HENRIETTA SNOW, Second Printing
ALSO: FOOD & DRINK POEMS

APRIL 22, 2018

       Henrietta Snow is now back in print and available in the Bookshop section of our website. Copies will also be available on Amazon soon, and we’ll announce that here and on the website.
       National Poetry Month continues, and poems seem ever-present in our daily life even more than usual. One morning last week while I was writing Lazy Beds, Don came up to my garret carrying a treat, a mug of cocoa on a saucer with saltines. And immediately I remembered Christopher Morley’s “Animal Crackers,” which begins:

       Animal crackers, and cocoa to drink,
       That is the finest of suppers, I think.
       When I’m grown up and can have what I please
       I think I shall always insist upon these.

       This led to our remembering other food and drink in poems. First to spring to mind was the steak mentioned in T. S. Eliot’s “Preludes,” a line we’re apt to quote about food aromas:

       The winter evening settles down
       With smell of steak in passageways.
       Six o’clock.

       Next came Edward Fitzgerald’s “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”:

       A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
       A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
          Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
       Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

       And so forth.

       How about a poem about cookbooks? Recently during this month’s posting of poems on our local bulletin board, there was “Pick Me” by Louise Taylor. The biographical note said that when she wrote this, she was renting a house in Sandwich.

       I own one cookbook. Here, the cookbooks
       on the kitchen shelves are lined up
       like friends waiting to be picked
       for the joy of cooking.

       Jacket covers scotch-taped and stained,
       others library-shiny clean. Bindings hang
       like dog’s tongues in the park,
       others are altogether missing.

       Someone has placed little pieces
       of paper between the pages. They signal
l       ike small hands waving in the air—
       Pick me! Pick me!

<

   MINISKIRTS AND BELL-BOTTOMS

April 15, 2018

       Recently I was reminded of a scene in one of my early novels, The Cost of Living, set in the late 1960s. Sandra, the older sister of one of the two main characters, Polly, lives with her husband and children in England and comes home to New Hampshire for Christmas. Polly’s friend Jane, the narrator, observes that “[Sandra] was both Christmasy and Swinging London in a little red dress and green stockings, and Polly looked suddenly older in a sweater and culotte, and almost matronly and very tired.”
        The reminder was “Sixties Style,” a fine piece by Elizabeth Howard in the April 5th issue of the Laconia Daily Sun. She writes that that the death of the French couturier Givenchy made her think about “the elegant women he dressed . . . perhaps most notably, Audrey Hepburn.” She describes Hepburn’s clothes in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Two for the Road; in the latter Hepburn also wore a dress by Mary Quant, the British designer.
        Mary Quant means Sixties Style to me, because that’s what I saw when Don and I arrived in England in 1964.
        I remember doing a lot of hemming, shortening my skirts and dresses. I realized that it was a little-girl look, but it was fresh and rebellious. When we got home two years later, I was somewhat ahead of everyday fashion (at least in Laconia) and my short skirts were commented upon.
        After a year came the bell-bottoms challenge. I had dismissed this fashion as a possibility for me; I couldn’t wear them, I wasn’t tall enough, I’d look idiotic. We were living in Dover, NH, when I returned to our apartment from a clothing store’s sale with a pair of plain gray slacks and showed them to Don, who said astonishingly, “Aren’t they kind of ordinary?”
        I said, “You mean I should’ve bought bell-bottoms?”        
        “Why not?”
        Then I remembered that he himself had bravely worn bell-bottoms for two years in the Coast Guard!
        The next day I went back to the store and exchanged the slacks for a pair of bell-bottoms. Pink. And eventually he occasionally was wearing bell-bottoms, civilian-style.
        
         Update: The print run of Henrietta Snow has finished. We’ll announce here and on our website when the books have shipped and are in stock and orders are being accepted.
        
        For National Poetry Month there are postings of poems on our local online bulletin board. Here’s a poem that’s new to me, by Paul Scott Mowrer (1887-1971) who won the first Pulitzer Prize for foreign correspondence in 1928. He retired to New Hampshire and became the state’s poet laureate.

               From Two Songs for Music

            Robin, robin, back at last,
            Shall I tell you what has passed
            Out of doors and in my breast
            Robin, since you left your nest?

            Since you left us here alone,
            Winter wild has come and gone;
            But the blizzard had no smart
            Like the storm that shook my heart.

            Robin, dear, now you have come,
            All is gladness: welcome home!
            Now I know what makes you sing:
            You have brought both love and spring.

 

   THE POOR MAN'S FERTILIZER

APRIL 7, 2018

      Last Wednesday at the dump, Don and I were complaining to a friend about the snow in the forecast and the friend remarked, “But the old farmers called snow ‘the poor man’s fertilizer.’”
         We remembered that we’d heard about this, farmers welcoming snow because of the nutrients it brought to the soil during melting. So, we three concluded, trying to look on the bright side, there was this positive aspect to the upcoming April snowstorm.
         Looking on the bright side! Necessary more than ever, with people getting testy after too much winter, even on our usually good-natured local online bulletin board. Recently, when a resident posted a warning about how bad the ruts were on one particular road, another resident scoffed something like, “Mud in the spring, that’s a surprise?” Other people chimed about the inevitability of mud in mud season, until another person asked if this wasn’t a purpose of the board, to alert people to road conditions or bears awake and raiding birdfeeders, etc.
         And right afterward came a post from two other people warning that ticks had arrived: “I found one on my dog!”
         On Friday the poor man’s fertilizer fell from the sky. I thought of farmers—and the chicken farm on which I spent my first three years. I remember long grasses taller than I was and the sound of a rooster crowing. I don’t remember snow, but as I wrote in The Lilting House, “there was the farm, and in the winter they say snow piled high around the house and Daddy tells of how on my birthday in March Mother took me into the big bed to keep warm and we stayed there all day and she read me stories.”
         By yesterday afternoon some of the snow had melted and a flock of robins had appeared in our backyard!
         Since this is National Poetry Month, here’s an excerpt from e.e. cummings’s  springtime poem with mud:
         In Just-
         spring       when  the  world  is  mud-
         luscious the little
         lame balloonman

         whistles     far     and      wee

 

   THE GALLOPING GOURMET

April 1, 2018

      

      “What’s Old Is New: Retro Cookbooks on the Rise”: That’s the title of a recent Publishers Weekly article, which says that there’s now a “strong nostalgic trend in many parts of our culture” including food. Dishes such as Baked Alaska, Oysters Rockefeller, and Steak Diane are making a comeback.
      And so are the Galloping Gourmet’s recipes. In May The Graham Kerr Cookbook, published in 1966, will be reissued as “part of a larger project, the Lee Bros. Classic Library, a curation of vintage cookbook reissues by Matt and Ted Lee.” The brothers say that his recipes seem “ahead of their time.”
      The Galloping Gourmet! I learned more about cooking from Graham Kerr than from Julia Child because of our TV reception. In our Dover, NH, apartment, I could hardly get the PBS channel clearly enough to see Julia; I can’t remember which channel Graham’s Galloping Gourmet show was on from 1969 to 1971, but it came in much clearer—and there he was dashing, onto the screen, being so British and funny. I was charmed. I watched the show faithfully. My sister, Penny, and I exchanged gifts of his favorite kitchen utensils, a scooper scraper and a spurtle. We still use them.
      His dishes came from around the world, but particularly from England. I thought I knew about British dishes with intriguing names (Toad-in-the-Hole) from reading novels, but he introduced me to others such as Cornish and Devon pasties called Priddy Oggy and Tiddy Oggy. And what fun he had with Spotted Dick!
      The dish I made most often was one he created for New Zealand, Scallops Whakatane. In clarified butter (he used a lot of that), you sauté spring onions, green pepper, mushrooms, chopped tomatoes. In another skillet with more clarified butter you sauté the scallops and add lemon juice. Then make it pretty, arranging the vegetables around a serving dish and putting the scallops in the middle.
      Penny preferred one of his chicken dishes, the name of which we can’t remember. As Penny said, “It takes three pans and is a bit of work, but it is divine.” Bone the chicken breasts (the GG, as we called him, pounded them with his Chinese chopper; Penny used a rolling pin) and skin them. Roll them in flour, then in an egg mixed with oil, and then in breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese. Saute in clarified butter. In another pan, sauté sliced mushrooms in clarified butter. In the third pan, saute spinach in clarified butter with nutmeg. On a serving dish place the spinach. On the spinach put the chicken. On the chicken spread the mushrooms.
      At the end of each show, when the GG set out the finished dish, he always said, “Just for you.”

   THE OLD COUNTRY STORE

March 25, 2018

      The inspirations for Snowy’s Woodcombe General Store are many, going back to my childhood, when on our way to visit my grandmother Nana (my father’s mother) across the state in Orford, New Hampshire, we’d often stop at a little store in the village of Rumney. My father was fond of it as part of his history, his trips to and from Orford—and speaking of history, I’ve Googled and learned that it’s been a general store since 1865. Penny (my sister) and I are trying to recall what we were treated to during these stops. A Hershey bar? I do remember that I wrote a little story about the store but I can’t remember the details.
      All this came to mind last week when a yen for real old-fashioned cheese made Don and me stop at the Old Country Store in nearby Moultonborough. This store is even older than Rumney’s; indeed, having been a store since 1781, it’s one of the oldest in America and maybe the oldest. The crooked floors lead you meandering from room to room, starting with penny candy and ending—well, do they ever end? T-shirts, pajama bottoms, guidebooks, jams and jellies, kitchen gadgets, millions of things to browse amongst. Snowy’s store of course is much smaller and isn’t just for tourists, it’s there for the everyday needs of the town, but she does have the pickle barrel and the wheel of Cheddar.
      Back in the 1950s, one section of the Old Country Store was turned into an ice-cream parlor (with sandwiches, etc.), and I got a job waitressing there. I think I only lasted a week but it seemed longer. The car-pooling travel from Laconia to Moultonborough was a problem—and then came the final straw, which I’ve written about before. One evening when the short-order cook and I were working alone and the parlor had emptied and we were about to start closing, in came a group of happy-go-lucky summer people and they all ordered banana splits. I quit the next day and found a job as a hostess at a Laconia restaurant.
      My imagination blended these and many other general stores and country stores into Snowy’s. In the new sequel, Lazy Beds, we’ll learn more about the history of the Woodcombe General Store.