their dog at rest, World War I (Getty Images)

 Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Passionate Words...timeless expression

The Kiss, 1907, by Gustav Klimt
In researching love poems of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I ran across a passionate volume pulsing with the ardor of Belgian poet, Emile Verhaeren (1855-1916.) F. S. Flint wrote an English translation of his work which was published in 1916 by Constable and Company. So many of Verhaeren's poetic lines are suitable as the basis for Valentine cards, I can imagine many were springboards for World War I romantics on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps you will find a line or two with which to express your twenty-first century thoughts of love this Valentine's Day. Love, after all, is timeless.

In the spirit of true love, both freshly discovered and long lived, I present here a few of Verhaeren's poems as translated by Flint. To see the entire volume, visit: 

The Love Poems of 
Emile Verhaeren
The Love Letter by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta (1841-1920)
May your bright eyes, your eyes of summer, be for me here on earth the images of goodness.
Let our enkindled souls clothe with gold each flame of our thoughts.
May my two hands against your heart be for you here on earth the emblems of gentleness.
Let us live like two frenzied prayers straining at all hours one towards the other.
May our kisses on our enraptured mouths be for us here on earth the symbols of our life.

And what matters the wherefores and the reasons, and who we were and who we are; all doubt is dead in this garden of blossoms that opens up in us and about us, so far from men.
I do not argue, and do not desire to know, and nothing will disturb what is but mystery and gentle raptures and involuntary fervour and tranquil soaring towards our heaven of hope.
I feel your brightness before understanding that you are so; and it is my gladness, infinitely, to perceive myself thus gently loving without asking why your voice calls me.
Let us be simple and good—and day be minister of light and affection to us; and let them say that life is not made for a love like ours.

Title Unknown, Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin,1860-1943
As in the simple ages, I have given you my heart, like a wide-spreading flower that opens pure and lovely in the dewy hours; within its moist petals my lips have rested.
The flower, I gathered it with fingers of flame; say nothing to it: for all words are perilous; it is through the eyes that soul listens to soul.
The flower that is my heart and my avowal confides in all simplicity to your lips that it is loyal, bright and good, and that we trust in virgin love as a child trusts in God.
Leave wit to flower on the hills in freakish paths of vanity; and let us give a simple welcome to the sincerity that holds our two true hearts within its crystalline hands;
Nothing is so lovely as a confession of souls one to the other, in the evening, when the flame of the uncountable diamonds burns like so many silent eyes the silence of the firmaments.

At the time when I had long suffered and the hours were snares to me, you appeared to me as the welcoming light that shines from the windows on to the snow in the depths of winter evenings.
The brightness of your hospitable soul touched my heart lightly without wounding it, like a hand of tranquil warmth.
Then came a holy trust, and an open heart, and affection, and the union at last of our two loving hands, one evening of clear understanding and of gentle calm.
Illustration for Saturday Evening Post 
by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, 1874-1951 
Since then, although summer has followed frost both in ourselves and beneath the sky whose eternal flames deck with gold all the paths of our thoughts;
And although our love has become an immense flower, springing from proud desire, that ever begins anew within our heart, to grow yet better;
I still look back on the small light that was sweet to me, the first.
Because you came one day so simply along the paths of devotion and took my life into your beneficent hands, I love and praise and thank you with my senses, with my heart and brain, with my whole being stretched like a torch towards your unquenchable goodness and charity.
Since that day, I know what love, pure and bright as the dew, falls from you on to my calmed soul. I feel myself yours by all the burning ties that attach flames to their fire; all my body, all my soul mounts towards you with tireless ardour; I never cease to brood on your deep earnestness and your charm, so much so that suddenly I feel my eyes fill deliciously with unforgettable tears.
And I make towards you, happy and calm, with the proud desire to be for ever the most steadfast of joys to you. All our affection flames about us; every echo of my being responds to your call; the hour is unique and sanctified with ecstasy, and my fingers are tremulous at the mere touching of your forehead, as though they brushed the wing of your thoughts.

Title Unknown, 1910 per Wikimedia Commons
In the house chosen by our love as its birth-place, with its cherished furniture peopling the shadows and the nooks, where we live together, having as sole witnesses the roses that watch us through the windows,
Certain days stand out of so great a consolation, certain hours of summer so lovely in their silence, that sometimes I stop time that swings with its golden disc in the oaken clock.
Then the hour, the day, the night is so much ours that the happiness that hovers lightly over us hears nothing but the throbbing of your heart and mine that are brought close together by a sudden embrace.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! (And remember...all you need is love.)


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For...Snow Cream!

"Snow Mist," original photo by the author, 
copyright,  Kathryn Louise Wood
(*Author's note: I prepared this post several days before the Northeast got blasted with the blizzard. We even got a little dusting here in Edenton; more like powdered sugar than snow. See my photo at the bottom of the post of our little winged porch pig. The photo to the left at the top, is one I took along the Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia, several years ago.)

I think one of the most depressing weather conditions is a 38 degree rainfall. It just makes you cold to the bone and isn't even pretty. I realize I am speaking as an eastern North Carolinian, far away from the lands of winter-long frozen tundra, but I do wish we could have at least one lovely snowfall this winter. Just one. Maybe two, but any more would just be over zealous and take some of the magic away. Growing up in eastern North Carolina and Virginia, a snow day was always an exciting event and we celebrated by making Snow Cream. I used to think Snow Cream was a confection limited to the South but my research has found its consumption all over the country.

Looking for the oldest written recipe I could find for the fluffy fabulousness, I found the following from Elizabeth Ellicott Lea of Ellicott City, Maryland. Her cookbook, Domestic Cookery, Useful Receipts, and Hints to Young Housekeepers was published in Baltimore in 1841 with later editions in 1846 and 1851. You can see the original text and all her other recipes at:

-Snow Cream (19th century style)-
“Take the richest cream you can procure, season it with a few drops of essence of lemon or syrup of lemon peel, and powdered white sugar, and if you choose a spoonful of preserve syrup, and just as you send it to table, sitr in light newly fallen snow till it is nearly stiff as ice cream.”

"Snow Cream!!!!!!" by Chris Breeze, via Wikimedia Commons
I grew up with Snow Cream made with fresh, raw eggs whipped into the mixture but concerns about salmonella poisoning from consuming uncooked eggs has put a damper on that childhood memory. is a modern (egg-free) recipe which is still delicious and appropriately celebratory. (As with ice cream flavors, variations are endless.)

-Snow Cream-
1 gallon of clean, fresh, fluffy snow (if you can, set out a bowl to catch it as it falls)
1 cup sugar (powdered makes for less graininess but some of us enjoy granulated's crunchiness)
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups milk (or cream or half&half or canned evaporated milk, etc)
Stir sugar and vanilla into snow to taste, then stir in enough milk for desired consistency.
Serve immediately! Quick, before it melts!

"When Pigs Fly" Edenton Snowfall Photo by the author, Kathryn Wood

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Beautiful Brides...Lantern Swinging!...Read all about it!

Bride and Groom 1910, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain
While doing research by investigating turn-of-the-20th century newspaper articles online, I ran across several examples bursting with charm we seldom see in today's news media. The ones I bring to you this week, are from the southeastern coastal communities of North Carolina, Wilmington and New Bern. Each is so picturesque, we are given a real feeling for the life and times of the townspeople.

(Here comes the bride...)
July 26, 1907-- The Daily Journal (New Bern, North Carolina)
Maysville, July 25- Under the silvery waves of a full moon, surrounded by a vast crowd of men, women and children, the friends of the bride and groom, Miss Nannie Dixon and Mr. W. C. Waters were united in holy wedlock. Rev. D. C. Geddie performing the solemn rite. The bride, beautifully gowned in white silk and orange blossoms, was the admiration of the large concourse of people present and of the entire community in which she lives.
Broadway After Storm, 1905, Wikimedia  Commons Public Domain

(It's snowing! Let's all party!)
Feb 24, 1901--The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, North Carolina)
Local Dots.- The amount of drunkenness on the streets yesterday and last night during the snow storm was the occasion of frequent remark. Many people took the day as a holiday and judging from appearances they all had a good time. 

(Lantern swinging! New Bern's Got Talent!)
March 11, 1893-- The Daily Journal (New Bern, North Carolina)
Y.M.C.A. Entertainment--
Brakeman's Lantern, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain
...A novel feature, never attempted before, was introduced here, lantern swinging by Mr. C. J.McSorely. The exhibition was given in the dark with red lanterns. It was gracefully executed and remarkably beautiful. Mr. McSorely was called back and the repetition was viewed with as much delight as the first presentation. He was accompanied by Miss Agnes Foy on the piano...The program closed with a few specialties in athletic performances accompanied by Mr. C.L. Gaskill on the piano...The young men took part with much earnestness and zeal, and appeared to fine advantage. The audience appeared delighted at their cleverness and cheered them heartily.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In the Twelfth Month of Blogging...highlights from the past year

"Portrait of a Gentleman" by Nicolas de Largillierre.(early 1700's)
Looking back over my blog posts of 2014, I have pulled out some of my favorite discoveriesone for each monthand listed them below for your edification and enjoyment. Maybe one of these will help you win on Jeopardy someday!

Jan 8- Regarding 18th century wigs: “The powder was made of starch and was such a messy affair some wealthier homes had rooms set aside for the process (‘Powder Rooms!’)
Feb 19- Regarding 18th century love and marriage: “One of the more prevalent means was ‘handfasting’ or ‘spousal’ in which the young couple, with or without witnesses, simply held hands and promised love and loyalty, declaring themselves married. These personal ceremonies were held anywhere the couple chose and in Colonial America were often performed over an anvil in a blacksmith’s shop, symbolizing the strength of their bond.”
Portrait of an Unknown Lady of South Carolina, 1708-1709,
 by Henrietta Johnston
March 12- Regarding John Lawson’s early 18th century description of the ladies of Carolina: “ ‘As for those Women, that do not expose themselves to the Weather, they are often very fair, and generally as well featurd, as you will see any where, and have very brisk charming Eyes, which sets them off to Advantage.’ ”
April 23-  Regarding the real life “Robinson Crusoe” for which Daniel Defoe based his famous character: “As a landing boat rowed ashore, a wild-looking man clothed in goatskin, waving a white flag and yelling in excited English, came running to the shoreline. This solitary man, Alexander Selkirk, had been living alone for the previous four and half years with only the company of wild goats, rats and feral cats, the legacy left by early Spanish colonization attempts.” 
May 7- Regarding the curse Rev.George Whitefield laid upon Bath, North Carolina: “At one point, Whitefield gave up and upon leaving the town for the last time proclaimed: ‘There’s a place in the Bible that says if a place won’t listen to The Word, you shake the dust of the town off your feet, and the town
Bath, NC (KLWood, 2014)
shall be cursed. I have put a curse on this town for a hundred years.’ ”
June 4- Regarding the female pirate, Anne Bonny: “On November 18, 1720, the day Calico Jack was to be hanged from the gallows, it is reported Anne Bonny was allowed to see him one last time. Her words? ‘I’m sorry to see you here, but if you had fought like a man you need not have hanged like a dog.’ "
July 2- Regarding 18th century sea bathing machines: “The machine was basically a dressing room on wheels that was pulled into the ocean by a horse. Although there were variations, most followed this basic routine: individuals entered the beached machines, fully dressed, by climbing a set of steps and disappearing into the privacy of the wooden box.” 
Captain Lord George Graham in his Cabin, 1745, by William Hogarth
Aug 27- Regarding common expressions with nautical origins: “Pipe down - A signal on the bosun's pipe to signal the end of the day, requiring lights (and smoking pipes) to be extinguished and silence from the crew
Sept 24- Regarding the secret code of flowers:
Camellia: My destiny is in your hands 
Carnation (Pink): I’ll never forget you
Carnation (Yellow): Disdain
Dahlia (Red): Dignity and elegance
Daisy: Innocence”
Edenton's 1767 Courthouse (photo by K.L. Wood)
Oct 22- Regarding Edenton townspeople’s grisly view of justice: “Disappointed at not being able to bring the man to justice, they took his corpse to the old Courthouse, sat it up for ‘trial,’ accused and sentenced him to ‘death,’ and then carried his body back to Beverly Hall where they strung him up in a tall tree in the backyard.”
Nov 5- Regarding 18th century chocolate: “Although drinking chocolate had been the
delicious norm for centuries, did you know that, other than chocolate used to flavor baked goods, there was no form of solid “eating” chocolate prior to 1830?”
Dec 3-Regarding the years when England cancelled Christmas: “Anything smacking of
revelry was denounced and soldiers were even ordered to roam the streets sniffing out any illegal substances, ie: mincemeat pies and Christmas puddings.”
The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas,1686, Josiah King

It’s been a fascinating year, filled with wonderful discoveries from our past. I hope your New Year is filled with joy and all that makes for a fulfilling life for you and yours.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back next year now! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How Old IS That Fruitcake?...a Christmas confection timeline

A Slice of American Fruitcake, photo by Stu Spivack via Wikimedia Commons
Pecan Pie!, photo by Steve Snodgrass via Wikimedia commons
There are legendary fruitcakes said to be passed down through several generations, doubtless hard and dense enough to second as doorstops during the "off season." But when did this Christmas treat that so many love to hate, much in the same spirit as tacky Christmas sweaters, first appear? Or candy canes, or eggnog, or pecan pie, for that matter? It often surprises me how recent some foods are and how ancient are others. In a recent post I mentioned that chocolate candy did not come on the scene until 1830. Imagine! Before then, chocolate was only ingested as a beverage or as a cake ingredient. Thanks to the wonderful website,, and to, I bring you a list of Christmas foods and their dates of origin. (Of course, due to the nature of the beast, the dates are sometimes not on the nose, but are certainly in the ballpark. How's that for throwing three idioms into one short sentence!) See the special eggnog recipe at the end.

Bobs Canes, photo by BitterSweetHorror
via Wikimedia Commons
Stuffing: 5th century
Gingerbread: 11th century
Mincemeat Pie: 12th century
Fruitcake: 13th century
Plum Pudding: early 15th century
Syllabub: 16th century
Turkey: 16th century
Eggnog:* 17th century
Sugarplums: 17th century
Buche de Noel: 19th century        
Peanut Brittle: 19th century
Pecan Pie: Late 19th century
Red and White Striped Candy Cane: Turn of 20th century
Cheese Ball: turn of 20th century
Jellied Cranberry Sauce (what my sister-in-law calls "Old Fashioned Round"): 1941
Rum Balls: 1940s
"Classic" Green Bean Casserole: 1955
Bishop's Bread (with chocolate chips:) 1959
Spiral-cut Honey Baked Ham: Patented 1952, TradeMark 1957, Available in 1960s
Red Velvet Cake: 1960 (not to be confused with Red Devil Cake from 1930)

We just had our annual Christmas Candlelight Tour Weekend, here in Edenton, NC, where the doors of festive homes are thrown open to admiring visitors. One of the really nice aspects of the event are the free venues housed in 18th century houses where confections and 18th century beverages are happily passed out to us all. One of the most richly luscious is the traditional *eggnog available at the Barker House. In the spirit of the season (and, yes, this eggnog does have spirits aplenty,) I am posting the following Colonial American Eggnog recipe from George Washington himself! Feel free to make your own adjustments to the alcohol contents. ;>}

*George Washington's Eggnog
Makes about 3 quarts
Egg Nog, from     
1 pint brandy
1/2 pint rye whiskey
1/2 pint Jamaican rum
1/4 pint Sherry wine
12 eggs, separated
12 tablespoons sugar
1 quart whole milk
1 quart heavy cream

2-Separate yolks and whites of the eggs*.
3-Add sugar to beaten yolks and mix well.
4-Add combined liquors to the yolk and sugar mixture, drop by drop at first, slowly beating it all the while.
5-Add cream and milk and mix thoroughly.
6-Beat the egg whites* until stiff and gently fold these into cream liquor and yolk mixture.
7-Let this sit in the refrigerator for several days.
Enjoy (responsibly!)

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! And have the Merriest of Christmases!