Ruth Doan MacDougall: "Ruth's Neighborhood"

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July -  September, 2021

A LULL

September 26, 2021

           In Site Fidelity I wrote, “The next day reminded her of a Mother Goose rhyme about a ‘misty moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather.’” I thought of this last Wednesday morning on my drive to Center Harbor to do errands, windshield wipers sometimes necessary, sometimes not.
           The road was quiet. We all are talking about how welcome the lull is between the summer tourists and the foliage “leaf peepers,” especially this year when everything seemed more hectic than ever.
           As I drove along the shoreline, Squam Lake was quiet, too, and misty moisty.
In Center Harbor I pulled into the lakeside hardware store’s nearly empty parking lot. We go from lake to lake in the Lakes Region, and now I was looking at misty moisty Lake Winnipesaukee, hazy pale blue, ethereal, the town dock quiet, the harbor stretching toward mountains. I thought of another sentence in Site Fidelity, when Snowy and Tom stop in the fictional version of the Weirs: “He took her hand and they walked along the boardwalk looking at the view they’d grown up with, blue lake, green mountains.” Sometimes Don and I brought a picnic to Center Harbor and after errands we had lunch in our car parked beside the town dock, watching the activity on the lake, the boats in summer, snowmobiles in winter.
           The hardware store used to be a supermarket. Then this supermarket moved to a new little mall, and everyone talked about how boaters, who were accustomed to pushing their loaded shopping carts from the supermarket right down to the town dock, would be very unhappy. And we all assumed that because of its lakeside location, the building would become restaurant. Nope. The hardware store moved in from across the road.
           Going alone into a place where you’ve always been a twosome is, of course, difficult, and the hardware store was one of the most difficult. Don and I had joked that it was his home away from home, the manager and staff old buddies. Usually he went by himself and if I was with him I read in the car, but sometimes I’d bring my own list and browse in the gardening aisle, the housewares aisle, while he shopped and consulted and chatted. Now I’m recognized and greeted on my own. My mission today was cedar mothballs; like the lull it was another sign of the change of seasons.
Then I drove to the supermarket. The parking lot was quiet. No out-of-state license plates. In front of the store, in the farm-stand area, autumn colors were bright and soothing at the same time. Ah, New Hampshire pumpkins, apples! The September/October issue of Yankee magazine has an interview with Mark Richardson, “a New England botanic garden guru,” in which he was asked, “What’s the best fall flavor: pumpkin or apple?” He replied, “Definitely apple. Pumpkin is sort of a special dessert or treat, but I eat at least a few apples a day in the fall.” Thus I chose two varieties of apples (Gala; Fuji; so many varieties since my childhood), and while grocery-shopping indoors, in the bakery section I chose a Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pie!
           Mostly I don’t recognize supermarket music anymore—the unfamiliar songs overhead often sound more like yelling. But last Wednesday it all seemed like a lullaby.

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

THE QUEEN AND OTHERS

September 19, 2021

              One of the Sandwich library’s new audiobooks is The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett. As I read the description on the back of the CD box I realized this wasn’t the necktie knot I’d seen Don make a million times. The novel is “The first book in a highly original and delightfully clever crime series in which Queen Elizabeth II secretly solves crimes while carrying out her royal duties. It is the early spring of 2016 and Queen Elizabeth II is at Windsor Castle in advance of her 90th birthday celebrations. But the preparations are interrupted when a guest is found dead . . . The scene suggests the young Russian pianist strangled himself, but a badly tied knot leads M15 to suspect foul play was involved.”
              Although I was intrigued, I hesitated about taking the audiobook out. Such books with real people in fictional plots don’t seem fair. However, thoughts of Britain have been on my mind, as you know; especially scones! So I took out The Windsor Knot for my latest bedtime listening and I’ve liked it very much. My favorite line is an observation by the queen’s young assistant: “It must be odd when your fifties are nearly forty years ago.”
              At the library there’s a pile of free out-of-date magazines, and along with the audiobook I brought home a year-old November issue of Real Simple. By a happy coincidence, one of the articles was “The Queen Is a Real Simple Lady” by Bryan Kozlowski, adapted from his Long Live the Queen! 23 Rules for Living from Britain’s Longest-Reigning Monarch. We learn that “She Prefers Unfussy Food,” “She Puts Order to Chaos,” “Her Posture is Legendary,” “She Dines with Intention,” and “She Has a Playful Spirit. When she sailed from Bermuda to the U.S. on rough seas, the queen relished the experience, reported biographer Sally Bedell Smith. Her scarf flying, she grabbed hold of a sliding door and, as a large swell lifted the ship, let out a long ‘whee!’ while the door slid shut.”
              In the August 30th issue of Publishers Weekly, I had visited English gardens in my mind while reading a review of Orwell’s Roses. Author Rebecca Solnit “carefully charts the life of George Orwell (1903-1950) by focusing on his love of roses and all things natural in this brilliant survey . . . [she] begins with and returns often to his midlife in Wallington, England, where he rented a cottage in 1936 and planted his roses . . . ‘Outside my work the thing I care most about is gardening,’ he wrote.”
              In the same issue of PW, I came back to the USA, to New England and my grandmother Ruth’s hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, in the review of The Transcendentalists and Their World by Robert A. Gross. “Aiming to place Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and other Transcendentalists ‘in the context of the town in which they lived and wrote,’ Gross documents the ‘promises and pitfalls’ of Thoreau’s pencil-making father, John Thoreau, and other businessmen due to the region’s expanding economy (‘Trade curses every thing it handles,’ Thoreau would later write in Walden) . . . Thoreau ‘was drawn apart from his townsmen’ and toward Emerson as the two men ‘struggled for ways to reconcile the new freedom of individuals with the older claims of interdependence for the common good.’”
              And about my interest in scones: Last week my friend Wanda and I were again in Laconia in the vicinity of Annie’s Café at lunchtime, and this time there they were, big American scones, the day’s flavor banana-walnut. After our lunch (I had a Mediterranean Quinoa Salad in the former Guyer’s Market!), two scones came home with me.

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

SCONES AND GARDENS

September 12, 2021

               A couple of weeks ago when I mentioned scones in my description of Annie’s Café, one of your comments was from Annabel Smyth in England explaining the differences between British scones and American. In my reply I said that my sister and I had enjoyed British cream teas at Tarbin Gardens in Franklin, NH.
               These gardens were fresh in my mind because I’d earlier read “Tranquility and Tea at Tarbin Gardens,” an article about them by Kathi Caldwell-Hopper in the August 9th issue of The Laker, a Lakes Region newspaper. Kathi began, “I have never had afternoon tea the way the English do it. Recently I decided to head to a place I have loved for years . . . Tarbin Gardens . . . While I savor these days of high summer, with all the flowers in bloom, I know Tarbin also offers visitors English Cream Tea in their Tea Garden . . . 
               “One of the great things about Tarbin Gardens is all the pathways, lined with florals and greenery.” After walking in the gardens, she sat down in the Tea Garden. “Soon my server, Lindsey, brought my pot of tea in a white china pot with a raspberry-colored knit tea cozy.” Then Lindsey brought “two scones, a pot of jam, a small container of English clotted cream, and some other pastries.” There was a card with instructions about how to prepare scones the Devonshire Way: “1. Cut the scone in half with a knife. 2. Spread each side thickly with clotted cream. 3. Put a little bit of jam on top of each side. 4. Eat each side separately and enjoy!”
               When Penny and I were having our cream tea at Tarbin Gardens, we of course reminisced about the trip we took to the Cotswolds in 1990, spending three weeks there mainly visiting gardens. Penny is a landscape designer and had been to England several times before to study gardens; there, she had also learned about cream teas. Somehow Don and I had lived in England for two years having scones occasionally but never ever having a cream tea, not even in Devon!
               During that Cotswold trip Penny and I spent each week at a different “self-catering cottage,” and we were moving from a week in Purton to a week in Evesham when, according to my journal: “We stopped at a Hickory’s on a roundabout, an American Howard-Johnson/McDonald’s establishment, part of the Road Chef chain. A sign in the lobby told us it had won a Clean Loo Award and had baby-changing facilities . . .
               “I had my first cream tea in this chain restaurant. Penny, having the same, showed me how to go about eating it, splitting a scone (two each), spreading it with strawberry jam from the tiny glass pots, topping it with whipped cream [not clotted] from the individual containers. Oh, bliss.”
               A few days later I did have clotted cream when we were in Bibury (called by our guidebook one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds), en route to visit famed gardener Rosemary Verey’s gardens at her Barnsley House. After walking around the village, we stopped at the Jenny Wren Restaurant and Tea Room: “With our coffee, Penny had an almond-y Congress Tart, and I could not resist a slice of Treacle Tart, which came with clotted cream, my first clotted cream—like butter!”
               Thank you for the memories, Annabel.

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

BEST MAINE DINER

September 5, 2021

             In Henrietta Snow, when Bev and Snowy are driving to Maine in 1987 to meet Puddles at the Whitehall Inn in Camden, Bev says, “We’ll have lunch at Moody’s Diner. Have you ever been to Moody’s?”
             “Nope,” Snowy replies.
             So Bev explains that it’s in Waldoboro and continues, “A landmark, flourishing. How Mother loved the place! She and my father spent their honeymoon in Bar Harbor, and they stopped at Moody’s en route, and when Mother took me to Camden those two summers I worked at the Grand View Hotel, she and I always stopped at Moody’s, too. We always had the fresh crabmeat rolls.”
             Snowy, thinking about lobster, now switches her thoughts to crabmeat.
             And Bev adds, “Moody’s has a zillion pies, with real whipped cream. Mother and I would have the berries in season, strawberry pie when she took me to Camden and blueberry pie when she brought me home.”
             And in later years Snowy and Tom also make a tradition of stopping there.
             Which of course Don and I did.
             The September issue of Down East magazine is the 2021 “Best of Maine” issue, winners chosen by readers, and when I turned to the “Food and Drink” section I was delighted to see that Moody’s was the winner of the “Diners” category.
             In the 1990s Don and I also stayed at Moody’s cabin colony a couple of times. Nancy Moody Genthner’s What’s Cooking at Moody’s Diner: 75 Years of Recipes and Reminiscences gives us a “History of Moody’s Diner” written by her mother, Bertha Moody, in 1976, and we learn that Moody’s began with the cabins, not the diner:
             "In 1927 we built three small cabins. Each had one room and a screened porch with dry toilets up back . . . The cabins rented for $1.00 per person . . . Since we had no eating place, we sent people downtown to Brown’s Restaurant . . . Business was good, so the next year we built two two-room cabins and two more one-room cabins. The next year, 1929, we drilled a well and built a building for showers and toilets. By 1939 we had our present number of cabins and all had bathrooms.
“In the summer of 1930 we bought a small house by the entrance to the cabins and opened a small restaurant.” This was on Route 1. They added a lunch wagon beside the restaurant “and sold hot dogs and hamburgers through the day.” When Route 1 was shifted in 1934, they bought land there and moved the lunch wagon to it. “That was where the present Moody’s Diner was born.

             
In Henrietta Snow, Bev and Snowy reach Waldoboro. As they enter the diner and sit down in a booth, Snowy thinks of the New Hampshire diners she knows, including Jimmy’s Diner in Gunthwaite. Opening Moody’s menu, she says to Bev, “Memories of Jimmy’s Diner. Diners each have their own personalities.”
Congratulations to Moody’s!

Moody's website

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

    NEIGHBORHOOD GROCERY STORE; NEIGHBORHOOD CAFÉ

August 29, 2021

             From about age three to age eleven I lived on Laconia’s Academy Street, and the neighborhood grocery store was Walter’s Market on Court Street. This was an exciting place, from the Coca-Cola bottles on ice in the cooler to the long-handled gadget with which Walter Filaroski lifted down groceries on the higher shelves behind the counter. When we moved to Gilford Avenue in February 1951, we felt lost. Indeed, because Walter delivered groceries, Ernie (my mother) kept buying ours from Walter’s Market, phoning him once a week and reading him her grocery list.
Then we began to get acquainted with the neighborhood grocery store on Gilford Avenue. This was Guyer’s Market. It was much the same size as Walter’s and had the same groceries, and Ernie learned that it was known for the quality of its meat, cut by its renowned butcher, Pete. And unlike Walter’s, Guyer’s was right on our route home from school, so as Penny and I walked past we were tantalized by the delicious temptation to stop in and spend some of our allowances on a Hershey Bar or a Devil Dog or—
             Years later, Guyer’s closed. But one day when Don and I were in Laconia and taking Gilford Avenue to get to something-or-other in Gilford, we saw that it had become a café! Annie’s Café and Catering! We resolved to stop there next time, but we never did.
             Last week when friend and I were in Laconia (for me, the first time since the pandemic) on an errand that took us onto Gilford Avenue, I remembered Annie’s Café, and we decided to stop there for lunch. At last! As she and I went into the busy cheery interior painted green and yellow, I started seeing double, phantom grocery shelves where now were tables and chairs, and Pete reigning at the meat counter where now a sparkling counter displayed muffins, pastries, salads, sandwiches, quiches. I even imagined I saw the rack of paperback books I used to twirl, browsing. At the counter we both chose individual ham-and-Swiss quiches, and I focused on 2021, Annie’s Café as Annie’s Café, friendly, informal. It was a neighborhood café.
While we sat at a table with our lunch, I laughed about dining on quiche in the former Guyer’s Market, and I thought how different Annie’s menu was from 1950s restaurant menus. No quiche then! No “wraps” or paninis, and for breakfast or a coffee break no breakfast “sandwiches,” no bagels, croissants, or scones.
             Ah, scones. Scottish food has been on my mind since I recently read a Publishers Weekly review of a cookbook titled The Seafood Shack: Food and Tales from the Scottish Highlands by Kirsty Scobie and Fenella Renwick, who have a food truck called the Seafood Shack in Ullapool, “a fishing village on the northwest coast of Scotland.” Don and I spent a night in Ullapool in 1997 on our way from the Isle of Lewis to Inverness and had dinner in a restaurant there—seafood. The review describes the food truck’s exotic recipes such as “Thai-style cod fish cakes” and “local favorites such as Cullen skink, a smoked fish soup.” Scones aren’t mentioned, but they would have been exotic in 1950s Laconia. Back then, I had only read about them in British novels and Don’s mother was the only person I knew who made them.
             When I’m next in Laconia I’ll try to time it for a coffee break and have a scone at Annie’s Café.

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

     PW PICKS OF THE WEEK

August 22, 2021

             I’ve just finished reading the August 9th issue of Publishers Weekly magazine (I always seem to be running a week or more behind with PW), and these book reviews are the ones I went back to reread:
             I Keep Trying to Catch His Eye: A Memoir of Loss, Grief, and Love: Ivan Maisel “reflects on the tragedy of losing his 21-year-old son, Max, to suicide in this beautiful and heart-wrenching work.” The review concludes, “Maisel writes honestly about learning to have an ‘appreciation for what comes, with the understanding that I am guaranteed nothing.’ The result yields a deeply affecting testament to the fragility of life and the human capacity for resilience.”
             There’s also a Q&A interview with Maisel, “Learning How to Carry the Grief,”  during which he’s asked, “What advice would you give to those trying to support someone in mourning?” He replies that he had been “terrible” at doing this but “I learned, in the worst way possible, how to deal with people who grieve. We do want your sympathy, we do want to talk about the person. I wouldn’t recommend saying, ‘If you need something, call me.’ [People who are grieving] have enough things to do. Bring them food, call, and check in. ‘How are you?’ isn’t the right question. Instead, ask, ‘How are you today?’ or ‘How are you right now?’ Just keep checking on them.”
             The Generation Myth: Why When You’re Born Matters Less than You Think: Bobby Duffy, a “professor of public policy at King’s College, London” debunks “the idea that Baby Boomers, Millennials, and other age groups are on the verge of a ‘generational war’” and “shows that age is just one of many social, economic, and cultural factors that help shape a person’s life and outlook.” The review concludes, “Duffy makes a persuasive case that resisting ‘stereotypes and lazy thinking’ about old vs. young can help foster the ‘intergenerational will’ to tackle such existential threats as climate change and economic inequality. Readers will be inspired by this myth-busting survey.” I wonder if the Silent Generation is mentioned or do we remain silent?!
             Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men, by Katrine Marcal, translated from the Swedish by Alex Fleming: The review begins, “Innovation takes a long time because people tend to create with only men in mind, argues journalist Marcal in this quirky treatise.” Some examples she gives include putting wheels on suitcases; this “took decades . . . because it was assumed that men would never be willing to appear in public using an assist.” Also, “cars powered by electricity were thought up as early as the beginning of the 20th century but were never mass-produced since they were seen as only suitable for women (men hand-cranked a starter).”
             And to change the subject to a murder mystery I’ve been enjoying: I noticed at the library an audiobook in a mystery series I hadn’t known about before, the Chet and Bernie Mysteries by Spencer Quinn. This one is titled Paw and Order. Chet is a dog. I learned on the back of the CD box that “Stephen King has called Chet ‘a canine Sam Spade full of joie de vivre’” and “Robert B. Parker dubbed Spencer Quinn’s writing ‘major league prose.’” It’s great fun as throughout his adventures Chet observes humans and ponders their sayings and doings, from the word “sheepish” to the game of croquet. The latter reminded me of how, when Don and I played badminton, our border collie always won by capturing the birdie.

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

     A GOLDILOCKS MORNING—AND MORE

August 15, 2021

              On August 7th, at about 5:30 a.m. when the morning was lightening from black to gray, I looked out a kitchen windo w and saw a dark shape nearby under the birdfeeder pole, from which hangs a basket of Bossa Nova Red begonias, no birdfeeder in summer. What creature was this? Woodchuck? Wrong shape. Then an identical shape appeared beside it—and another. Little bear cubs! Triplets! I was Goldilocks with three bears! I stood at the window enchanted.
              And then came Mama Bear. She wasn’t large; perhaps this was her first year to be a Mama. She approached the porch, seeming interested. Uh-oh! I remembered the bear who, some years ago, entered the porch by the porch door and left through a porch screen. So I went into the dining room and, reluctantly, opened and slammed shut the back door. They took off for the woods, Mama loping, the cubs skedaddling.
              Ah, rural life!
              Speaking of rural life, this past week was Sandwich’s 123rd Old Home Week Celebration. Old Home Week or Old Home Day are New Hampshire statewide events begun in the 1899 by Governor Frank Rollins in hopes of coaxing natives home after they’d left the Granite State to start farming out West on land that had less granite to plow. This year Sandwich’s week began on Saturday with an annual tennis tournament and the opening performance of Comedy of Errors, held outdoors at Quimby Park—as the events program said, “Bring a blanket, chair, or picnic for this ‘in the park’ relaxed performance.” The week ended on Sunday with the Sandwich Historical Society’s Annual Excursion and Picnic, the Selectmen’s Community Cookout, and the final performance of Comedy of Errors.
              Don and I always went to the library’s event, the Friends of the Samuel H. Wentworth Library Annual Book Sale, held on Tuesday and Wednesday in one of the fairground’s big buildings. This year I went on Tuesday and as usual the sight was exciting, folks browsing beside long tables filled with donated books. The day before, I had learned on TV news that Monday, August 9, had been National Book Lovers Day. And here we book lovers were!
              On Thursday morning as I stopped at the post office I saw that the village green was busy with artists and craftspeople readying their displays for the annual Artisans on the Green Art and Craft Fair. I remembered how one year, for this or another event, I suggested Don participate with a photograph he’d taken of an old barn on a hill near the trailhead for the Daniel Doan Trail. Don wasn’t an avid photographer, and he had got this photo as we drove past by sticking the camera out the car window and snapping the photo, steering with his other hand, a casual method that delighted me as much as the photograph did. I titled it for him (he had titled many of my novels): “Leaving Quinttown.” And to his (and my) astonishment, the photograph was given an Honorable Mention.
              Rural life. On Friday as I was driving back from the dump I suddenly braked. Up ahead, out of the woods came a small bear, about the size of Mama Bear. There are several miles between this spot and our backyard and no cubs followed the bear across the road into a field, so I assumed it wasn’t Mama. But still it seemed a storybook scene.

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

     DESKS

August 8, 2021

               It has taken me three years of working at the dining-room table to decide I need my green desk downstairs, but recently I finally asked a friend to bring it down from the upstairs garret that has been my so-called office for forty-five years.
               It’s one of two desks in that office. Don and I seem to have accumulated desks, and they’ve always been an important part of my life. As I joked in a piece I wrote for my website’s “Ruth’s Neighborhood” section in 2014, mine is “a life influenced by desks and lived at various desks.” Here are some excerpts from that piece:
“The first desk I remember was my father’s work table in the Academy Street apartment to which the family moved after leaving the chicken farm where I spent my first three years. It was a small wooden table in my parents’ bedroom, under the front bay window. On it sat a big heavy Remington typewriter, with a ream of manila second sheets stacked alongside. This was where Dan, our father, wrote at night and on weekends . . . Ernie, our mother, would tell Penny and me, ‘Shh, your father is writing.’
               “Ernie had her own desk, from her old bedroom in her parents’ home. It was a little mahogany desk, with stamps and stationery and bills and checkbook and savings book in its pigeonholes and drawers. Here she handled the running of the household.
“By the time I started elementary school, I too had my very own desk, child-size, wooden, painted white, a blue blotter on its slanted front and a bookshelf underneath. How I loved it! Sitting at it, like Dan at his typewriter, I wrote stories . . .
“In February 1951, just before I turned twelve, we moved to the house Ernie and Dan bought across town. In honor of this great event our grandparents gave Penny and me each a grownup desk, mahogany veneer, flat-topped with eight drawers (one of which was a deep double drawer in which I stored my loose-leaf notebook-journals). Decades later, I in turn gave desks like it to Snowy and Bev.
               “At Bennington, I had to adjust to my room’s smaller desk. But when I transferred to Keene Tcachers’ College to set up housekeeping with Don in an apartment in the married students’ barracks, I was reunited with my mahogany desk . . . After our graduation, the desk was passed along to a family friend. In the various places we rented as we moved to Massachusetts, back to New Hampshire, to England, Boston, and again back to New Hampshire, I worked at kitchen or dining-room tables, until in 1971 we celebrated the publication of One Minus One by buying a big Steelcase desk and a typing table.” When we moved here to Sandwich, that Steelcase desk was lugged upstairs to my garret.
               Meanwhile, “the desk had journeyed to Maine, to Penny’s daughter, Thane. Penny still has her own desk, and for the spell the two desks were back together . . . [After Thane left the nest, the desk returned to me.] By now the desk was showing some ravages of age, so Don repaired it and painted it green, my favorite color. . . Here in the garret the Steelcase desk and the green desk face each other, the former for writing, the latter for the odds and ends of daily life. There are also a Staples computer desk, the old typing table and my last typewriter.
               “Downstairs are three more desks. We have inherited the desk that Don built for his parents in a Laconia High School shop class. In Don’s office is a desk that belonged to my grandfather, which my father used in later years. And in the kitchen is my mother’s little desk. I keep stamps in the same drawer she did.”
               We had put the desk Don built in high school in the dining room and dropped  magazines, books, and paperwork on its drop-leaf, as I still do. After Don died, I began easing myself into using the desk in his office (a small room off the kitchen) for organizing my day and writing in my diary. And now I’ll be working on Snowy’s new sequel at the dear old mahogany/green desk in the living room instead of at the dining-room table.

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

     SPORTS BRAS AND PSEUDONYMS

August 1, 2021

              Last week I found two magazine articles very intriguing.
              The first, in the July12th issue of Publishers Weekly, was an interview with Lisa Z. Lindahl, which began, “It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that the creation of the sports bra in 1977 changed the world. In 2019, Lindahl published Unleash the Girls, a memoir where, as the BookLife Prize said, ‘Readers will be as fascinated by the history of the book’s subject as they are about Lindahl and her own personal and professional journey during a pivotal American era.’”
              Well! I remembered the advent of sports bras. I had assumed I wasn’t—er—well-endowed enough to need this invention, but out of curiosity I bought one, took it on a test run, my daily jog—and it was great!
              I read on.
              Lindahl was asked, “In 2020, you were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. What was that experience like?” She replied, “Humbling. My invention of the sports bra was simply a response to my own need. I had no idea of the ripple effect that would attend its introduction into the world. And I do mean world. I hear from people al over the globe about the impact the sports bra has had on girls, women, and sports—indeed on the feminine psyche itself.”
              The title and subtitle of an article by Kate Ver Ploeg in the August issue of Down East magazine were “Goldie and Brownie: What’s in a pen name? How a regular Maine Salt became the celebrated ‘author’ of The Little Island and other children’s classics.” The Goldie was Golden MacDonald, “an unassuming Penobscot Bay fisherman and handyman, a lifelong islander whose only contribution to children’s literature was lending his name to his employer’s bohemian lover.” Whoa! Wow!
              I read on.
              The Brownie was Margaret Wise Brown, a name I recognized. Some years ago I’d  bought Goodnight, Moon as a gift for a child and, in the Doan family tradition we joked about, I read the book before I gave it. Born in New York City in 1910, she was “a budding editor and author of children’s books” who spent summers on the island of Vinalhaven and in 1943 “ bought an abandoned quarry-master’s house for back taxes and christened it the Only House . . . For years, Brown carried on a romance with another Vinalhaven resident, Bill Gaston, a lawyer, playwright, and well-known womanizer from an upper-crust Boston family. When the two met, in 1938, the caretaker of Gaston’s property was a capable North Havener named Golden MacDonald. Brown latched upon his name while in search of a pseudonym, something a publisher suggested to distance her picture books from her earlier work . . .  She liked that MacDonald’s nickname, ‘Goldie,’ echoed her own, ‘Brownie.’”
              What did Goldie think of all this? Nobody quite knows. “His granddaughter, Kelly Wall-Olson, laments how little her family knows about her grandfather’s relationship with Brown . . . Most of MacDonald’s relatives remember having copies of The Little Island shelved around the house, but they say he rarely mentioned his borrowed fame. If anyone else did? ‘He’d just kind of laugh,’ Wall-Olson says.”
Eventually the publishers decided “Brown’s name had become sufficiently bankable” to use on her books. Brown died “after an appendectomy in 1952, when an impromptu can-can kick from her hospital bed dislodged a blood clot.” How awful. MacDonald “worked on the islands until a few years before his death, in 1977.” The article has separate photographs of them, and they both look rather enigmatic, but she is smiling— slyly.

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

     STORYBOOK FOOD

July 25, 2021

        I mentioned last week that Penny, my sister, had brought me newspapers from Maine. She also brought a beautiful cookbook from a grocery store she frequents that has a table of used books for sale: Lee Bailey’s Soup Meals: Main-Event Soups in Year-Round Menus, published in 1989.
        Later, after she and Thane, my niece, had returned home, while browsing in the cookbook I came upon a word I didn’t know: gougere. The recipe was for Tomato Gougere. Lee Bailey introduced it by writing, “Gougere, the delectable hot cheese pastry from France, makes for a very impressive presentation, considering how uncomplicated it is to make.” I didn’t recognize the pastry in the accompanying photograph, but as I read the recipe I was suddenly reminded of making cream puffs for the first time, in our early-married years, with a recipe in a wedding-present cookbook. And after my browsing, the next day during a phone chat with Thane, I told her, “I’ve discovered a new word, ‘gougere,’” and she immediately said, “It’s like cream puffs!”
        Cream puffs. This was the second time the subject of cream puffs had come up in a week! Penny and I had discussed them during the visit because the Tiramisu her grandson had made for her birthday cake had lady fingers in it and they reminded me of the Raggedy Ann books, particularly Raggedy Ann’s magic apron, which could produce delicacies we’d never encountered before, lady fingers and cream puffs.
        And this has got me thinking about the foods in childhood books. There were the familiar ones that gained new importance from being in books, such as honey in the Winnie-the-Pooh books and bread and cheese in Heidi. Booth Tarkington’s Penrod books had inspired me to concoct the treat Penrod’s sister was always eating, applesauce and powdered sugar on a slice of buttered bread (if I’m recalling correctly). Then there were the foods that seemed pure fiction, unattainable, such as Little Women’s pickled limes. Oh, the astounded joy when on the Weirs boardwalk I saw in the window of the Karamel Korn shop a big jar with a sign saying Pickled Limes! And what a shock when, after my parents bought me one, I tasted that pickled-citrus sourness, prepared though I was.
I        can’t remember if Laconia’s beloved LaFlamme’s Bakery had cream puffs and lady fingers, but if it did the cost of them must’ve kept our mother from buying Penny and me those Raggedy Ann foods we wondered about. And we didn’t make them from scratch. So I waited until I was older to buy them—and, as I mentioned, I did make cream puffs. I recently heard on a WMUR-TV “New Hampshire Chronicle” program a chef say, “Desserts should be nostalgic.” Those cream puffs certainly were.
        At the end of our Tomato Gougere conversation Thane said, “Put a bookmark in the page and one of these days we’ll make it!”

Here’s Lee Bailey’s recipe:

1 ½ cups water
½ cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
6 eggs
2 cups Emmental cheese [I Googled this; it’s Swiss.]
1 cup coarsely chopped drained sun-dried tomatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.
Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan and add the butter. When melted, add salt and flour, all at once. Stir over low heat for a few minutes until the mixture makes a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Off the heat, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Reserve about ½ cup of the cheese and mix the balance, along with the tomatoes, into the dough.
Using heaping tablespoonfuls, make a circle of dough on the cookie sheet, leaving a 2-inch space in the middle. Keep adding tablespoonfuls of dough to the outside of the circle (with each spoonful touching the ones next to it) until all the dough is used. Spread reserved cheese over all.
Bake until golden and puffy, about 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm, pull apart to eat.
Serves 6 to 8.

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

     RACHEL FIELD

July 18, 2021

             When Penny, my sister, came over from Maine to New Hampshire to visit earlier this month, she brought me issues of Maine’s Working Waterfront monthly newspaper. The June issue had a book review by Carl Little of The Field House: A Writer’s Life Lost and Found on an Island in Maine by Robin Clifford Wood. The headline of the review said, “Reviving Rachel Field, whose muse was Cranberry Isles.”
             Rachel Field? Why was that name ringing a bell in my memory? I read on, and another name rang chimes: Hitty! Of course! The title of a children’s book by Rachel Field was Hitty: The First One Hundred Years, and it had been a present from my grandparents on either a Christmas or a birthday. Hitty is a doll with a history. I too had such a doll, Elizabeth, given to my mother by her Great-aunt Elizabeth and eventually passed along to me. In my living room there’s a photo of my mother, age about three, clutching Elizabeth lovingly.
             Is Hitty one of your childhood memories, too?
             A few days after I read the review, I saw on Maine’s WCSH-TV’s “207” program the host, Rob Caldwell, interviewing the author. As the review had told me, Robin Clifford Wood and her husband bought Rachel Field’s “‘long-abandoned wood-frame’ house on Sutton in 1994.” Sutton is “‘a small member of the five Cranberry Isles,’ which Field first visited in 1910 at age 15 and where she purchased a home in 1922. She called the 1898 house ‘The Playhouse.’ The island became Field’s muse and summer retreat; she picked blueberries and swam in the brisk waters (her bathing suit is in the Great Harbor Maritime Museum collection in Northeast Harbor).” Imagine that, your bathing suit in a museum!
             In addition to Hitty, which “won the Newbery Award in 1930 (the first given to a woman),” she wrote novels, one of which won the National Book Award in 1935 and  three of which “were made into feature films”; she also wrote “several popular plays and some memorable poetry” and became “a significant figure in American letters.” Poetry? Suddenly I could picture her name in one of my childhood anthologies. I searched my copies of Silver Pennies and The Girl’s Book of Verse and found Rachel Field’s “Old Gardener Time” in the latter.
             Why, Wood asks at the start of the biography, “has no one told her story?”
             Talking with Rob Caldwell, who asked her this question, Wood replied that the tragedy of Rachel Field’s death brought such sorrow to her family that they didn’t pursue posterity. How, I wondered, did she die? I Googled and learned that she had died of pneumonia after an operation. At age 48. In his review Carl Little writes, “One of the reasons for the oversight: Field never experienced the scandals or the bright spotlight. As Wood notes throughout her biography, Field was kind and was loved by family and friends—no celebrity airs there, although she did hang out with Bette Davis and Vincent Price later in life.”
While closing his interview, Rob Caldwell quoted from one of her poems. I ran to look up the rest of it. Here’s an excerpt:

If once you have slept on an island
           You’ll never be quite the same;
           You may look as you looked the day before
           And go by the same old name,
           You may bustle about in street and shop,
           You may sit at home and sew,
           But you’ll see blue water and wheeling gulls
           Wherever your feet may go .
. .

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

     THE BLISS POINT

July 11, 2021

           Last Saturday I mentioned here that I was going to my sister and niece’s birthday party on the Fourth of July and that instead of a birthday cake they had decided to make a lemon meringue pie.
           Well, when Penny (sister) and Thane (niece) began discussing this with Hamish (grandnephew, age 25), Hamish decided that because it’s strawberry season he would instead make a strawberry cake—and not a simple strawberry shortcake but the elaborate Fraisier Cake he’d seen on the Great British Bake Off. Have you seen that show or made the cake? Although Penny and I had enjoyed those bake offs, we must’ve missed the one with the Fraisier Cake. So this would be a new dessert experience, a first!
           Curious, I Googled, learned that the cake’s name comes from “fraises” (the French word for strawberry), read recipes and learned the filling is called “Diplomat Cream,” and realized the procedure is so complicated I don’t think I would’ve attempted it even in my serious cooking years. As one recipe said, the cake is “Tricky to make but certain to impress.”
I           mpress? Hamish wowed us! At home in upstate New York he spent four hours creating this work of art, then transported it to New Hampshire. That Sunday, Thane’s birthday, I joined him and Penny and Thane at the cabin colony on a nearby lake where Penny and Thane have been celebrating their July birthdays since 2016. In their cabin’s woodsy lakeside yard, at the picnic table Thane and Hamish served up a cookout of hot dogs, hamburgers, and corn, perfect summer fare. Then Hamish brought forth the cake, two layers, one below and one above the cream filling, which was ringed with halved strawberries; on top, strawberries and candles. It was beautiful—and blissfully delicious.            We sang “Happy Birthday.”
           And Hamish didn’t rest on his laurels. Later in the week, at the cabin he made a different cake. Tiramisu! Penny’s birthday party was at my house, on the porch, where Penny and I sat talking, watching birds in the green woods beyond the green lawn, together for the first time in a year, laughing, luxuriating in being waited upon. After chicken-salad sandwiches came the Tiramisu. I had actually had Tiramisu once with Don at a restaurant and had resolved to make this luscious concoction of coffee-soaked ladyfingers and marscapone but never did. The lovely dessert on the summertime porch seemed another first, like Fraisier Cake. More bliss. More singing of “Happy Birthday.”
A few weeks earlier a friend passed along to me the July/August issue of the Martha Stewart Living magazine. I liked the Editor’s Letter, titled “Pure Bliss,” very much. Elizabeth Graves, Editor-in-Chief, wrote, “I remember reading about the ‘bliss point’ in food manufacturing several years back. It’s the goal of striking that perfect balance—not too little, and not too much—of sugar, salt, and fat in a candy or other food item to make it downright delicious. It certainly explains why a Snickers bar (a classic bliss-point example) is, indeed, ‘so satisfying,’ and why Lay’s usually wins the wager that they ‘betcha can’t eat just one’ potato chip. But I think the term itself is better suited to those magical moments in summer when all the right elements come together: life’s natural sweetness, perhaps a little salt air, and the richness of being with loved ones in real life.”
This past week spent with Penny, Thane, and Hamish has been my bliss point. 

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

     ITEMS OF INTEREST

July 3, 2021

            I’m posting this a day early because of a family get-together tomorrow. My apologies for any confusion this causes!

            Here are some items that I found very interesting on our town’s e-bulletin-board recently:
            “Does anyone have a bumper pull cow or horse trailer that we could rent for a day?”
            “[Our] farm stand is open with certified organic lettuce, mixed greens, kale, radishes, and garlic scapes. Make sure to say ‘hello’ to Deuce the piglet in the paddock above the stand.”
            “Rhubarb syrup is back in the farm stand. Try it in lemonade or a summery gin or vodka tonic or just plain seltzer or tonic water. It’s great in prosecco or champagne as well.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard of or read about rhubarb syrup before.
            “Last week’s high winds sent a small stray sailboat, hull only, no rigging, to our summer home. If it is yours, call or email me and describe it in enough detail to establish your claim.”
            “We have a sweet snout-graying black/brown lab with a shock collar but no ID, resting safely at The Foothills [the village café]. Spread the word. Tell the owner to ask any staff member.” Later that day: “Black lab claimed by owner. Rewarded with an Italian Soda. When asked, ‘What flavor?’ the lab replied, ‘Meat.’ All’s well that ends well.”
            From a caretaker of the fairgrounds: “A little humor for you all on this hot humid day. I went down to the fairgrounds to do some trimming. [He saw that the] huge handicap toilet that sits by our maintenance building [had] disappeared. Ugly green 6x6 toilet. Hope United Site Services mistakenly picked up our unit. I’ll let you know the outcome. In the meantime, if you see one in the back of a pickup give me a call.”
            A few days later he reported, without humor, “It appears the handicap unit was stolen. The cost to replace it is well over $1,000 . . . Other fairs have fought this same issue of vandalism and theft and they have closed their gates.”
            There were several responses to this, including “Why would someone steal a port-a-potty?” and “Like so many other things postpandemic, they are in very short supply this season. United, a national chain, is quoting as much as a $475 rental fee for a single weekend around here! So that could be enough of an impetus for this heist.”
            To close on a more uplifting note: During a heat-wave day the Selectmen’s Office posted, “Hello all—[The fire chief] has turned the air conditioner on in the meeting room in the Central Fire Station. Please know you can go to the station to cool down if you need to. Take care out there—stay indoors if possible and keep hydrating.”
            Happy Fourth of July, everyone! I’ll be celebrating at my sister and niece’s Two July Birthdays party—they were both born in July and my niece was actually born ON the Fourth—and my grandnephew will also be there. This year they have decided to make, instead of a cake, a lemon meringue pie!

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

RDM titles collage

Archives Index

2021
October - (December)
A Lull
  (
September 26)
The Queen and Others (
Sept. 19)
Scones and Gardens
(Sept.12)
Best Maine Diner (September 5)
Neighborhood Grocery Store; Neighborhood Café (August 28)
PW Picks of the Week (August 21)
A Goldilocks Morning_and More (August 15)
Desks (August 8)
Sports Bras and Pseudonyms (August 1)
Storybook Foods (July 25)
Rachel Field(July 18)
The Bliss Point  (July 11)
Items of Interest  (July 4)
Motorcycle Week 2021 (June 27)
Seafood, Inland and Seaside  (June 20)
Thrillers to Doughnuts (June 13)
National Trails Day  (June 6)
New Hampshire Language (May 30 )
Books and Squares(May 23)
Gardening in May (May16)
The Familiar (May 9)
Synonyms (May 2)
"Bear!" (April 25)
Blossoms  (April 18)
Lost Kitchen and Found Poetry (April 11)
More About Mud (April 4)

Gilbert and Sullivan (March 28)
St. Patrick's Day 2021 (March 21)
Spring Forward (March 14)
A Blank Page (March 7)
No-Recipe Recipes (February 28)
Libraries and Publishers Weekly (February 21)
Party; Also, Pizza (February 13)
Groundhog Day (February 6)
Jeeps (January 31)
Poems and Paper-Whites (January 24)
Peanut Butter
(January 17)
Last Wednesday  (January 10)
Hoodsies and Animal Crackers  (January 3)

2020
Welcome, 2021 !
 ( December 27) 
Cornwall at Christmastime
 ( December 20) 
 Mount Tripyramid ( December 13) 
New Hampshire Pie ( December 6)   
Frost, Longfellow, and Larkin ( November 29)
Rocking Chairs ( November 22)
Thanksgiving Side Dishes ( November 15)
Election 2000 ( November 8)
Jell-O and Pollyanna ( November 1)
Peyton Place in Maine  (October 25)
Remember the Reader  (October 18)
Sandwich Fairs In Our Past  (October11)
Drought and Doughnuts  (October 4)
Snacks (September 27)
Support Systems, Continuing (September 20)
The 85 Best Things to Do in New England (Sept 13)
Dessert Salads?! (September 6)
Agatha Christie's 100th Anniversary (August 30)
Poutine and A Postscript(August 23)
Pandemic Listening and Reading (August 16)
Mobile Businesses (August 9)
Backyard Wildlife (August 2)
Maine Books (July 26)
Garlic (July 19)
Birthday Cakes (July 12)
A Collection of Quotations  (July 5)
Best of New Hampshire (June 28)
Hair (June 21)
Learning (June 14)
Riding and "Broading" Around (June 7)
Sunday Drives, Again (May 31)
The Passion Pit (May 24)
Schedules & Sustenance (May 17)
Doan Sisters Go to a British Supermarket (April 5)
National Poetry Month 2020 (April 12)
Laconia (May 10)
Results (May 3)
Singing (April 26 )
Dining Out (April 19 )
Red Hill (March 29)
An Island Kitchen (March 22)
Pandemic and Poetry (March 15)
Food for Hikes (March 8)
Social Whirl in February (March 1)
Two Audiobooks and a Magazine(February 23)
Books Sandwiched In   (February 9)
Mailboxes February 2)
Ironing (January 26)
The Cup & Crumb  (January 19)
Catalogs  (January 12)
Audiobook Travels  (January 5)

2019

Christmas Weather  (Dec. 29 )
Christmas in the Village  (Dec. 22)
Marion's Christmas Snowball, Again  (Dec. 15)
Phyliss McGinley and Mrs. York  (December 8)
Portsmouth Thanksgiving.  (December 1)
In the Dentist's Waiting Room, Again.  (Nov. 24)
Louisa and P.G.  (November 17)
The First Snow  (November 10)
Joy of Cooking  (November 3)
Over-the-Hill Celebration  (October 27)
Pumpkin Regatta  (October 20)
Houseplants, New and Old(October 13)
Pumpkin Spice  (October 6)
Wildlife  (Sept 29)
Shakespeare and George  (Sept 22)
Castles and Country Houses  (Sept 15)
New Hampshire Apple Day  (Sept 8)
Maine Woods and Matchmaking  (Sept 1)
Reunions  (August 25)
Sawyer's Dairy Bar  (August 18)
Old Home Week  (August 11)
Summer Scenes  (August 4)
Maine Foods (July 28)
Out of Reach  (July 21)
This and That, Again  (July 14)
The Lot  (July 7)
Pizza, Past and Present (June 30)
Setting Up Housekeeping (June 23)
Latest Listening and Reading (June 16)
Pinkham Notch (June 9)
A Boyhood in the Weirs (June 2)
The Big Bear (May 26)
It's Radio! (May 19)
Archie (May 12)
Department Stores  (May 5)
Spring Is Here!  (April 28)
Dorothy Parker Poem  (April 21)
National Library Week, 2019  (April 14)
National Poetry Month, 2019  (April 7)
Signs of Spring, 2019 (March 31)
Frost Heaves, Again (March 24)
Latest Reading & Listening (March 17)
Car Inspection (March 10)
Snowy Owls & Chicadees (March 3)
Sandwiches Past and Present (February 23)
Our First Date (February 17) 
Ice Fishing Remembered (February 10)
Home Ec (February 3)
A Rockland Restaurant (January 27)
Kingfisher (January 19)
Mills & Factories (January 13)
Squirrels (January 6)

2018

Clothesline Collapse   (December 2)
Thanksgiving 2018
(November 25)  
Bookmarks
(November 18)
A Mouse Milestone (November 11)
Farewell to Our Magee   (November 4)
Sistering (October 28)
Sears (October 21)
Love and Ruin (October 14)
A New Furnace (October 7)
Keene Cuisine September 30)
A Mini-Mini Reunion (September 23)
Support System  (September 16)
Five & Ten  (September 9)
Dining Out Again  (September 2)
Summer Listening (August 26)
Donald K. MacDougall 1936-2018  (August 19)
Update--Don (August 12)
Telling Don (August 5)
Don's Health (July 29)
Seen and Overheard (July 22)
Donald Hall  (July 15)
Fireworks (July 8)
Off Season (July 1)
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (June 24)
2018 Motorcycle Week (June 17)
Springtime Sights (June 10)
Seafood at the Seacoast? (June 3)
Lilacs (May 27)
Going Up Brook, revisited  (May 20)
The Weirs Drive-In Theater  (May 13)
The Green and Yellow Time, (May 6 )
Recipe Box and Notebook (April 29)
Henrietta Snow, Second Printing (April 21)
Miniskirts and Bell-Bottoms (April 14)
The Poor Man's Fertilizer (April 7)
The Galloping Gourmet (April 1)
The Old Country Store (March 25; First  FB entry)

Earlier: :Ruth's Neighborhood
(multiple entries, 2011 - 2017)