A CLEAN, WELL-LIGHTED PLACE
June 24, 2018
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” one of Hemingway’s short stories, can be interpreted in many ways, but for me it’s always meant the place where I write.
Some of these places haven’t been literally well-lighted or exactly spic-and-span. I’ve written in bedrooms on my childhood desk and on my teenage desk (a la Snowy’s and Bev’s mahogany veneer desks); on a portable typewriter sliding around on a kitchen table; on note pads in beds, in armchairs, and in cars. And for the past forty-one years I’ve written in my garret, the upstairs of our Cape.
But when summer comes and my garret gets hot, if I don’t want to listen to the noise of a fan I bring my writing downstairs. In the recent computer years this means moving my laptop down to the dining-room table, where I face the windows in the back door for a slot of backyard scenery, or I carry it on out to the back porch, where I set the it on the little kitchen table covered by a red-checked tablecloth from my family’s past, a tablecloth so worn and holey that Don implores me to buy a new one. I won’t. Not yet. Here the scenery is the whole backyard.
It’s said that for a writer the best scenery is a blank wall. I have sometimes been able to arrange this or at least to face away from a window. But really, the scenery and surroundings don’t matter. Now I have the countryside; in Boston with my typewriter on the same dining-room table, I faced the apartment building’s parking lot and the traffic on Storrow Drive. And elsewhere other views in between. It all disappears as you go into what Stephen King calls “the zone.” You can even forget the temperature! Last week I worked on a Christmas scene in Lazy Beds at that little table on the porch. The thermometer was in the eighties, but in my mind the season was winter.
© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved
2018 MOTORCYCLE WEEK
June 17, 2018
Vroom, vroom! That was the sound of last week, the 95th annual Motorcycle Week rally in New Hampshire, as all these visitors roared and roamed around us in the Lakes Region.
Here’s what I wrote about it in June 2014:
When we were kids, it just lasted a weekend, Motorcycle Weekend, but even so it was an exciting noisy invasion. Guys with a girl or a six-pack or both on the back of their motorcycles, a pack of cigarettes rolled up in a sleeve of their T-shirts, roared aslant through our streets and camped out in whatever spots took their fancy, including the [Laconia] library lawn. We kids argued over which motorcycles were the best, Harley Davidsons or Indians. (I was an Indian fan.) As we girls got older, we began to hear wolf whistles when motorcyclists went past us as we walked along in our sleeveless blouses and short-shorts. Ah, those were innocent times! Comparatively.
Grownups reacted to the invasion in various ways. Our house was on the street that led out to the place where the races were held in Gilford, and my mother sat on the front porch with HER pack of cigarettes and enjoyed the spectacle of the motorcycles zooming through our usually sedate residential neighborhood. My father took to the woods.
When I arrived at Bennington, the switchboard operator who also put the mail in the mailboxes in Commons noticed the Laconia return address on letters from my parents and sister and told me about how she and her husband and children always went to Laconia for Motorcycle Weekend, she driving the car, her husband his motorcycle. Thus I became aware of the family aspect of the invasion.
Don and I weren’t living in Laconia in 1965 when trouble came, but we heard the tales about it, motorcycle gangs rioting, fighting each other and the police. That put a damper on things for several years, until the rally was reorganized and the motorcyclists were back in full force.
And now this week they were here again. We had to go to Laconia on one of the days, so we planned our route to avoid the Weirs and the worst of the congestion. But we remembered our childhood, when we’d sought out the tantalizing sight of adventurous strangers..
© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved
June 10, 2018
Can a person yell in a whisper? That’s what it seemed like last week when Don, looking out the windows in our back door, yelled-whispered, “Ruth, come see, a bear!”
Our first bear of the season. I hurried to see. It was meandering along the bank across the beaver pond, and we were reminded of a scene we saw there a few years ago, which I later wrote into A Gunthwaite Girl:
On the opposite bank, twin black bear cubs came scampering out of the woods and romped along the edge of the pond . . .
And then, following them, plodded Mom. Mama Bear. Her fur shone glossy in the sun, and her vast bulk was just plain terrifying . . .
Mom stopped in her tracks, sank down heavily on the bank, and went to sleep . . .
The cubs paid no attention to Mom’s nap and continued frolicking along the pond.
But this time there weren’t any cubs and the bear meandered on its way along the pond, out of sight.
These sights of springtime! We’ve now had the first sight this season of a mother duck leading a chain of babies swimming past. And in general the ducks and geese on the pond get me singing about “Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry” and that “surrey with the fringe on top.”
There are also the sounds, better sounds of spring than my singing. We hear coyotes year-round, but I hadn’t heard any during the winter so when I heard them barking one night last week I sat straight up in bed to listen to the wildness.
Then there’s the tiny sound of water pattering. When I’m sitting on the porch and hear this, I immediately look over to that little birdbath of ours under the lilac bush and see a chickadee having a dainty bath amid a fluttering of its wings. We make jokes about the chickadees bringing small towels and teeny-weeny cakes of soap. And we refill the birdbath.
Phoebes have been calling their name in the backyard. When they returned earlier this spring, a pair built its nest in the usual nook over a bathroom window, plastering the nest with mud found conveniently nearby in the sump pump’s overflow trench.
And speaking of sounds: We always wonder how something so small as a chipmunk can make such a hell of a racket. But thank heavens they do! A friend recently told us how, stepping out his back door first thing in the morning, he always looks to the right, the direction from which bears appear in his backyard. One morning, he looked to the right, saw nothing, and was about to set forth when he wondered why a chipmunk was chipping REALLY loudly. He looked to his left. A bear. He retreated indoors. Saved by a chipmunk!
© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved
SEAFOOD AT THE SEACOAST?
June 3, 2018
From Site Fidelity:
Snowy said, “Maybe we should stop for a little something on the way home.”
“Onion rings,” Tom said.
“Natch,” she said. At this time of the year the oil would be new and fried food at its best. Connoisseurs!
And at this time of year, when the nearest little dairy-and-lunch-bar opened for Memorial Day weekend, we were there for our onion rings. As we sat at an outdoor table under a red umbrella, we watched with our annual surprise the sight of summer people carrying trays of seafood from the takeout window to their tables, the paper plates heaped with fried clams and such. Why are they buying seafood here in inland New Hampshire instead of at the coast?
Because, we reminded ourselves, if they aren’t vacationing at the coast, it’s the closest they’re going to get. And nowadays, sooner or later this summer we’ll do the same.
Don grew up with this sight in the Weirs, envying the summer people who could afford fried clams. In my family, we waited for seafood until we got to the cottage that my grandparents rented on New Hampshire’s Rye Harbor each summer. There I had my first lobster. As the narrator of The Lilting House says, “I thought it was the most wonderful food I had ever eaten.”
When Don and I were going to Maine every summer we too waited until we got to the ocean. Visiting my sister, often we couldn’t wait any longer and met her for lunch at the seafood restaurant instead of driving on the couple of miles directly to her house! Steamed clams for me, fried clams for Don. And then we’d go back at suppertime. During our vacations on Isle au Haut, I wondered like Snowy in Site Fidelity, “You can’t eat lobsters every night. Can you?”
Nowadays, inland, we wait a while, then decide to buy a lobster or (lazy) lobster meat to eat at home, or we have fried clams out. But I’ve got a new idea for inland seafood this summer. Last week in an article in a Maine seacoast newspaper, the Working Waterfront, the writer mentioned a “haddock and havarti sandwich,” which I’d never heard of before. He didn’t give details about the sandwich except that it was delicious and the short-order shorthand was “fish and cheese.” But I’m going to try to create one!
© 2018 Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved
May 27, 2018
The lilac bush that shades the back porch is blossoming now and fragrant.
At this time of year I always remember a song I found in an old songbook and used to play on the piano (instead of practicing), “Jeanine, I Dream of Lilac Time.” And Don and I both think of two long poems that involve lilacs. For Don, it’s mainly Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” For me it’s Amy Lowell’s “Lilacs,” which begins:
Colour of lilac,
Your great puffs of flowers
Are everywhere in my New England.
The other day in an office I saw a vase full of wilted lilacs. A woman nearby also saw them, laughed, and said, “You can’t bring lilacs indoors.” How true. The receptionist said ruefully, “They were beautiful yesterday, and every time the door opened and the breeze came in, the fragrance—” She gestured around the room. We nodded.
In our front dooryard, the lilies-of-the-valley are blooming, and I do bring a little bouquet of them indoors to put in a white bud vase.
The fragrances of spring! Including fly dope. And there are the funny sights. We saw again one that I’ve described before: a chipmunk climbing high high high up into the lilac bush, then running down to jump on the tiny birdbath underneath and slake his thirst after that adventure. A new one: Friday morning when I was looking out the kitchen window for activity around the beaver lodge, I was startled by a very comfortable woodchuck waddling past the lilac bush. Then I realized I didn’t have to panic. This is one of the good things about not planting a vegetable garden anymore! Undisturbed, the woodchuck proceeded across the lawn and under the shed as if Don had built it just for him.
Amy Lowell writes,
Lilacs in dooryards
Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;
Lilacs watching a deserted house
Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;
Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom
Above a cellar dug into a hill
You are everywhere.
Note: Amazon does not yet have copies of the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.
GOING UP BROOK
May 20, 2018
Lately we’ve heard the sounds of logging farther along our road, and the other day one of the foresters involved stopped by our house to ask, curious and amused, about the pipes he’d seen in the brook when roaming around the neighborhood’s woods.
Don explained the pipes’ history and how they are no longer used by folks in the neighborhood, including us because we’ve stopped planting a large vegetable garden, while I remembered that I’d written a piece about the pipes for the “Ruth’s Neighborhood” section of my website, which Marney had created. I checked my files and found that the piece was dated May 17, 1999. Nineteen years ago this month! I didn’t yet have a computer; I wrote it on my typewriter and snail-mailed it to Marney in California!
I thought you might enjoy reading it, either again or for the first time.
GOING UP BROOK
It’s become a rite of spring, getting the pipe in the brook functioning. When we moved here in 1976, I was horrified at the sight of pipes sullying the clear beauty of the brook that runs along our boundary up steeply into the woods behind our house, although I appreciated their history. Brass pipes had long ago supplied our neighborhood farms and houses with gravity-fed water; after a particularly energetic spring freshet had bashed them, they had been replaced with black plastic pipes. In the typical fashion of leaving old farm machinery to rust in barnyards, the brass pipes were left in the brook, and over the years any replaced pieces of the plastic pipes were junked along the banks.
As drilled wells superseded dug wells, our neighbors mostly stopped using the pipes. When we bought this house we had a well drilled (Did we ever! The experience is chronicled in A Lovely Time Was Had by All), so we assumed that the pipe for this property would be part of the past, too.
Then I planted the new vegetable garden and Don mused, “If there’s enough pressure, it could run a sprinkler.”
There was. I did not have to lug water all summer.
So every spring now we set forth early some morning carrying a bag loaded with tools and fly dope, walking up the brook to discover what winter storms, spring flooding, and beaver dams have done to our pipe. The woods are sunlit yellow-green, the birds are singing, water is splashing over rocks, Indian poke and trilliums have popped out of the forest duff.
And there’s Don in Wellingtons, balanced on stones in the middle of the brook, fixing a break in the pipe while like a surgical nurse I hand him implements: the propane torch, a hacksaw, duct tape. His work involves a lot of contented swearing.
Up we continue to the top of the waterfall, where the pipe starts, held down in a moss-ringed pool by rocks. Don clears the sieve. He opens a faucet to release air. We walk back down, looking and listening for any leaks we’ve missed.
Some years the weather has tossed the pipe like spaghetti. Beavers have created a new pond, burying it. Don fixes and tinkers. Each year when we get back down to our yard we hold our breath as Don turns on the faucet beside the garden. Sometimes nothing happens; back up the brook we go. This year was one of the lucky times, and water gushed forth. Success! Don hooked up the sprinkler.
Robert Frost’s poem about going out to clean the pasture spring can be considered a love poem. So is going up the brook.
Note: Amazon has not yet listed the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.
THE WEIRS DRIVE-IN THEATRE
May 13, 2018
In A Gunthwaite Girl, during a tour of their hometown Snowy and Bev and Puddles stop at the gate bar of the drive-in theater, closed at that time of day. As they sit in Bev’s car observing the scene, Puddles notes that there aren’t any speakers.
“Radio,” Bev said. “It’s done via radio nowadays. Roger explained how, but I tuned him out. I miss the speakers. Remember how people would forget they had a speaker in the window and they’d drive away, snapping the cord?”
Puddles said incredulously, “You mean you and Roger still go to this drive-in?”
“Once in a while,” Bev replied.
“I’ll be damned,” Puddles said. “Well, I’m betting that at your age, you two actually watch the movie.”
Bev made her demure-maiden face in the rearview mirror at Puddles, then crossed her eyes. “Mostly. We miss the old cars’ bench seats, though.”
Last year Don and I thought that our hometown Weirs Drive-in was a goner. Although we haven’t been to it in decades, our memories are vivid and we mourned its passing. Prematurely. The sale that had been arranged fell through, and a recent headline the Laconia Daily Sun announced that the Weirs Drive-in “Opens for Another Season after Failed Sale.” The owner, who will be eighty in two months, has “mixed feelings about the start of a new season.” She says, “I love the drive-in and I love my customers, but I really kind of wanted to retire.” The drive-in, one of only three left in New Hampshire (I think), is still for sale, for $2.6 million; “the property could be used for a hotel, condominiums, or other mixed retail-commercial development.”
The first time my sister and I ever went to a drive-in, it wasn’t this drive-in but one in Alton, another town on Lake Winnipesaukee. Our parents weren’t moviegoers, so Penny and I were surprised and excited when a rerun of a moviethere made them decide to try this newfangled way of watching. The movie was My Little Chickadee with W. C. Fields and Mae West. Those old people? Penny and I fell asleep.
The next time I went to the drive-in with my parents, I was more sophisticated, had been to the drive-in on dates, and I had already seen the movie, On the Waterfront, when it was shown at Laconia’s Colonial Theater. My father was curious about it because the screenplay had been written by Budd Schulberg, a classmate at Dartmouth. I don’t think I fell asleep this time, not with a young Marlon Brando on the screen.
Don and I hope the Weirs Drive-in’s owner can retire, but when the Weirs Drive-in does inevitably close we’ll go into mourning again.
The Passion Pit!
Note: Amazon has not yet listed the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.
THE GREEN AND YELLOW TIME
May 6, 2018
One day last week when Don came indoors from doing yardwork, he was carrying a bouquet of daffodils. Daffodils!
As I wrote in The Cheerleader, “It was the green and yellow time.” Now, after the false starts in April, spring is here, the lawns are emerald, the lilac buds are a bright crisp green, and yellow daffodils and forsythia are blooming.
And on Wednesday, spring leapt ahead to summer. The thermometer hit eighty-five degrees! We all went reeling around, stunned. Only a few days before I had been wearing long underwear (albeit lightweight, silk, not heavy-duty), and now I was wishing I had unpacked our summer clothes. Indeed, people were remarking, “I’ll be unpacking summer clothes this weekend.”
The weather has now cooled back down to springtime, but that’s my project this weekend, unpacking summer, putting away winter. While doing this I have reminded myself that it’s been known to snow in May. Some years ago in May, Don and I were en route to Hanover for a book signing at the Dartmouth Bookstore when we encountered a snowstorm on the turnpike. Mercifully, it was brief.
More signs of spring are the ferns popping up. By midsummer when they’re thickly lush I can never believe that they were ever this small and pale. But colors elsewhere! In addition to the green and yellow are all the colors of the pansies in gardens and window boxes. Back when the weather was still cold and raw, a friend remarked, “This afternoon I’m going to plant some pansies. Just because I have to.” I understood.
And the sounds of spring! Our brook is as loud as a river, pounding down the mountainside. Spring peepers—I’ve written and written about the joy of hearing spring peepers shrilling their little hearts out, so this year I’ll simply say that the pond in our backyard is LOUD.
I’ve mentioned the Stumper Questions on Maine Channel 6’s “Morning Report.” On May Day the question was something like “According to legend, what does May Day’s morning dew do?” The multiple-choice answers were (a) Beautify your skin (b) Bring good luck (c) Cure sickness. I guessed the last, but the correct answer is the first. Folklore says, I learned, that if you wash your face with May Day dew, you’ll have a flawless complexion for the entire year. Sharon, one of the show’s hosts, pretended to dash off-camera to roll around in dew.
And on these green-and-yellow mornings, I bet we all can feel immersed in springtime.
Note: Amazon has not yet listed the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.
RECIPE BOX AND NOTEBOOK
April 29, 2018
Thank you for your thoughts about family recipe boxes. This immediately caused me to revisit my family’s for the first time in a while. One is really a box, a brown wooden file box; the other is a loose-leaf notebook with RECIPES in red on the white (now yellowed) cover.
My parents set up housekeeping in 1936. So the recipes in the box must date from then; they run through the 1940s, when the notebook took over in the 1950s. One of the divider tabs in the box gives a flavor (!) of the era: it says Chafing Dish. My mother wrote “Cheese” over it, not needing an entire section for chafing-dish recipes. Indeed, there’s nary a card for one in this section, but there’s a cheese soufflé in my grandmother Ruth’s handwriting and other cheese dishes.
The familiar handwriting! My grandmother’s smooth longhand, my mother’s competent Palmer Method, my father’s scrawl. The familiar names of family—“Graham Bread, Aunt Edith”—and of friends and neighbors. In the notebook I rediscovered a portion of a letter from Emma Jean, my mother’s college roommate, with an explanation about a recipe she’d previously sent my mother: “Have been meaning to tell you re: chicken loaf, you don’t need to chill the broth to defat it. It all comes to the top of the gelatine and can be scraped off after it is set.”
In addition to written-out recipes, there are recipes clipped out of magazines and newspapers and taped to file cards or loose-leaf pages, the tape now yellowed. I don’t remember my mother making most of these recipes, so they were either good intentions (“Humpty-Dumpty Tomatoes,” stacked slices with herbs in between, held together with toothpicks) or just plain daydreams (“Snow-topped Berry Cake,” the “Snow Jelly Icing” consisting of egg whites and “tart jelly” beaten over hot water to become “the color of the sunset glow on a snowfield”). I am extremely glad she never made “Tongue with Mushrooms.” In my early childhood we did have tongue sandwiches—until I suddenly realized it wasn’t a vague word like “bologna” and let out a scream.
In the Frozen Desserts section of the recipe box my mother put a clipping with Hollywood glamour: “Claudette Colbert’s favorite dessert: Pour one cup of hot milk over twenty marshmallows that have been broken into small pieces. When cool, mix this into a half pint of stiffly whipped cream and a can of crushed pineapple. Place in ice cube compartment for three hours.” During her teens my sister, Penny, used to go through the box and notebook, and she actually made this dessert. Then she copied it out for her own recipe collection.
While browsing in the notebook I came upon myself. Disconcerting! My mother saved the recipes I sent in my early-married years. I’d typed one (“Macaroni Saute”) on my proud new stationery printed with my “Mrs.” name and the street address of the Keene Teachers’ College married students’ barracks. I realized that over the years I’d forgotten the street number. It gave me a snug feeling to see this address again.
And to visit again with family and friends through recipes.
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.
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?”
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.
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:
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
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.”
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.
October - (December) 2020
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)
APRIL - JUNE 2020
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)
IIroning (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)