Ruth Doan MacDougall: "Ruth's Neighborhood"

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October - December, 2022


December 25, 2022

                 Merry Christmas!

             In one of the concluding paragraphs of The Lilting House, my first novel, published in 1965, I wrote:

                There were Christmas trees in front of the stores, and from the public address system at Woolworth’s came the sound of “Jingle Bell Rock.”



            This song had been the first “rock” holiday song in my experience, and I remember that I chose it in this scene for the jarring, contemporary, commercial, non-traditional sound. Irony.
            A couple of weeks ago on Maine’s WCSH-TV’s “Morning Report,” the Stumper question asked us what Maine’s favorite holiday song is. The choice of answers: (a) “White Christmas”; (b) “Jingle Bell Rock”; (c) “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree”; (d) “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” I thought how amusing it would be if the correct answer was “Jingle Bell Rock.” Nope. The correct answer: “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree.” Well, that did have “rock” in it.
            On another TV program, the most disliked holiday songs were discussed. I guessed that  “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” would win as the worst. Nope.
            “Santa Baby” did. The first time I heard Eartha Kitt crooning the sultry, risqué lyrics—in the 1950s!—I was quite shocked, before I found it funny.
            All this has made me try to decide finally what my favorite holiday song or carol is. In my teens I decided on “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” because it was from a Longfellow poem. But then I changed my mind because Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song” was so beautiful—and delicious, with those chestnuts roasting.             Years later I decided on “White Christmas” because of sentimental childhood memories; my mother had been a Bing Crosby fan and had played the record on the Victrola that was taller than my sister and I were.
            But now I’ve realized that my favorite is “Jingle Bells.” The original; no rock, just plain dashing through the snow. But evidently it’s okay in my mind to jazz it up: soon after I’d had this realization, I saw an entry on December 18, 2014, in my diaries: I wrote that in the evening Don and I had watched the “207” program on WCSH, and it “had a wonderful trio—violin, bass, cello—doing their fast and enthusiastic version of ‘Jingle Bells.’”
            Laughing all the way!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


December18, 2022

                   Thank you very much for your thoughts and memories about Christmas Puddings!
                    This got me pondering other Christmas desserts. I mentioned in my replies that I like fruitcake; I don’t recall that in my childhood it was so scorned and ridiculed. Indeed, later I was startled by Johnny Carson’s joke about how only one fruitcake had ever been made and people just kept passing it along to people. I’d always liked something different, and fruitcake sure was different from other cakes in my (limited) experience. My Grandmother Ruth made it at Christmastime. I looked forward to it, along with a mince pie at our family Christmas dinners (which were usually a roast beef, not a repeat of turkey).
                   But I never made a fruitcake, because Don wasn’t so fond of it as I was. I did once make stollen. I hadn’t heard of stollen until a friend in a neighboring apartment in the Keene Teachers’ College married-students’ barracks made it and gave us a loaf. She was already renowned for her cooking, and I was very impressed. And a couple of years later I made some loaves, for us and for gifts, but I never did again. Why? Although Don didn’t complain, I suspected that stollen was too much like fruitcake.
                   Sweet Christmas treats! Last week on New Hampshire’s WMUR morning news program, there was an item about “New Hampshire’s Favorite Christmas Candy,” and I learned that there are three: candy canes, M&Ms, and Reese’s Minis. Maine liked Hershey Kisses best, and Vermont’s choice was Snickers. None of these except the candy canes seems Christmas-y to me. No Chocolate Santa? In my youth, Christmas candy meant ribbon candy. How beautiful it was! My mother often put real ribbons in my hair; I loved this grosgrain. The beauty of the ribbon candy outdid them—and then there was the delicate munch.
I’ve written here before about the Christmas dessert tradition in Don’s family. As I explained, Don’s mother was a very good cook, with a repertoire of basic New England fare, and she was famous for her pies. But to my surprise Marion didn’t serve pies after her Christmas turkey dinner. She served a glamorous dessert that she called a Snowball. Ambrosia! She was never clear about where she got the recipe; Don’s theory was that his aunt was more experimental, so maybe Aunt Barbara might have seen it in a magazine, didn’t have time to make it herself, and suggested it to Marion.
                   I asked Marion for the recipe but I never did make it. One of Don’s nieces continued the Snowball tradition. I can’t resist giving the recipe here again:

                     1 ½ T. plain gelatin
                     4 T. cold water                   
                     1 c. boiling water                   
                     1 c. orange juice
                     Juice of 2 lemons
                     1 c. sugar

                         Set in refrigerator until wiggly.
                     1 pint heavy cream
                     Fold into gelatin mixture.

                   Remove brown crust from:
                     1 angel cake
                     Break cake into small pieces.

                   Put waxed paper in a bowl.
                   Put in a layer of gelatin and a layer of cake alternately until full.
                   Refrigerate overnight.

                     ½ pint heavy cream
                   Unmold Snowball.
                   Cover with:
                     Whipped cream
                     1 can coconut

                   Decorate with:                                      
                     Red and green maraschino cherries.

                   Thank you, Marion!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


December 11, 2022

                   When Penny, my sister, came here for Thanksgiving, she brought me another treasure she’d discovered on the marvelous used-books table at her supermarket: Mrs. Beeton’s Favorite Recipes, edited by Maggie Black, published in 1972. It is 122 pages long.
                   Before I settled into the kitchen rocking chair with it, to refresh my memory I went to my cookbooks bookcase and hoisted out (it’s heavy!) the copy of Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery and Household Management I’d bought when Don and I were living in England. It was the new edition, published in 1960. And it contains 1,344 pages. Mrs. Beeton covered all possibilities, including, in the Household’s Etiquette section, “Meeting Royalty.”
                   I browsed in that dear old book, finding two bookmarks I’d put in; on them I’d jotted the names of two recipes that had captured my fancy, “Scottish Woodcock” (scrambled eggs on toast garnished with anchovy fillets) and “Anchovy Toast” (chopped anchovies cooked with eggs, shallot, parsley, cayenne pepper; “poured” on toast). Such a treat for us anchovy-lovers! How come I hadn’t made these in decades?
                   Then I turned to the dear new book. The introduction told me: “This book gives you the best of the tried and trusted recipes that have brought lasting fame to the name of Mrs. Beeton. They are all classic dishes, brought up to date by using modern ingredients and suitable quantities for today’s smaller families. ‘Instant’ foods, for example, have been included.” I had a grand time reading the recipes, such as “Toad in the Hole” (I’ve made that, but with the recipe in The Barbara Pym Cookbook), “Steak and Kidney Pie” (Don and I had that maybe twice in British restaurants), and so on, even reading the section about “Offal Dishes,” though I’ll never make “Casserole of Lamb Hearts” or “Boiled Tongue’ and such.
                   Then in the Desserts section, to my delight I came upon two Christmas recipes: “Christmas Pudding (Rich, Boiled)” and “Christmas Pudding (Economical, Boiled, or Steamed).” I’d never made either in my serious cooking years, but what if I had? Would I have splurged or been economical? What the hell, it’s the holiday season! So in my imagination I’m making this “Rich, Boiled Christmas Pudding”:
2 cups currants
3 ½ cups raisins
1/3 cup sweet almonds (skinned and chopped)
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
2 cups brown sugar
1 ½ cups mixed finely chopped candied peel
1 tsp. mixed spice  [I Googled this British mystery and learned it’s considered similar to our pumpkin spice. It contains cinnamon, coriander seed, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, and mace.]
1 tsp. grated nutmeg
5 cups bread crumbs
1 ¼ cups finely chopped or shredded suet
6 eggs
¼ cup beer
Juice of 1 orange
½ cup brandy
1 ¼ cups milk (approx.)

                                      Grease 3 pudding bowls. Prepare the dried fruit; stone and chop the raisins; chop the nuts.
                   Sift the flour, salt, spice, ginger, and nutmeg into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, bread crumbs, suet, fruit, nuts, and candied peel. Beat the eggs well and add to them the beer, orange juice, and brandy; stir this into the dry ingredients, adding enough milk to make the mixture of a soft dropping consistency.  Put the mixture into prepared bowls.
                   Cover and boil steadily for 6-7 hours. Take the puddings out of the water and cover them with a clean dry cloth and, when cold, store in a cool place until needed. When ready to be served, boil the puddings for 1 ½ hr. before serving.
                   3 puddings (each to give 6 medium servings)


                    Happy Holidays!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


December 4, 2022

                   In the beginning pages of The Cheerleader, I described Tom’s opinion of Snowy thus:  

“ . . . he had dismissed her, mistaking shyness for snottiness. Her quick hi’s at the traffic post, sometimes no hi at all but just a self-conscious smile, and her leaving when he was kidding around with Bev, and the way she was so starched and ironed, all her clothes appearing new, the way she looked as if someone touched her she’d get wrinkled, the way she walked with her chin up gave her such an air of hauteur that he figured she wasn’t worth any bother. Tom had no use for snobs.”                 
                  To do research before writing that paragraph, I had asked Don about his first impression of me, and the “starched and ironed” description is exactly what he told me!                 
I was highly amused at the time and I was again while reading a review of The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control: A Path to Peace and Power, by Katherine Morgan Schafler (to be published in January) in the November 7th issue of Publishers Weekly. The review concludes, “Schafler’s thoughtful treatment of perfectionism offers a fresh perspective, and the client anecdotes enlighten, as when she describes a ‘classic’ perfectionist who was ‘so clean and crisp’ that it looked ‘as if she’d purchased all her belongings earlier that morning.’ The result is an insightful guide on how to sweat the details.”
                  Amusements are so very welcome! Here are three more amusing moments:
                  As I’ve mentioned before, the Center Harbor hardware store sits beside the harbor with a view of Lake Winnipesaukee and mountains. That view usually keeps my attention, but the other day I glanced over at the enterprises across the street and the familiar signs made me laugh affectionately, wondering if they startle tourists at first glance. There’s YIKES! (an “American Craft Gallery” gift shop; I’ve read that the owners gave it this name because that’s what they exclaimed when they realized the work involved), GUSTO (an Italian café), and RUBBIN’ BUTTS (a BBQ restaurant).
                  In Reminisce magazine’s December-January issue (the final issue, alas), I was amused by the word from the past in its “Spotlight” column by Natalie Wysong: “Word Wise: BEATNIK. Writer Jack Kerouac initially used the phrase ‘Beat Generation’ to describe a state of world-weariness. Later, he said it conveyed a sense of spiritual enlightenment (‘beatific’). Adding ‘nik’ (a la Sputnik, Russia’s satellite launched in 1957) to the term, which had come to mean hipster, was the work of San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen. The newly invented word conveyed mild derision toward the Bohemian subculture known for rejecting social mores and embracing artistic self-expression. Merriam-Webster added the word in 1958, the year Caen’s column appeared.” The accompanying black-and-white photo is: “Coffee Shop patrons attend to a poet in the Gaslight Café, a beatnik hot spot in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, in 1959.”
                  And in the online version of Publishers Weekly, November 18th, I read: “Finale: Late Conversations with Stephen Sondheim, by D. T. Max . . . Sondheim extols the virtues of a good rhyme (‘like sinking a pool ball into the pocket’).”
Oh, yes. That can happen when writing prose, too. Perfect!


November 27, 2022

                    ’Tis the season when I start paying more attention to weather reports, bracing myself for snowstorms (our first of the season was on November 16th; it turned to sleet, and by now the two or three inches have mostly melted). Weather! I therefore enjoyed two descriptions of weather words that I recently read.
The first was in John Harrigan’s column, “North Country Notebook,” in the November 3rd issue of Meredith News. John lives really north, up in Colebrook. He wrote: “Funny how we measure the seasons. There is the time of first green grass to the time of last green grass, in terms of livestock. There is first ‘kissing frost’ and then first hard frost, and then of course first snow, and then first ‘sticking snow.’ And many months later, snow fleas, and corn snow, and then melting snow, and then Mud Season, and then black flies and then another first green grass. Better than a calendar and what a way to live.”
                    The other was in the “Comments Section” of the December issue of Down East magazine. Jim Kent wrote: “Philip Conkling’s Room with a View column in your October issue, ‘A Climate of Sun and Fun?,’ cited some Maine vocabulary for the diversity of fog. It reminded me of a notebook I kept when I worked long stretches in Scotland, sometimes offshore in the North Sea. There, rain is the defining feature, and it is often horizontal. The hardy Scots, many of whom found their way to Maine, are masters of onomatopoeia. Spitter is small, driving bits of snow and rain; smizzle is a soft, relaxed rain; a bowder is a heavy rainstorm; a plype is a sudden dash of rain; blashy describes rain blown every which way; a dreep is a slow, steady downpour. Sometimes, when I heard these words uttered in Glaswegian or Aberdonian, if I mentally slowed it down by half, it could have passed for the weather report in Machiasport or Stonington.”
                    Also in this issue of Down East is an article about a book Don and I loved, Louise Dickinson Rich’s We Took to the Woods, which I’ve mentioned here before. My parents were also fans; I’d read their copy, and then years later when Don and I were living in England I discovered it at the U.S. Air Force Base library, so I reread it and Don read it for the first time. The title of this article by Kate Ver Ploeg is “Not Out of the Woods: Eighty years after its publication, why we’re still taking to Louise Dickinson Rich’s best-known work.”
Kate Ver Ploeg wrote, “If you’ve heard of We Took to the Woods, then you likely know it as a niche Maine classic, an entertaining account of one woman’s homesteading experience in the Rangeley Lakes wilderness in the years leading up to World War II                     . . . Upon publication, We Took to the Woods was a standout entry in a trendy genre of backwoods memoirs. But unlike many of them, its cheerful, wryly observant narrator remains inspiring company even after 80 years . . .
                    “Rich is a deft narrator, detailing just enough hardship to keep up the tension and liberally dosing her anecdotes with witty observations and self-deprecating humor. She explains the finer points of using a two-man crosscut saw (and that she’s better at it than Ralph [her partner]) and stocking a backcountry larder . . .
                    “But what sets the book apart from many of its forgotten contemporaries is the down-home charm and lyric grace of Rich’s writing. In her spare, evocative descriptions of natural beauty, she can rival the best nature writers.”
                    In the article’s conclusion, Kate Ver Ploeg wrote that Rich’s writing “inspired generations of readers to seek a simpler life.” She inspired Don and me. When we came home from England we planned to take to the New Hampshire woods and live off the land. We went looking and eventually found a few acres of land we wanted. Well, things got complicated; we discovered the realtor was selling land that wasn’t legally for sale; winter was coming on with its winter weather so there wasn’t time to keep searching, no time for Don to build the cabin he’d designed. We ended up living in a basement apartment in Boston while he worked at a teachers’ agency! And the next year we returned to New Hampshire—not to the woods but to an (upstairs) apartment in Dover. Don had decided to make the switch from English teacher and took a job as a high-school librarian while getting his master’s degree in library science at UNH!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


November 20, 2022

                   When Penny (my baby sister) and I recall the Thanksgivings of our youth, we always get laughing about the supper our mother made us after the dinner: buttered bread with some leftover gravy poured over it. How we loved this!
                   Gravy is a very important part of Thanksgiving, isn’t it. One Thanksgiving our mother, busy with the hectic array of other pots and pans on the stove while the turkey “rested” on its platter, asked Penny (age about eleven) to do the gravy. So Penny took over, scraping the fat and yummy bits loose from the bottom of the roasting pan, adding flour, stirring with the wire whisk, adding boiling water from the teakettle, and whisking, whisking. And she made the best gravy ever! Thus she became the gravy-maker in our family.
                   Rebecca Rule, the wonderful author of books about New Hampshire/New England humor, writes the “Ayuh” column in New Hampshire Magazine. In her November column titled “Make Way for Gravy,” she wrote that she got the gravy-making role in her family:
                   “At some point, I became the designated gravy-maker. Don’t know how it happened. Wish it hadn’t. The responsibility was nearly as enormous as the bird. Gravy was the piece de resistance of our Thanksgiving table.
                   “Meat too dry? Pour on the gravy.                   
                   “Potatoes underdone? Mash in the gravy.
                   “Stuffing overseasoned? Drizzle with the gravy.
                   “Uncle Herb gets lippy? Drizzle him too.”

                   There are so many gravy-making methods. Nowadays it seems that stock is almost always used, but at our house a stock wasn’t made until the turkey had been stripped for post-Thanksgiving sandwiches and then our mother created a soup out of the carcass, adding rice and vegetables.
                   Last week, thinking about Thanksgivings in the past and looking forward to this year’s Thanksgiving with Penny and my niece and my niece’s husband, I took a nostalgic dip into our mother’s copy of Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book and my copy of Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking. In the latter I saw an illustration of kitchen utensils that included the old wire whisk we used. Delighted, I read Irma Rombauer’s praise of this particular utensil, wondering when I’d given up my wire whisk for a fashionable balloon whisk. She wrote:
                   “My favorite cooking utensil is shown hanging to the left below. It costs little, it is not an imposing implement, but armed with it you may scoff at lumps and curdles. It is a tremendous timesaver. Vigorously handled it will insure the smoothest of gravies and sauces. I use it in preference to a rotary beater because its action requires only one hand instead of two, and because it will do anything a rotary beater can do and more. It is called a spiral wire whisk or a spiral egg beater.”

                   Happy Thanksgiving!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


November 13, 2022

                   I wrote here recently that I was rereading W. Somerset Maugham’s Cakes and Ale (my parents’ copy, published in 1930). This has brought back the memory of how, when Don and I were living in England from 1964 to 1966, my father mentioned in a letter that my descriptions of exploring the countryside in our MG Midget had reminded him of the bicycle rides in Cakes and Ale to do brass rubbings in churches. He wondered if Don might be interested in trying his hand at brass rubbing.
                   Don certainly was! At a shop in nearby Cambridge we bought a roll of architects’ detail paper, hard black crayons, and a book about monumental brasses. He studied up and we set forth.
                   In Cakes and Ale, the narrator is Willie Ashenden, at this point young and trying to master a newfangled fad, riding a bicycle. So is Rosie Driffield, who is being taught bicycle-riding by her husband, Ted. On a whim, Ted includes Willie in the lessons. Ted tells him and Rosie that as soon as they felt sure of themselves “we must go for rides all over the country. ‘I want to get rubbings of one or two brasses in the neighbourhood,’ he said.”
                   Eventually they do this. Willie recalls: “I do not know if the English climate was better in those days or if it is only an illusion of youth, but I seem to remember that all through that summer the sunny days followed one another in an unbroken line . . . We went far afield, to one church after another, taking rubbings of brasses, knights in armour and ladies in stiff farthingales. Ted Driffield fired me with his own enthusiasm for this naïve pursuit and I rubbed with a passion.”
                   In A Lovely Time Was Had by All, I couldn’t resist having Ib, the narrator, and Jacob, her husband-to-be, meet while rubbing brasses. I never attempted brass rubbing; while Don rubbed, I explored the church and read in a pew. But Ib does:
                   “One wet October afternoon, a Saturday, I was crouching on the tomb of a knight and his lady (1451 A.D.) when the church door opened and I saw Jacob for the first time, although because the church was quite dark I didn’t really see him but only registered a vague impression of horn-rimmed glasses, a windbreaker shiny with rain, and the short haircut that meant he too was an American . . .
                   “ . . . he acknowledged my presence with nothing more than a nod, following the code of not interrupting concentration, and I went back to work on the lady’s headdress. This elaborate piece of apparel was the most important part of the brass, and I had already spoiled two tries at rubbing it. I am not clever with my hands, but I am stubborn.
                   “Then swift movement made me glance up again, annoyed. He was vaulting onto a tomb, where he had taped his paper over the only other brass (more modern: 1484 A. D.) that the church boasted. Amazed, I saw he’d taken off his shoes. American sneakers. He began walking back and forth on the tomb, pressing the paper into the lines of the engraving underneath. This trick had never occurred to me. His socks were so white in the gloom that above them he seemed to disappear, an invisible man in white wool socks treading white detail paper. He knelt and began to rub.”

And as I type this I can look up and see on the walls the three of Don’s brass rubbings that have survived our travels since those days.

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


November 6, 2022

                   On November 6, 1976, we moved into our house in Sandwich, so today is the 46th anniversary of that event!
                  My novel A Lovely Time Was Had by All is a fictionalized version of this move. The narrator, Ib (nickname for Isabel, who is, by an astonishing coincidence, a writer), and her husband, Jacob (a high-school librarian like Don, such a coincidence!), first see the house in July:
                  “The Cape and attached barn stood in a dip, the front yard a wild garden of black-eyed Susans. The house’s white paint was peeling, and the gray barn was sinking to its knees like a dying elephant . . . Over the front door we saw a sign, the flaking hand-lettered name of the farm: Shelterfield.”
                  Our Cape isn’t an old farmhouse, there isn’t a barn, and the place doesn’t have a name. But there were plenty of problems; when the Cape was built in the 1960s, it was hooked onto a shed that became the ell, and the owners hadn’t done much more than camp out in the summers. The house was almost a shell. We spent the summer and early autumn driving back and forth from our Farmington house to work on the Sandwich house, to try to get it livable.
Ib and Jacob make the move in November, too. The moving van arrives at that Cape and Ib observes the scene:
                  “It was early November now; time to kill deer. Although red is definitely not my color, I long ago realized I would have to wear unflattering clothes during deer season if I hoped to stay alive, and today above my Levi’s I was wearing a red workshirt beneath my red nylon jacket . . . Jacob had put on his orange fake-down workvest over his red-and-tan-checked flannel shirt. We were the colors that the autumn leaves had been as they fell from the deciduous trees in Shelterfield’s yard, these oaks and maples a friendly foreground to the dark green pine forest. Now the leaves lay flattened, brown and rust . . .
                  “There was a line of orange-garbed hunters stalking across the neighboring field toward the trail up the mountain behind the house . . .
 “This was, I thought, an idiotic time of year to move, especially into a house whose new chimney had barely been tested and whose kitchen and bathroom had no running water except the toilet . . .
                  “But if we wanted to accomplish our goal, fixing up the house, Jacob’s fresh career, we had to face hardship and move now instead of waiting in Millsted, in our still unsold house, until sensible spring weather. Jacob simply couldn’t get enough things done part-time, driving to and from almost daily as we had been since we bought Shelterfield in July, every curve of the lake road sickeningly known by heart now, a beaten path we wearily flogged. I had found myself writing on a clipboard during these rides and while sitting on a lawn chair in an unobtrusive corner of the downstairs room that would be our bedroom.”
                  Oh, how well I remember writing some of Aunt Pleasantine on my clipboard during those rides and in this house where I’m now writing this on my computer!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


October 23, 2022

                   Maybe because I live in a town named Sandwich, I’m very interested in sandwiches.
                   Last week I was startled to learn on Maine’s WCSH-TV’s “Morning Report” that the week was National Kraut Sandwich Week. Huh? Sauerkraut in a sandwich besides a Reuben? Back in the years when I grew cabbages, I once went through the procedure of making sauerkraut, and we certainly enjoyed it but I never thought to put it (or the store-bought kind) in any sandwich that didn’t contain pastrami or corned beef.
                   This national week was the subject of the Daily Stumper on the “Morning Report”: People assume sauerkraut originated in Germany, but which of these countries did it actually come from?
                        A. Korea
                        B. China
                        C. India
                        D. Spain.

                   The show’s two hosts and the meteorologist all guessed Korea, because of kimchi, and so did I. The answer: China; cabbage fermented in rice wine.
Curious about kraut sandwiches, I Googled and discovered a variety, such as grilled cheese, avocado, turkey, vegetarian.
                   A while ago it was open-face sandwiches that occupied my mind, thanks to Rachael Ray, who told us on her show that Open-Face Hot Turkey Sandwiches had been the most popular item on the Howard Johnson restaurants’ menu. And she promptly made some, starting with roasting the turkey. Ah, open-face turkey sandwiches at Howard Johnson’s and also at home with Thanksgiving leftovers! I couldn’t recall that I’d ever had any other type of open-face sandwich. (“Open-face” is the way we said it in my family, not “open-faced.”) So I  Googled and was reminded about tuna melts and Sloppy Joes and sandwiches involving bruschetta.
And speaking of national sandwich celebrations, earlier this month I learned on TV that October 10th was National Fluffernutter Day. I also saw an episode of Weekends with Yankee (magazine) that included a visit to Somerville, Massachusetts, home of Marshmallow Fluff, and during this I learned that the Fluffernutter term didn’t start being used until 1961. I grew up saying “Peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff sandwich,” which is—forgive me— a mouthful but I’ve never been able to say the shorter “Fluffernutter” instead. Same with PB&J; it’s still a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich to me.                   
                   Another interesting item I learned on TV last week was the history of India Pale Ale. The reporter began by explaining that this is what IPA stands for. I was surprised that the name had to be explained, because again I’d always heard its entire name years ago before it was shortened. Don and I discovered this ale in the 1960s when we were living in England. I liked the name and the taste; it became my favorite. Not until the new popularity of craft breweries did I learn that its flavor was caused by its being so “hoppy.” And not until last week’s history lesson did I learn that British sailors had added the extra hops as a preservative for the long voyage to India.
                   Beer in England! Fans of A. E. Housman, we spent a couple of days in Ludlow, reciting lines from Don’s favorite poem, “Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff”:
                     Oh, I have been to Ludlow fair
                     And left my necktie God knows where,
                     And carried half-way home, or near,
                     Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer . . .

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


October 16, 2022

                   When I took the October issue of Down East magazine out of the mailbox and saw the “Autumn in Camden” photo on the cover, I thought: it’s gotta be Mount Battie, the view from Mount Battie’s summit!
                  In Henrietta Snow, Snowy and Bev meet Puddles in Camden, Maine, in 1988 and drive (not hike!) to the summit:

“The round stone tower with arched entrances was being thoroughly enjoyed by the tourists, but when Bev and Puddles walked toward it, Snowy veered off to a plaque set in a stone. Holding her breath, she read the opening lines of ‘Renascence’ about these mountains and this bay. Beneath the excerpt she read: ‘At the age of eighteen, a frail girl with flaming red hair left her home in early morning to climb her favorite Camden Hills, where, deeply affected by her surroundings, she wrote “Renascence.” The poem received immediate public acclaim and was the inspired beginning of the career of America’s finest lyric poet.’” This was, of course, Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Looking at the Down East cover photo, I recited those deceptively simple first lines:
                  All I could see from where I stood
                  Was three long mountains and a wood;
                  I turned and looked the other way,                                    
                  And saw three islands in a bay.

                   In the Camden article, editor-in-chief Brian Kevin quotes a line from Edna’s “Death of Autumn” poem: “Oh, Autumn! Autumn!—What is the Spring to me?” He concludes the article: “From the harbors to the hilltops to the rolling pastures, from the vibrant hues of the early season to the rustier tones of its waning days, there is a romance to autumn in the Camden Hills that no place in New England can match.”
                   A fine coincidence: my dear friend Sandy has sent me Christoph Irmscher’s review of The Shores of Bohemia by John Taylor Williams, “a chronique scandaleuse of bad or baddish behavior on the Cape [Cape Cod] during the first half of the 20th century. For it seems that burning the candle at both ends [Edna’s phrase in her ‘First Fig’ poem] was what everyone—writers, artists, architects and activists—did back then, with a vengeance . . . Yet what’s ultimately more interesting than how much these writers and artists partied is how much they got done anyway.” Edna was there, whooping it up.                   
                   In my copy of Celia Thaxter’s Island Garden Daybook, we’re now in her October gardening days on Maine’s Appledore Island amongst the Isles of Shoals:

Round and round the garden rushed a sudden blast,
   Crying, “Autumn! Autumn!” shuddering as it passed.
Dry poppy-head and larkspur-spike shrill whistled in the wind,
   Together whispering, “Autumn! and Winter is behind!”

                   In the September-October issue of Yankee magazine there’s a description of a fair in Maine’s Blue Hill, a town Don and I drove through often. I wish we’d timed our trips to include the Blue Hill Fair: “This ‘down to earth’ fair was the model for the one in E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, and to this day a special tent holds all the animals from the book (which was written in nearby Brooklin). The rides, farm exhibits, and fair foods that Charlotte and Wilbur’s human friends enjoyed are here, along with sheepdog trials that draw competitors from all over.”
                   Thinking about Edna, Celia, and Charlotte in the autumn!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


October 9, 2022

                It’s Columbus Day Weekend, and in Center Sandwich, NH, that means it’s Sandwich Fair Weekend!
              This year the fair’s brochure says, “The officers and directors of the Sandwich Fair Association extend a warm invitation to visit the 111th Sandwich Fair this Columbus Day Weekend. Our family-friendly environment focuses on New Hampshire’s agricultural roots, particularly the importance of youth involvement in 4-H. Whether you’re here for the animals, exhibits, competitions, rides, games, or delicious fair food, the Sandwich Fair has something for everyone to enjoy!”
              As I’ve mentioned before, when Penny and I were kids our father took us to the Sandwich Fair, and after Don and I moved here in 1976 we went almost every year.  I haven’t gone these past four years, but as I looked at the brochure’s list of events I imagined which ones I’d choose

Antique Auto Show (would there be a 1949 cream-colored Chevy convertible, like Don’s—and like Tom’s in The Cheerleader?)
4-H Dog Show
Hand Milking Demonstration (I was born on a farm but we moved to town when I was three years old, so I don’t remember seeing my father milking cows, but I did see him doing so once at a friend’
s farm, even squirting some milk to a waiting cat)

Woodsmen’s Field Day
The Grand Street Parade (I marched—or hiked—in this parade with the Sandwich Over-the-Hill Hikers)
Oxen and Steer Matched Trained Pairs (my father had a yoke of oxen on the farm and he remembered them fondly; seeing oxen here was the main reason, I think, that he came to the fair)
Sheep Shearing Demonstration

Ox Pulling
Women’s Skillet Toss (! This is a new-ish event, one I haven’t seen)
Gentlemen’s Keg Toss (!! Ditto)

              On the brochure’s map of the fairgrounds I noticed an H for the helicopter rides. I remembered how on one Sandwich Fair Weekend afternoon Don and I had unthinkingly gone for a little hike up through the woods behind our house. In an open spot we sat down on a ledge to relax in the sunny silence and enjoy the view of the autumn mountains—and then came the sight of a helicopter taking off from the fairground and the sound of its roaring right over us. We waved.

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


October 2, 2022

              Last October when I wrote about the 64th reunion of the Laconia High School Class of 1957, our first reunion since our 50th, I concluded:

"The buffet supper featured barbecued salmon, hamburgers, hot dogs. (I chose salmon.) And big platters of cookies. We had a moment of silence for classmates not with us. And Ray [our classmate and host] asked if we’d like to have another reunion here next year. We shouted, ‘Yes!’ and there was rueful joking about time being short.
             I thought of a scene in A Gunthwaite Girl. Snowy is at Hooper’s; she looks at the friends sitting with her in a booth and looks out the window at her hometown . . . ‘a great fondness for it all welled up in her. More than fondness. Yes, love.’”

This year we did have another reunion! On September 24, our 65th reunion was held at the same place, a Laconia convention center owned by Ray. As before, it started at 3 p.m., with dinner at 5, so that we senior citizens wouldn’t have to worry about driving after dark.
              Last year I wrote,
“The convention center was built in the Lakeport section of Laconia on the site of one of the two buildings of Scott & Williams, which had made knitting machinery. My father worked at the main building in Laconia but he’d worked in Lakeport, too. He became the foreman of the heat-treating department . . . As I entered I was reminded of the scene in Henrietta Snow when Snowy and Bev enter the former Trask’s building for their 40th reunion: ‘Snowy looked around, trying to imagine her father working here, day after day, week after week.’”

             This year fourteen classmates came, out of our class of 160. A few brought spouses. We mostly all recognized each other with our gray or white hair; two of us cheerleaders had canes (I was one of them!). Much talk and much laughter.  I remembered our 50th reunion booklet, for which I was asked to do an introduction. I wrote about the last senior-year issue of our school newspaper, the Lakonian, which I’d edited. I quoted that issue’s reminiscences about our senior year and concluded the introduction with: “Sally Smith created the captivating cartoons for the Lakonian our senior year, and for this issue she drew a graduate in cap and gown, clutching a diploma and rushing toward an arrow sign that read: The World. That’s what we did, we of the unique Class of 1957; we all went our various ways in the world, but now, fifty years later, we can turn the arrow around, point it backward, and label it: Do You Remember?”
              So at our tables we reminisced and laughed, and we also updated each other about our present-day doings. From the buffet I again chose salmon, and the array of cookies included Red Velvet! We applauded Ray, who announced we’d have our 66th here next year. Two Sandwich friends had brought me to Laconia, and they picked me up after the dinner. On our way home, I remarked happily on the Lakes Region scenery. And they then took a back-roads detour up-up-up to an outlook entirely new to me: a vast view of Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake, and Lake Waukewan below the mountain ranges. I’d stopped hiking several years ago, but up there the day ended with another reunion, my reunion with hiking, summits, view

Note from Ruth:  "Below are a few photos taken at the reunion, two by me, one by Carol of me. Carol is the redhead in one of the photos, sitting with another cheerleader and another Ruth, Ruthie Brunelle. When we were JVs, Carol and I were co-captains. Memories!)

RDM friends at reunion

RDM at reunion

RDM friends at reunion

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

RDM titles collage



Pete   (March 31)
Road Trip  (March 24)
Reviews and Remarks (March 10)
Girl Scouts  (March 3)
Board, Not Boring (February 25)
Postholing & Forest Bathing (Feb 18)
Chocolate (February11)
PW's Spring Previews (February 4)
From Pies to Frost (January 28)
An Island Garden (January 21)
More Sandwich Board (January 14) Nancy (January 7)



Spotted Dick (December 31)
Dashing Through the Cookies (December 24)
Chocorua (December 17)
Senior Christmas Dinner (December 10)
The Sandwich Board (December 3)
Nostalgia (November 26)
Socks, Relaxation, and Cakes (November 19)
Holiday Gift Books (November 12)
Maine (November 5)
Cafeteria Food; Fast Food (Oct 29)
Happy 100th Birthday, Dear LHS! (Oct. 22)
Giraffes, Etc. (October 15)
A Monday Trip (October 8)
Laconia High School, Etc. (October 1) Christmas Romance (September 24)
National Potato Month (September 17)
Globe (September 10)
Preserving With Penny (Sept 3)
Psychogeography (August 27)
Bayswater Books (August 20)
"Wild Girls" (August 13)
Kitchens (August 6)
Old Home Week (July 30)
The Middle Miles (July 23)
Bears, Horses, and Pies
(July 16)
Fourth of July 2023
(July 9)
Lucy and Willa
(July 2)
Frappes, Etc. (June 25)
Still Springtime
(June 18)
Wildefires to Dougnnts
(June 11)
In the Bedroom
(June 4)
Dried Blueberries
(May 28)
More Items of Interest
(May 21)
F(ire Towers
(May 14)
Anne, Emily, and L.M.
(May 7)
Earthquake, Laughter, and Cookbooks (Apr30)
Springtime and Poems
(April 23)
Cookbooks and Poems
 (April 16)
 Items and Poems  (April 9)
Two Pies  (April 2)
Audiobooks (March 26)
The Cheeleader
's 50th Anniversary
(Mch 19)
The Lot, Revisited
(March 12)
(March 5)
Parking and Other Subjects (February 26)
Concord (February 19)
Bird Food and Superbowl Food (February 12)
The Cold Snap (February 5)
Laughter and Lorna (January 29)
Tea and Digestive Biscuits (January 22)
Ducks, Mornings, & Wonders (January 15)
Snowflakes (January 8)
A New Year's Resolution  (January 1)



Jingle Bells    (December 25)
Fruitcake, Ribbon Candy &Snowball
.(Dec. 18)
Christmas Pudding (December 11)
Amusements (December 4)
Weather and Woods  (November 27)
Gravy (November 20)
Brass Rubbing (November 13)
Moving Day (November 6)
Sandwiches and Beer (October 23)
Edna, Celia, and Charlotte (Octobert 16)
Sandwich Fair Weekend (October 9)
More Reuntions (October 2)

A Pie and a Sandwich (September 25)
Evesham (September 18)
Chawton (September 11)
Winter's Wisdom? (September 4)
Vanity Plates (August 28) 2022 Golden Circle Luncheon (August 21)
Agatha and Annie (August 14)
National Dog Month (August 7)
The Chef's Triangle (July 31)
Librarians and Libraries (July 24)
Clothes and Cakes (July 17)
Porch Reading (July 10)
Cheesy! (July 3)

The Summer Book (June 23)
Bears & Goats & Motorcycles ...(June 19)
Tuna Fish (June 12)
Laconia (June 5)
More Publishers Weekly Reviews (May 22)
Shopping, Small and Big  (May 15)
Ponds  (May 8)
The Lakes Region (May 1)
TV for Early Birds; An April Poem    (April 24)
Family; Food; Fold-out Sofas (April 17)
Solitary Eaters (April 9)
National Poetry Month (April 3)
Special Places—Popular Cakes(March 27) Neighborhood Parks ( (March 20)
More About Potatoes—and Maine (March 13)
Potatoes (March 6)
Spring Tease (February 27)
Pillows (February 20)
Our Song (February 13)
Undies (February 6)
Laughter  (January 28/30)
A Burns Night  (January 23)
From Keats to Spaghetta Sauce (January 16)
Chowder Recipes  (January 9)
Cheeses and Chowders  (January 2)



The Roaring Twenties (December 26
Christmas Traditions (December 19)
Trail Cameras (December 12)
Cars and Trucks(December 5)
Return? (November 28)
Lipstick (November 20)
Tricks of the Trade (November 12)
A New Dictionary Word (November 7)
A 50th Reunion (October 31) "
Sides to Middle" Again
(October 23)
Pantries and Anchovies (October 1i7)
Fairs and Festivals (October 10)
Reunions  (October 3) 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)


Welcome, 2021December 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
Dessert Salads?! (September 6)
Agatha Christie's 100th Anniversary (August 3
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
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)


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)


Clothesline Collapse   (December 2)
Thanksgiving 2018
(November 25)  
(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)