Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sharing a Christmas Recipe from Thomas Jefferson



Everyone should know by now how much we love COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG. . .Visiting it and then working there are two of the HIGHLIGHTS of my life. . .It was there that John and I met. . .Actually, he was technically one of my bosses. . .He laughs now that the roles have been switched. . .

Bill Barker as Thomas Jefferson: SOURCE

We made many lasting FRIENDSHIPS. . .one of which was Thomas Jefferson. . .So it was extra special that we would receive a Christmas card from him with his FAVORITE BREAD PUDDING enclosed. . .
And now. . .We are SHARING it with you. . .



The recipe is DELICIOUS. . .and RICH. . .
No wonder Jefferson loved it. . .
Hope you'll ENJOY it, too. . .If not during the HOLIDAYS,
then as a SPECIAL TREAT in the NEW YEAR.




From THOMAS JEFFERSON'S table. . .and OURS . . .



Friday, December 1, 2017

SEASONED SOUTHERN STYLE: Cranberry Pecan Salad/Relish



I simply can't explain how DELICIOUS this Cranberry Pecan Salad/Relish is. . .Mom made it for the Christmas Holidays for as long as I can remember. . .We all preferred it to regular cranberry sauce. . . I love it on my Southern Dressing. . .and I've seen my Dad spread it on his breakfast toast. . .He did have to catch Mom not looking, though. . . 

 

Mom called it a salad. . .I used it as a relish. . .Daddy ate it like jam. . .I've seen others add it to their dessert. . .One recipe. . .pleases everyone. . .


The ingredients couldn't be easier to find during the holiday season. . .Cranberries, Pecans (or similar nut), Celery, Oranges, and Sugar with Raspberry Gelatin as the base. . . It's sweeter than regular cranberry sauce but not over-powering to the rest of the meal. . .And if you like it less sweet, reduce the added sugar to your taste. . .


See how simple it is? Forget all the steps of boiling the berries with sugar and hoping the consistency will be right. . .This comes out perfect every time. . .
Hope you'll try it. . .but. . .be prepared to hear. . .'More, Please'. . .
Happens every time. . .

 

Monday, November 27, 2017

SEASONED SOUTHERN STYLE: Our Traditional Southern Dressing and Giblet Gravy Recipes



In our family, we called it Mom's Dressing Recipe, but it was actually passed down from my Grandmother. . .who got it from her Mom. . .Heaven only knows how far back through the generations it goes. . . The thing is, there was actually no recipe. . .Each daughter was taught how to make it by their Mom's instruction. . . I suppose I was the first in the family to write it down on paper. . .I stood beside Mom as she mixed together the ingredients, trying to estimate the measures. Grandmother and Mom went by the way it looked, the way it tasted. . .and all was based on how much bread they had on hand. . . . Bread was the essential item. . .left-over biscuits and cornbread. . .the ends off loaves. . .scraps and pieces saved and frozen from months before. . .Lots and lots of bread. . .too much to be mixed in a bowl. . .They didn't have a bowl large enough. . .so they made-do, utililizing the bottom of a huge, old roasting pan. . .It was the official Magers family pan for dressing. . .Grandmother passed the pan to Mom. . .and yes. . Mom left it for me. . .


Most Southern states have variations of our traditional dressing recipe. . .It wasn't exclusively my family's. . .It's no huge, closely kept secret. . .Many Southern women made a variation of it, as older recipes can attest to that fact. . .Passing recipes around was a common practice. . . I grew up in a small community where recipes were shared, to the point that the original creator often got lost in the shuffle. . .Which brings me to the dressing served at the church's annual Harvest Dinner. . .It was the same as Grandmother's. . .Whether it came from her recipe box or not, I have no idea. . .but she had been a Charter member of the church and of the Women's Society. . .way back in the early 20th century when those Harvest Dinners began. . .I'll never know for sure, but I like to think she had something to do with it. . .
In this community the dish was referred to as the  'Methodist Dressing'. . .Not as opposed to the 'Baptist Dressing'. . . Most Baptist made this dressing, too. . .It was simply in reference to the Harvest Dinners put on by the Methodist women every year as a money-making project. . . Dell women were known for their delicious food, so their dinners were always sold out. . .In fact, they had to sell tickets for different time slots in order to serve everyone. . .People came from near and far. . .literally. . .From all over Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri. . .from Tennessee. . and Mississippi. . .There was one year that they had two nights of dinners. . .two-three shifts each night.
Mom was president of the WSCS (Women's Society of Christian Service) several times and organized these dinners. . .obviously, a massive effort. . .She began in September,  lining up donations from the grocery stores. . .ordering the turkeys. . .visiting the bakeries for left-over bread. . .obtaining green beans, corn, peas and other vegetables from the Bush Cannery. . .The Franklin Press donated the printing for tickets and posters. . .She began getting commitments from the ladies as to which dishes they were to make and how many. . .organizing kitchen crews, servers, and hostesses. . .appointing those who would decorate and set up the tables. . .No paper plates or plastic allowed. . .The fine 'Methodist' china, crystal and silver came out of the cabinets. . .The tables were spread with their white linen tablecloths. . .The food was buffet style with beautiful silver bowls and platters. . .crystal serving dishes. . .and every  year gorgeous floral centerpieces. . .It was quite a production. . .Festive. . .Ticket holders themselves considered the dinner a special occasion. . .attending in their Sunday best. . .Not only was it a money-making project, it also brought the community together during our Fall harvests of cotton, soybeans, and wheat. . .These ladies were celebrating in the way that Southern women do. . .It was a time of thanks and gathering families in. . .of sharing their LOVE through their food. . .
Those Harvest Dinners were often talked about for months later. . .It also took about that long for the ladies to recuperate. . .


NEEDS NO GRAVY

There is a difference in our Southern dressing compared to the more common cornbread dressing that most people know. . ..It does include cornbread, usually made with white corn meal, but the addition of white bread, eggs and much more stock results in a light, puffy moist perfect side dish for turkey or chicken. . .In fact, it is so moist and flavorful that John maintains. . .'It needs no gravy'. . .Don't think he doesn't use gravy on it, though. . .He's a true Southern boy. . .


One of the things I enjoy about this recipe is that it is so forgiving and versatile. . .Armed with my jotted down notes, I find myself rarely referring to the recipe much at all. . .Just like Mom, I adjust it based on the taste and quantity of bread on hand. . .I can make more or less. . .add extra eggs or not. . .I have the option of making it plain. . .or. . .making it a meal in one by adding left-over turkey or chicken to the mix.

Sadly though, the old roasting pan for mixing hasn't been used in years. . .Our family has scattered. . .and dwindled. . .Over the years, I've been able to cut down the recipe so that my largest mixing bowl is the right size. . .I no longer have big bags of biscuits or left-over breads. . .but I have found that the Italian breads, left out for a day to dry a little, works well. . .

THE RECIPE

GIBLET GRAVY

You thought I said this delicious dressing needed no gravy, didn't you?. . .Well, it doesn't. . .but Giblet Gravy is still a must to add flavor on top of flavor. . .for more richness. . .Serve it on the side, though. . .so each can ladle his own. . .I, myself, cover the slices of turkey, too. . .


So now you're set for a true Southern Turkey and Dressing dinner. . .Whether it is called Mom's Dressing or Methodist Dressing or Southern Dressing. . .it's still the best of any I've ever tasted. . .Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it. . .Not in this family anyway. . .


To round out the meal, add your own side dishes. . .
or try a few of Mom's favorites. . .
(Some Recipes will be posted later.)

Sweet Potato Casserole with Coconut, Pecans, and Marshmallows
Green Bean Casserole
Collard Greens 
Fresh Creamed Corn with Pimento
Company Peas

and top off the meal with Southern sweetness:

Martha Ruddle's Fruit Cake
Pecan Pies
Grandmother's Buttermilk Pie
Mincemeat Cobbler 

Yum. . .Christmas can't come too soon. . .


 



Saturday, November 11, 2017

Telling Their Stories: A Tribute on Veteran's Day


It's Veteran's Day. . .a day to remember those who have kept our Nation free. . .those who sacrificed much in order to defend what we hold so dear. . .

On this day, I would like to honor the Veteran that I knew so well. . .and miss tremendously. . .My Dad. . .Curtis C. Duncan. . .who joined the U S Navy in 1942 and served in World War II as a Yeoman of the 8th Amphibious Command Headquarters in the Mediterranean Operation. He was also on board the flagship of Rear Admiral Frank J. Lowry. . .the USCGC Duane. . .for the Invasion of Southern France. . .one of the vast communications operation crew.  He always said he fought the War behind a typewriter. . .but I have found he did much more. . .

Daddy was always so good to write letters to me, wherever I was living.  Many of them were about the garden, his photography, Mom's cooking. . .So I had the idea to ask him to jot down some of his stories for me when he'd write. It didn't need to be long or formally written. . .Simply what he wanted to tell. . .He seemed thrilled and worked hard on the letters. Over a ten year period, he poured out his memories. . .little by little. . .never lengthy enough for details but he was able to remember the basics. . .There are two large notebooks full, but they don't begin to touch on the details of the life he lived. . .Yet, with much research, and reaching back into my memories of the stories I heard, I've begun to put his story together and have realized what an extraordinary man he was.



USSCGC DUANE CREW--Y2c/S1c C C DUNCAN 1st Row Left--DALE ROOKS PHOTO

"You have served in the greatest Navy in the world. No other Navy at any time has done so much. For your part in these achievements, you deserve to be proud as long as you live. The Nation which you serve at this time of crisis will remember you with gratitude. . ." James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy
 I noticed that a large group of landing craft was coming into the harbor at Naples, Italy. Since I was stationed on the USCGC Duane and Com 8th Amphibious operation ship, I did not think too much about it. The LST's, LCI's, destroyers and the landing craft were loaded with tanks, trucks, jeeps, plus the army personnel. We were gathering a landing force for Southern France. Two days before sailing, all liberties were canceled. I got up one morning and all you could see was ships--slow ships running at 5 to 15 knots. We were on our way. . .  from the C C Duncan Journal: The WWII Years by Dru Duncan 2017

Y/2C Curtis C. Duncan, Back Row Left

Daddy's story is not  a singular one. It's the story of thousands of others who served in World War II. They have been called "The Greatest Generation." For them, hard times were nothing new. They lived through both the Great Depression and World War II and survived to help build a new and prosperous America that has endured to this day. Through their stories, we can learn what it means to sacrifice for others. After the war, they came back home victorious but changed in many ways as they took on the task of rebuilding this nation. Their love for our country was obvious in everything they did. I consider it an honor to be the daughter of one of those great, but humble, men. . .and to tell his story. . .from the C C Duncan Journal: The WWII Years by Dru Duncan, 2017

 USCGC Duane decked out for the King in Naples Italy, July 1944. CC Duncan on board. DALE ROOKS PHOTO

Please do remember ALL VETERANS this day. . .for their SERVICE to our COUNTRY. . .
whether it was a time of war or peace. . .They each deserve our RECOGNITION.

    Shake a Veteran's hand and tell him
'THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE'
not just today. . .but each time you meet one. . .
Encourage them to tell their story. . .the story of their service to this Nation. . .
STORIES which never should be lost. . .




 And to my Dad. . .a SPECIAL THANKS from me. . .
for enriching my life with HIS STORY. . .



Thursday, November 9, 2017

SEASONED SOUTHERN STYLE: Simply Good Food



". . .It was a revelation to find, when I first went north, that what we ate was not what everybody else in the country eats, because southerners, no matter where they were on the social ladder, ate pretty much as we did. The ingredients were the same, although the preparation might differ with the level of affluence. . ." **

GRAPE NUTS TEA BREAD***  (RECIPE LINK BELOW)

As I've discovered in life that SIMPLE can be the best. . .and the healthiest. . .so have I found it to be true of the foods we eat. . .

After years of trying new recipes with a long list of ingredients, seeking healthy alternatives to gluten and dairy, trying to eliminate preservatives and pesticides, I have decided to return to the food of my childhood. . .simple foods made from scratch (mostly) and of the freshest ingredients I can find. . .I think today's term for this way of thinking is 'eating clean'. . .I call it common sense. . .

In this community, we have had numerous octogenarians and at least four that I can count right now who are still living in their 90s+. . . My own great Aunt Pearl lived to be 101 (or was it 103?) years old. . . How did they do it? What was their secret to longevity? . .I can think of several reasons. . .and most definitely I'm convinced their diet played a huge roll. . .They ate whole  foods. . .grew their own gardens. . .canned their own fruits and vegetables. . .used mostly basic and easy recipes. . .They ate meat from the chicken yard. . .the hog pen. . .the pasture. . .and the woods. . .There were no GMOs. . .Few chemical preservatives. . .No additives. . .Simply Good Food. . .
There is no doubt the ladies in our community were terrific cooks. . .It was an art. . .and one that is fast becoming lost. . .It's how I ate for at least 30 years. . .but then it became easier and it saved time to grab prepackaged items than baking my own cookies. . .than canning my own veggies. . .than spending time in the kitchen. . .Easier but not healthier. . .for I have become 'food sensitive' and/or 'food intolerant'. . .I know, I know. . .It sounds funny, but let me tell you, it is not. . .Ingesting just a smidgen of my trigger foods, I can get violently sick for days. . .and it can take weeks for me to completely get over it. . .In my search for a diet that would take out those foods and preservatives, I realized that family recipes and the old foodways. . .with a few changes. . .were exactly what I needed. . .and maybe what others might need, too. . .
Come with me on my journey to healthier eating through recipes from the 1920s to the present day . . .I'll share the original recipes and processes of cooking homemade. . .Where I've tweaked a recipe for myself, I'll share that with you also. . .This will be just good homemade food. . .I plan to share recipes for 'company dishes' such as my Mom's dressing in time for the holidays. . .and her candied sweet potatoes with lots of butter, pecans, and coconut. . .along with foods for everyday eating. . .and all Seasoned Southern Style. . .
To get you started, here are a few links to recipes I have shared in the past. . .
























Mouth watering, yet?
I'll be back soon with my Mom's Dressing Recipe. . .
a combination of white bread and cornbread and lots of flavor. . .
Get your taste buds ready. . .It's delicious. . .




**Passage from Born in the Delta by Margaret Jones Bolsterli, 1991


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Come Join The Barn Quilt Trail



Have you heard about the nationwide popularity of Barn Quilt Trails? It was in 2003 that I spotted my first Barn Quilt while traveling through Tennessee on my way back to Virginia. . .A quilt block painted on the side of a barn. . .I thought what a unique idea some crafty lady came up with. . .Then I saw the second. . .and the third. . .and I was hooked. . .I wanted to see more. . .I wanted my own. . .but at the time all I had was a townhouse in Williamsburg. . .No barn, outbuilding, garage, or shed to place one on. . .So I tucked away the Barn Quilt photos in my desk. . .but they were never forgotten. . .In fact, it seemed Barn Quilts were springing up all over the country.


The credit for Barn Quilt Trails appears to be a result of  Donna Sue Groves's desire to honor her mother's quilting expertise by painting an Ohio Star quilt block on their tobacco barn in Adams County, Ohio. There was so much interest that Donna realized what seemed to be a simple project had wide appeal and could benefit her community aesthetically and economically. In 2001, she worked with local people to create a 'clothesline of quilts' as many others joined in with their painted blocks. The first quilt trail was born. Now there are 43 states with quilt trails. It's become a movement that I think surprised many people, but then, who doesn't love the soft comfort of a handmade quilt and the memories they bring?
As in other parts of the United States, quilting has almost become a folk art of the past, but I did witness our Delta ladies piecing and quilting very early in my childhood. . .It began my lifelong love of quilts. In fact, I pieced my own first quilt when I was 3 years old.


Mr. and Mrs. Turner were a lovely couple who lived in a small, two bedroom shotgun house on my Grandmothers property. . .and only footsteps from our back door. . .I dearly loved them and visited almost everyday. . .She was an excellent quilter. . .Usually there was a quilt top in a frame above the kitchen table so she could work on it in odd times. . .Her husband also quilted. . .I had never seen that before. . .a man quilting. . .but I was young enough that I thought men were suppose help. . .and wondered why my own Dad didn't quilt, too. . .
Most days I found Mrs. Turner piecing the beautiful patterns found in newspapers or borrowed from other quilters. . .She was either cutting or hand-sewing the little pieces. . .One day I decided it was time that I tried my hand at piecing. . .I wanted to make my own quilt and I wanted fabric and scissors to do just that. . .She wouldn't allow me to use the scissors but she did pull out the Sears Roebuck catalog and showed me how to tear the pieces from that. . .Then she helped me paste them onto a sheet of paper. . .Unfortunately, I don't have that first quilt. . .and I wasn't as satisfied with it as much as I would had it been fabric. . .but at the same time, I knew I'd have quilts in my life from that day on. . .I have made my own quilts, but mostly I began collecting them. . .I've hung them on walls as art. . .I've displayed them on quilt racks. . .I've used them in an obvious place--the bed. . .I've given workshops on how to piece. . .I've given programs at various organizations. . .I've written a booklet about my Grandmother Duncan's quilts, of which I am now the proud owner. . .I have been published twice in quilt magazines with patterns of my own design. . .I participated in several national quilt shows. . .In other words, quilts have surrounded me. . .enveloped me. . .kept my interest. . .for most of my life. . .Barn Quilts were a natural next step. . .


By 2005, I no longer lived in a townhouse. . .I suddenly found myself to be the owner of two barns, three outbuildings (at that time--there are more now), a farm shop, an old country store building, and the manager's home. . .Although it took me three more years before I began painting Barn Quilts, I was gradually adding photos to my quilt stash as I traveled through many states. . .They seemed to be everywhere. . .and by 2008 I proudly displayed six Barn Quilts on our property. . . But time and weather took their toll within a couple of years. . .All but two were sent to the barn storage bins. The two remaining were displayed on our home, under the porch roof where they would be protected. In fact, one became our logo for the Widner-Magers Farm Historic District and Duncan Farmstead which has been photographed many times by people who happened upon it.


Our Cotton Boll Barn Quilt has been a hit with so many 
and continues to be pinned on Pinterest.



It was while adding POPS OF WHIMSEY at our two shotgun houses, I decided we should use the barn quilts again this year. . .We needed to bring color to the drab gray buildings. . .Once we finished the LITTLE CHAPEL IN THE FIELD, I pulled out two of our badly weathered Barn Quilts from 2008 and gathered the paint buckets. . .This time I made sure I used exterior paint to guard against the weather.


The term Barn Quilt implies that an entire quilt is painted on wood. . .but that's not the case most times. . .Normally, only one quilt block is selected. . . The size of the block is also left up to the creator.  I decided on 4' X 4' plywood squares for our outbuildings. . .A standard size for blocks displayed on a barn is 8' X 8'. . .The easiest quilt block patterns to paint are those comprised of simple geometric shapes, such as triangles, squares, and rectangles. Simple shapes and vibrant colors for these two updates assure that they are easily seen from far down the road.

AMISH CROSS


NINE PATCH

Once we displayed our quilts on the houses, I thought 'Wouldn't it be great if we had our own Barn Quilt Trail right here in Northeast Arkansas?' . .There are plenty opportunities. . .Barns, sheds, garages, outbuildings. . .Viewers would follow a map printed from the internet and read about each one as they drive through the countryside. . . It's happening throughout the United States with a wide variety of people creating the blocks. . .not only by individuals but quilt guilds, schools, churches, and 4-H clubs have participated across the country. . .Why not here? . .Quilts are a part of our heritage, too. . .


How do you join in? . .Simply by painting and displaying a Barn Quilt of your own. . .Then EMAIL us with a photo and where the Quilt is located if you would like to be placed on the Delta Quilt Trail map for all to see. 

We would also appreciate you sharing information with us that could be added. . .about your family. . .your memories. . .why you chose that particular block. . .anything you would like to add. . .This isn't required but would mean so much to everyone. . .
This PDF will get you started. . .
There are many other ways for painting and displaying these quilts, but the above link will give you the basics. . .You can see more techniques at my PINTEREST BOARD. . .You'll also find numerous barn quilts from across the country for inspiration there. . .And. . .if you have any other questions. . .EMAIL US. . .We'll be glad to answer your questions. . .



Soon I'll repaint the other four quilts and display them. . .adding to the Delta Barn Quilt Trail beginnings. . .Hope they inspire you to paint your own. . .It would be a way to give back to our community, just as Donna Sue Groves did for Ohio years ago. . .


Let's put our beautiful land and barns on the map. . .
our own DELTA QUILT TRAIL map. . .



Check out more Posts of the Delta Quilt Series at the bottom of the page.



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

History Through Postcards: Steamboats On the Rivers



Steamboat's A-Coming!!
Steamboat's A-Coming!!

For those who lived along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, that cry was exciting. Steamboats in many ways were the only link our ancestors had to the outside world.
During the 1810s there were 20 boats on the Mississippi River. By the 1830s there were more than 1200. But, it wasn't just the Mississippi River that handled steamboat travel. We know that in the 1880s and possibly earlier, steamboats moved up and down the Pemiscot Bayou north of Dell, as well Big Lake, Little River, and the St. Francis River. In this part of the country, a boat was about the only way to travel through the swampland. . .until the railroad arrived around 1902 (in Dell). . .


If the steamboat happened to be a Showboat or a Passenger Boat,  the festive songs of the calliope filled the air miles before it's destination, calling everyone to the river.

The Liberty Belle


Inside a Passenger Steamboat

A showboat was a form "Floating Theater" that went from town to town along the waterways.  Plays, musicians, singers, melodrama and vaudeville were featured. . .

Riverboats, Memphis, TN

As late as the 1950s, a type of showboat often tied up at Barfield Landing outside of Blytheville, Arkansas. For a night on the town, these boats were popular. There was a huge dance floor, a live band, drinks and food. I was small but remember Mom dressing in beautiful evening wear  and Daddy looking so handsome in his suit and tie. They often went with other couples and had to leave home early to ensure a place on the boat. I could hardly sleep knowing that the next day I would hear all the details.  My imagination ran wild. By the time I was old enough to experience it myself, the 'dance' boats were gone.


Passenger Steamboats were very popular before the 20th century. . .Southern farm roads and railways were almost non-existent. . .but on a steamboat, a person could travel from Memphis to New Orleans, for instance, in Southern Style. . .

Belle of Memphis Dining Room

Steamboats were also the 18-wheelers of our century, carrying barrels of food, lumber, lumber products, tobacco, general goods for the household. . .anything that could be shipped.


More important to the many farms and plantations along the way, steamboats carried our bales of cotton to the markets. . .or to a port city such as Memphis. . .or St. Louis.

Memphis, TN ca 1870

Memphis was a major port on the Mississippi River for decades. . .


Memphis Levee 1909






1914




While the passengers traveled lavishly,  the boat workers had a life of sweat and toil for very little pay. . .The hazards of the river never let up. . .

1906

"You and me
We sweat and strain
Body all aching
And wracked with pain
Tote that barge
Lift that bale
Get a little drunk
And you land in jail. . .

I get weary
Sick of trying
I'm tired of living
Feared of dying
But ol' man river
He just keeps rolling along."
from the musical Showboat

The Delta Queen, ca. 1970s

Eventually, the steamboats were forced off the River, due to the safety hazard of their wooden hulls--with one exception. In the 1970s the Delta Queen was granted the opportunity to again travel on the Mississippi, Cumberland, and Tennessee Rivers. Joining its sister stern-wheeler were the Mississippi Queen and the American Queen, both built with a steel hull.  I was fortunate in my adult life to experience river travel on the Delta Queen four times. . .and the Mississippi Queen twice. . .Wonderful experiences. . .Nowadays, the only steamer with overnight accommodations is the new Queen of the Mississippi, which is based in Memphis. . .



Only a few steamboats still move along the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis and other river cities. . .offering short trips on the paddle-wheelers. . .The sight of these historic riverboats convey a powerful reminder of steam-boating during the antebellum days of the past. . .days that are gone now and only spoken of in river folk lore. . .

The Robert E. Lee





. . .yet one truth remains. . .
that OL' MAN RIVER. . .He just keeps rolling along. . .




Coming Next: 
HISTORY THROUGH POSTCARDS: COTTON GINS AND MARKETS