THANKSGIVING SIDE DISHES
November 15, 2020
Last week on the Maine WCSH-TV “Early Morning Report” program there was an intriguing news item: in Maine, the most-searched Thanksgiving side-dish recipe on Google is for—side salads!
The program’s hosts were highly amused, as was I. We all speculated about the reasons for this. Mainers don’t know how to make a salad? Do people have favorite family recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes but not for salads? Maybe this year people are trying to serve something healthy on the Thanksgiving groaning board? One of the hosts (male) concluded, “It’s a nice idea but don’t act on it!”
Inspired by this news item, the program’s Daily Stumper was: what is the national most-searched Thanksgiving side-dish recipe on Google? The choice of answers:
My first instinct was sweet potatoes, but then I switched to cranberry sauce, figuring that because people are doing more cooking this year they want to make it from scratch, not dump it out of a can.
And I remembered how my mother and grandmother always made cranberry sauce from scratch at Thanksgiving, using canned the rest of the year. I loved the from-scratch version. Don’s mother, usually a from-scratch cook every day, surprised me by using canned year-round, and Don preferred this kind, so he and I had a difference of opinion. On one Thanksgiving episode of All in the Family, daughter Gloria made a fancy cranberry concoction, causing her father to bellow that he wanted “the real kind that slides out of a can!” Don and I laughed and laughed. This is the only time that Don and Archie Bunker ever agreed about anything.
But the correct answer to the Stumper was: mashed potatoes. Sharon, the woman host of the program, expressed the same astonishment I was feeling; she exclaimed, “Who needs a recipe for mashed potatoes?”
Pondering these important matters, I had a brainstorm. Since childhood, one of my favorite parts of a Thanksgiving feast has been mince pie (even when venison—Bambi!—was a mincemeat ingredient). But mince pies seem no longer popular and are hard to find, at least around here. And my pie-making days are over. However, I’ve sometimes noticed cans of mince-pie filling in supermarkets. This year our family has talked about the holiday season and decided to stay in our own homes on the actual holidays, but we might have a small social-distancing get-together in between. Thus, on the actual Thanksgiving Day I’ll try my brainstorm-experiment on myself and spare the others. In posts here, you and I have discussed dessert salads, so I’m going to have fun inventing a mince-pie-filling dessert side salad!
November 8, 2020
The first election in which Don and I were old enough to vote was the 1960 choice between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Back then, you had to be age twenty-one. We were living in the college’s married-students’ barracks. We voted for Kennedy and went to bed that night fearing the worst and quoting A. E. Housman:
Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
We awoke to joy. John Kennedy had won!
A promising start to voting. But of course there were subsequent mornings-after-elections when we awoke to bad news, dashed hopes, despair. On these mornings I found myself tearfully reciting from Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach”:
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
And so I did last Wednesday. But this was beyond anything we’d been through before.
Eventually we decided that we should stick to our day’s routine, and I heard myself in the midst of another quote, this one from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie in which Judi Dench says, “We get up in the morning. We do our best. Nothing else matters.”
So, still sick and dazed, we went to do errands. Was it my imagination or did some of the women shopping in stores seem subdued, withdrawn? Then we continued on to a doctor’s appointment. There in the waiting room a man was talking with the receptionist. She gave him the date for his next appointment. He said. “If there’s any world left then.”
The receptionist is brisk, efficient, and usually humorous. She replied gravely,
“Yes, scary times. And we’re all in it together.”
Now, four years later, joy!
JELLO AND POLLYANNA
November 1, 2020
Television and newspapers and magazines have been trying to tell us how to cope with the stress of all the terrible things bombarding us. When a friend recently wrote me about the helpful distractions she has found, I thought of the subjects that have brought me some temporary relief from what feels like an ongoing panic attack.
Here are a couple of them, for fun:
Jell-O! Another friend has visited the Jell-O Museum in LeRoy, New York. I never knew such a museum existed! Sandy is the friend who sent me that Strawberry Pretzel Salad Recipe whose ingredients include Jell-O, and since then she has made a trip to LeRoy, the birthplace of Jell-O. On a postcard that she enclosed in her letter, there’s a photo of the Jell-O Gallery, which, the postcard says, “opened in 1997 during the 100th Anniversary of ‘America’s Most Famous Dessert.’”
I realized I didn’t know Jell-O’s history, so I Googled. In 1897 it was invented by a LeRoy carpenter, Pearle Wait, who two years later sold the trademark for $450. Jell-O eventually ended up at General Foods, and in “1934 General Foods, a pioneer in selling by radio, signed Jack Benny and the whole world came to know Jell-O.”
At the museum you can see Jell-O’s “original advertising art, molds, spoons, collectibles, recipe books.” Sandy enclosed the museum’s Strawberry Pretzel Salad recipe (this one features strawberry and raspberry Jell-O) and another postcard with a 1978 recipe for Poke Cake, a cake I’d never heard of before. I found it hilarious and I wish I’d tried making it in 1978:
“ 1 package white cake mix, 2 layer size
1 3-oz package of Jell-O (any flavor)
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
Prepare cake mix as directed. Bake in well greased and floured 9” x 13” pan in 350-degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Poke with fork @ ½” intervals. Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water. Add cold water and stir. Pour over cake in pan. Chill 3-4 hours. Top with thawed Cool Whip. Enjoy! Enjoy!”
Another distraction: Pollyanna! I’ve mentioned octogenarian Fritz Wetherbee before, New Hampshire’s beloved curmudgeon, author, historian, with his bowties and wry observations. On our WMUR TV Channel 9’s “New Hampshire Chronicle” each weeknight, he does segments and a recent one was about the Pollyanna statue in Littleton. Pollyanna stands on the library lawn, flinging her arms open joyously. In the 1960s Don and I lived for two years in nearby Lisbon, where Don taught at the high school, but alas, the statue hadn’t yet been put up.
As a Littleton website says, Littleton was the “early residence” of Eleanor H. Porter (1868-1920), “best remembered as the creator of the world’s most optimistic character, Pollyanna, 1913.” There’s an official New Hampshire Pollyanna Glad Day; this year it was held in Littleton “without gathering together and eating cake but we made the most of it.”
Standing in front of the statue of Pollyanna, Fritz concluded his segment wryly: “I don’t think it would hurt the world a bit to become more like Pollyanna.”
PEYTON PLACE IN MAINE
October 25, 2020
In Henrietta Snow, when Snowy and Bev stop for lunch at Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, Maine, on their way to meet Puddles in Camden, I wrote:
Bev said, “This is going to be fun. Why have I been so apprehensive about Puddles—and everything?” Then that “everything” sobered her, because it included the filming of the movie of Peyton Place in Camden the summer of 1957. Despite her success in the Gunthwaite High School Dramatics Club plays, she hadn’t dared go to the auditions for stand-ins and extras [while she was working at a Camden hotel that summer]. She had made up many excuses: She didn’t have time because of her waitressing schedule; she was also too busy having fun with wealthy summer boys; and anyway, she deplored the movie’s inaccuracy, Hollywood’s choice of beautiful seacoast Camden instead of the novel’s true setting, a New Hampshire inland town. But the real reason was the same as the reason she hadn’t tried out for cheerleading. If she didn’t try, she wouldn’t fail. Or so she’d thought back then. Now, facing Camden again, she knew that not trying could be failure.
I remembered this last week while watching, on Maine WCSH’s “207” program, an interview with Mac Smith, the author of a new book, Peyton Place Comes Home to Maine: The Making of the Iconic Film. He described how, instead of the real setting of Grace Metalious’s Gilmanton, NH (a town so close to Laconia that the kids went to Laconia High School in those years before they got their own), Camden was chosen. Camden and Rockport, he explained, had been promoting the area in the New York Times and wooing Hollywood. The towns spruced themselves up; indeed, the IGA supermarket gave away packets of flower seeds with every purchase in hopes that residents would plant pretty gardens.
And Hollywood came. “It changed the way of life in Camden,” Mac Smith said, with the movie stars arriving and a thousand extras being hired, but a mutual affection developed between Camden and the movie people.
Well, many years later New Hampshire got its revenge. The 1981 movie of On Golden Pond was filmed on Squam Lake in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. As Bev says in Site Fidelty, “Funny, isn’t it. Peyton Place is set in New Hampshire and the movie was made in Maine, while On Golden Pond is set in Maine and was filmed in New Hampshire.”
REMEMBER THE READER
October 18 2020
Back in the 1950s, Don and I became intrigued by Kingsley Amis after reading Lucky Jim, and we continued reading his novels for a while. Since then, I’ve read one novel by Martin Amis, his son, but I didn’t continue. However, a couple of months ago as I was skimming a Publishers Weekly “Author Profile” of Martin Amis on the occasion of publication of his latest novel, Inside Story, I was suddenly riveted by this:
“One of the best qualities of [Inside Story] is its regard for the reader. Amis acknowledges this . . . ‘You have to love the reader,” he says. ‘ . . . A book is nothing without a reader. The relationship between writer and reader is very mysterious and fascinating and not terribly well explained. There is an intimacy to reading a novel because you feel you know the writer embarrassingly well.’”
The reader! When I’m asked for advice about writing, one of the first things I’m apt to say is “Remember the reader!”
Thinking about this, last week I went through notes I made for talks I gave, and here are some of the other things I talked about:
• My father’s slogan was: “Apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair, and write.” That is, don’t wait for inspiration.
• Write every day, even if it’s only a sentence.Write first; do everything else second. Don’t say, “I’ll write when I get such-and-such finished.” Make it part of your daily schedule.
• My trick for jump-starting the act of writing, for inducing the trance in which you enter into your imagination—sometimes called “the artistic coma”; Stephen King calls it “being in the zone”—is just to start writing. Don’t dither or fret, searching for the perfect phrasing. The physical act of writing will set off the mental, and you’ll be on your way.
• Keep notepads and pens/pencils everywhere, around the house, in the car, etc.
• Before I start a novel, I sit down with accumulated scribbled notes and a legal pad and a pencil and work on a shape, an outline. This is the hardest part for me. As Trollope said, “To think of a story is much harder than writing it.” My sister, a landscape designer, has joked that she does the design after she puts in the garden. That’s what I do with an outline! Sort of. After I’ve finished the first draft of the book, I write a much better outline for the second.
And sometimes I ended my talks with an excerpt from “Fifty Thoughts from Fifty Years,” a piece that Dan, my father, wrote for his fiftieth Dartmouth reunion in 1986. He concluded it with an observation he’d made in the 1950s in the journal he kept all his life:
“This thought emerges: Successful or not, the years devoted to the art, craft, trade, or hobby of writing may be looked upon as having been spent in a great tradition and enterprise. What did you do with your life? I tried to learn to write.”
Thank you, dear readers.
SANDWICH FAIRS IN OUR PAST
October 11 2020
Like so many things this year, the Sandwich Fair has been canceled. I’ve written about it here several times, explaining that the fair was first held on Columbus Day in 1910 and that nowadays it lasts through the Columbus Day long weekend, starting on Friday at 4 p.m. with free admission and bargain rates. This is when we locals tend to go.
I haven’t been since Don died, but I’ve gone in memory, and I’m doing the same in pandemic-2020. Particularly, of course, I’m remembering the fair food we sampled, especially the new (to Sandwich) additions to the fair fare every year or so, such as fried pickles, fried onion blossoms—and funnel cakes (“Oh,” I said, disappointed, hoping for cake and frosting, “it’s the same as fried dough!” But delicious.).
Here’s the report I wrote after we went to the 2016 Sandwich Fair:
Since we moved to Sandwich in 1976, we’ve gone to almost every Sandwich Fair, in every variety of weather: heat waves and snow; last year, cold rain. This year, Friday was sunny, temperature in the seventies, perfect. The foliage has just about “peaked,” and the colors of the mountains surrounding us were pretty much as I described in a fair scene in Mutual Aid, in which a character’s sweater “almost matched the mountains’ blend of distant autumn colors, honey, rust, dark green.” Closer were bright reds, oranges, yellows.
As we sat on a bench eating French fries doused with vinegar, I thought of how I’d also been to the Sandwich Fair in my childhood. Dan, my father, liked Sandwich and brought my sister and me from Laconia to the fair [mainly to see the oxen “pulls”; he’d once owned oxen]. In fact, he and our mother had almost bought a farm in Sandwich in their early-married years when they were renting a farm in Orfordville and seeking a place to settle down. The problem was, Dan had chickens that needed to be housed and the Sandwich farm’s owner couldn’t clear out his barn in time. So Dan and Ernie (our mother) looked elsewhere and ended up in the Laconia area.
Dick Francis said that “What if?” is the beginning of fiction. It also causes us to ponder real life. What if, I thought on the bench, what if the Sandwich barn had been empty, the chickens could’ve been sheltered, and I’d been born in Sandwich? I’d’ve gone to the little Sandwich high school and never met Don . . . Et cetera, et cetera.
We finished our French fries. As we strolled around the fairground some more, what struck us most was how international the fair food has recently become. We saw food carts devoted to Greek, Japanese, Puerto Rican, and Mexican cuisine; they hadn’t yet opened or we’d have sampled. We marveled at the cart advertising Jumbo Turkey Legs. Then there were the usual temptations of fried dough and fudge and such. We wandered into a building where people were setting up displays of their eggs, honey, maple syrup.
Then back outdoors into the sunshine and the smell of animals and hay. A young girl led a large steer past us, and a woman with an armful of gladioluses hurried by.
DROUGHT AND DOUGHNUTS
October 4 2020
Our weather problems are minor compared with the terrible disasters elsewhere, but for months we’ve been coping with a drought that has reached the “severe” category. During this, I’ve kept remembering a childhood book that I’d loved, Thimble Summer. I Googled to refresh my memory; it was written by Elizabeth Enright and had won the Newbury Medal in 1939. It starts with a drought. The heroine, nine-year-old Garnet, finds a silver thimble in a dry riverbed, and right afterward the drought ends. Coincidence?
I didn’t find a silver thimble in our dry brook or mudpie-pond, but finally last Wednesday we got a spell of heavy rain. And this reminded me of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Renascence.” In one of Don’s classes during his sophomore year in college, students were asked to memorize parts of the poem, and ever afterward on rainy days he would recite his section. Thus in Wednesday’s rain I could hear him saying,
The rain, I said, is kind to come
And speak to me in my new home.
I would I were alive again
To kiss the fingers of the rain,
To drink into my eyes the shine,
Of every slanting silver line,
To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze
From drenched and dripping apple-trees.
And I thought of various times we’d been caught in the rain outdoors, especially the one we remembered the most, which I’ve probably mentioned before; it occurred in the summer of 1965 in Oxford when we stayed at a bed-and-breakfast and Don attended the summer school. I turned this rain experience into fiction in A Lovely Time Was Had by All: here is Isabel describing it:
“The crowds on the sidewalks were now woven with bus queues, and umbrellas bumped umbrellas. Streets had become rivers of rain that demanded white-water navigation. Under the railroad overpass cars and motorcycles were stalled; we waded along the flooded walkway up out of the slimy cave to join a crowd at the railing, everyone watching the struggling vehicles below and urging on a double-decker bus that had decided to charge the waters. It stalled ignominiously, a helpless cute red giant, but then a helmeted girl on a motorscooter somehow churned her way across and we all cheered her instead. Beyond the overpass there were magnificent traffic jams in both directions.
“When Jacob and I reached our bed-and-breakfast, Mrs. Wilkins tsk-tsked over our drowned-rat state and bore our raincoats and umbrella off to dry in the kitchen. Up in our room, we wrung out our clothes and poured out our shoes. Jacob said, ‘We need a hot toddy.’ Making do, stripped, in our bathrobes we sat on the bed in front of the glowing electric fire and drank tooth glasses of Base bourbon [which they’d prudently brought along from the inexpensive liquor store on the U.S. Air Force base where they worked] and Oxford tap water.”
I’ll now change the subject, not dollars to doughnuts but droughts to doughnuts: Last Tuesday on National Coffee Day the “Morning Report” Stumper question was: Other than glazed, what is the most popular doughnut flavor? Multiple-choice answers: a. Strawberry; b. Jelly-filled; c. Boston Cream; d. Powdered. I guessed my old favorite, jelly. I quizzed Penny and Thane and they guessed jelly too. But the correct answer is my new favorite, Boston Cream. Penny’s favorite is chocolate frosted; Thane’s is chocolate glazed.
And on a rainy day, any doughnut flavor can be a favorite.
Drought and Doughnuts (October 4)
Sandwich Fairs In Our Past (October11)
Remember the Reader (October 18)
Peyton Place in Maine (October 25)
Jello and Pollyanna (November 1)
Election 2000 (November 8)
Thanksgiving Side Dishes (November 15)
JULY - SEPTEMBER 2020
A Collection of Quotations (July 5)
Birthday Cakes (July 12)
Garlic (July 19)
Maine Books (July 26)
Backyard Wildlife (August 2)
Mobile Businesses (August 9)
Pandemic Listening and Reading (August 16)
Poutine and A Postscript(August 23)
Agatha Christie's 100th Anniversary (August 30)
Dessert Salads?! (September 6)
The 85 Best Things to Do in New England (September 13)
Support Systems, Continuing (September 20)
Snacks (September 27)
Doan Sisters Go to a British Supermarket (April 5)
National Poetry Month 2020 (April 12)
Dining Out (April 19 )
Singing (April 26 )
Results (May 3)
Laconia (May 10)
Schedules & Sustenance (May 17)
The Passion Pit (May 24)
Sunday Drives, Again (May 31)
Riding and "Broading" Around (June 7)
Learning (June 14)
Hair (June 21)
Best of New Hampshire (June 28)
JANUARY - MARCH 2020
Audiobook Travels (January 5)
Catalogs (January 12)
The Cup & Crumb (January 19)
Ironing (January 26)
Mailboxes February 2)
Books Sandwiched In (February 9)
Bathrobes or ? (February 16)
Two Audiobooks and a Magazine(February 23)
Social Whirl in February (March 1)
Food for Hikes (March 8
Pandemic and Poetry (March 15)
An Island Kitchen (March 22)
Red Hill (March 29)
OCTOBER -- DECEMBER) 2019
Pumpkin Spice (October 6)
Houseplants, New and Old(October 13)
Pumpkin Regatta (October 20)
An Over-the-Hill Celebration (October 27)
Joy of Cooking (November 3)
The First Snow (November 10)
Louisa and P.G. (November 17)
In the Dentist's Waiting Room, Again. (Nov. 24)
Portsmouth Thanksgiving. (December 1)
Phyliss McGinley and Mrs. York (December 8)
Marion's Christmas Snowball, Again (Dec. 15)
Christmas in the Village (Dec. 22)
Christmas Weather (Dec. 29 )
JULY -- SEPTEMBER 2019
The Lot (July 7)
This and That, Again (July 14)
Out of Reach (July 21)
Maine Foods (July 28)
Summer Scenes (August 4)
Old Home Week (August 11)
Sawyer's Dairy Bar (August 18)
Reunions (August 25)
Maine Woods and Matchmaking (Sept 1)
New Hampshire Apple Day (Sept 8)
Castles and Country Houses (Sept 15)
Shakespeare and George (Sept 22)
Wildlife (Sept 29)
APRIL - JUNE, 2019
National Poetry Month, 2019 (April 7)
National Library Week, 2019 (April 14)
Dorothy Parker Poem (April 21)
Spring Is Here! (April 28)
Department Stores (May 5)
Archie (May 12)
It's Radio! (May 19)
The Big Bear (May 26)
A Boyhood in the Weirs (June 2)
Pinkham Notch (June 9)
Latest Listening and Reading (June 16)
Setting Up Housekeeping (June 23)
Pizza, Past and Present (June 30)
Squirrels (January 6)
Mills & Factories (January 13)
Kingfisher (January 19)
A Rockland Restaurant (January 27)
Home Ec (February 3)
Ice Fishing Remembered (February 10)
Our First Date (February 17)
Sandwiches Past and Present (February 23)
Snowy Owls & Chicadees (March 3)
Car Inspection (March 10)
Latest Reading & Listening (March 17)
Frost Heaves, Again (March 24)
Signs of Spring, 2019 (March 31)
March, 2018(first entry)
Earlier: See Ruth's Neighborhood
The Old Country Store (March 25)
The Galloping Gourmet (April 1)
The Poor Man's Fertilizer (April 7)
Miniskirts and Bell-Bottoms (041518)
Henrietta Snow, Second Printing;;
Food & Drink Poems (April 22)
Recipe Box and Notebook (April 29)
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