31 August 2010

31 August - Caligula; Sweet Roman Toast

Born on this day in 12 AD, Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus - aka "Caligula" - a really nasty piece of work, of whom the least said, the better.  However, if you want to read Suetonius's take on the man (and the other eleven Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Domitian), you can find it here.  Suetonius was very definitely NOT a fan of "Little Boots".

There are a lot of good websites with recipes from the Ancient Romans, such as Apicius - De Re Coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking), which you can find here at one of my favorite websites, The Food Timeline.  Most of the recipes contain ingredients not readily found in the home pantry, but if you want to do a reasonable facsimile of a Roman meal, the recipes also have substitutes that you can either find at the local grocery or ethnic store, or make yourself.

"Hmmm... what shall we have for dinner tonight?"
One of the easier recipes is this one from the 'Latin III' part of the Distance Learning website, which you can access here.  The page is titled "Roman Cookbook" and has menus and recipes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd courses, plus a delightful page of Et ceteras.

"SWEET ROMAN TOAST"  (from the Secundae Mensae)
"White bread, milk, olive oil or butter, liquid honey."
"Remove crusts from the bread and slice it.  Dip in milk and saute in olive oil or butter.  Sprinkle honey on top and serve."

Sounds a lot like 'French Toast' (minus the eggs).  I guess if you don't want to cut the crusts off your loaf of already sliced sandwich bread, you could get a full loaf of white bread from the bakery and proceed from there.  The bakery bread would probably hold up better during the milk dipping.

The Etc. page of the website has a page of phrases translated into Latin, including "Things to Say While Barbecuing", like "Contemplare carunculas illas!" ("Take a look at those steaks!") and "Culices pessimi hac nocte sunt!" ("The mosquitoes are murder tonight!")

"Mea culpa" would be used, of course, if you burned the steaks. 

30 August 2010

30 August - Saint Fiacre; herbal receipts

This is the feast day of Saint Fiacre, a 7th century Irish monk, whose holiness and skills in healing made him so popular, that he had to flee Ireland for France in order to find the desired isolation for his studies.

He established his hermitage near Breuil, with an oratory and a hospice, and devoted his days to prayers and his gardens: vegetables and fruits for feeding the poor, herbs and flowers for curing and cheering the sick.

He is the patron of gardeners, herbalists, and cab drivers, and is invoked against a whole host of really nasty ailments -  hemorrhoids, syphilis and venereal disease in general, fistula, and piles.  You can see where the concentration is here.

Let's concentrate on the gardens, which hopefully are still producing.  Check online or at garden shops for statues of Saint Fiacre, which will keep company in your garden very nicely.


Herbs and flowers have been used for centuries to heal and comfort the ill and the ill-tempered.  Below is a 'receipt' (as 'recipe' was sometimes spelled) for a cordial which "is good to drive out any Infection from the heart, and to comfort the Spirits", taken from a 17th century book called

Stored with all manner of RARE RECEIPTS
For Preserving, Candying and Cookery.
Very Pleasant and Beneficial to all Ingenious Persons of the FEMALE SEX.
The Second EDITION.
LONDON. Printed for Richard Lowndes at the White Lion in Duck-Lane, near West-Smithfield, 1672." 

With four quarts of white wine, it would certainly comfort my spirits.

Unfortunately, not all of the nostrums sound good.  Here is a receipt for sufferers of consumption: 
Yep.  The five quarts of Wine and two quarts of Ale aside, I think if I was consumptive, I'd blame it on vampires and start wearing a necklace of garlic bulbs.  A Peck of smashed Snails (and their Shells) and a Pint of Earth-worms just aren't my cup of cordial. 


29 August 2010

29 August - Beheading of John the Baptist; artichokes

Most saints are celebrated on the day of their 'birthday into heaven', i.e. the day they die.  John the Baptist has two feast days - his birth (June 24)  and his death.  Today we honor the martyrdom of the Forerunner.

Everyone knows the story: John was put in prison for preaching against the adulterous relationship of Herod and his sister-in-law Herodias.  At a banquet, the daughter of Herodias (named Salome, according to Josephus) so pleased Herod with her dancing that he promised her anything she wished.  After consulting with her mother, she wished for the head of John on a platter.  And so it was done.

Artists have had a field day with this story, as evidenced by their - ahem - depictions of a pretty much unclothed Salome, not to mention her rather nasty occupation with the head.  Really.  Some of those images make you wonder about the psychological profiles of the artists.

In any case, can you see that story speaking to Modern Woman?  Let's try an update.

We all know that John was put in prison, because the law of the land forbade anyone, especially religious people, from having or speaking their opinions of anyone's chosen lifestyle.  Morals are in the eye of the beholder, after all, and natural law has nothing to do with civil law. People have a right to their own lifestyle choices, and besides, it wasn't immoral, because Herod and Herodias were in Love.

Herodias hated John for calling her names, and made sure that one of the many judges in her pocket condemned him for slander, but Herod wouldn't do more than keep him in prison - the law of the land not allowing execution for one's opinions.  Not yet.

One night, Herod and Herodias invited a lot of friends to one of those Executive Mansion dinner parties in honor of Herod's birthday - you know, with a glittering guest list of actors, talk-show celebrities, athletic stars, movie moguls, highly placed politicians, Wall Street wizards, and the like, all being entertained with cuisine from top chefs and music from the latest discovery in street bands.

All that good food and liquor (and maybe a few under-the-table political deals) had made Herod feel pretty mellow.  Enter Salome, his wife's daughter.

She was a pretty little thing, who had gone to the Jerusalem High School for the Performing Arts, and her mom thought that maybe she could help entertain the guests by showing them what she learned in school. (Herod and the Mrs. were great patrons of the arts, you know.)

So she obliged, and while a bunch of unenlightened bobos from Flyover Country might consider it a lascivious dance, it was nothing of the kind!  Nope.  It was her Expression of Man's Inhumanity to Woman, in which the Freedom we crave is juxtaposed against a backdrop of War and Cruelty and Female Problems, not the least of which are Arrogant White Men.

Herod, as a great Patron of the Arts and an Enlightened Intellectual, was so impressed by her Expression of Female Problems, that he swore to give her whatever her little heart (thrust prominently into his line of sight) desired (hoping with Typical Male Arrogance that she would ask for something like his Crown Jewels. She didn't).

After a consultation with the CEO of the firm, she asked for the head of John the Baptist, in a charger.

Well, poor Herod!  Not only is his reputation as a Connoisseur of the Arts at stake, but he's been scattering promises of preferment and ambassadorships and lucrative defense contracts right and left, and if he doesn't make good on his bargain with Salome, he can expect a marked lack of enthusiasm on the part of those who keep him in office.  Already, there are rumblings in the air of a new messiah - and his guests will eat just as happily at that guy's table as here.

So, the order goes out, and Salome comes in with John's head on a charger.  That's what happens when you criticize someone's lifestyle choice as immoral.

Now, Salome's Expressionistic Dance included (according to Oscar Wilde) the peeling off of Seven Veils.  To honor John the Baptist, let us unveil ARTICHOKES.

First, prepare your artichokes - wash, drain, cut off the stem to 1" stub, then trim (with kitchen shears) the thorny end of each leaf (or not.  I don't bother.  Just be careful not to grab the leaf by the thorny end).

Cook in boiling salted water until tender, anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes, depending on the size and number of the artichokes.  Alternately, you could steam them in a basket over boiling water until tender.  They are ready when a leaf can be pulled off easily.

Serve with a dish of dressing, such as melted butter, mayonnaise, French Dressing, Hollandaise, etc.

You should already know how to eat artichokes, but if not:

Grab the end of each leaf (you'll learn to miss the thorny part, believe me) and pull it off of the head.  Dip the fleshy end into sauce, present the sauced, fleshy end to your mouth, take it between your teeth, and gently scrape the fleshy part off of the leaf.  Discard the leaf.


Once you have removed all of the leaves that can be eaten, there remains the choke (a fuzzy covering) and the heart (your goal).

Scrape off the fuzzy choke with a spoon. What remains is the heart, which can be cut up, dipped in sauce, and eaten.

It is a sensual delight, and one which must be savored.  There is no hurrying through artichokes.

28 August 2010

28 August - St. Augustine; Shrimp Pilau; Fabada

 Feast of Saint Augustine (354 - 430), Bishop of Hippo and Doctor of the Church

Voted most misquoted by politicians everywhere.  Bad laws can be disobeyed.  Children can be aborted.  Because, you know, St. Augustine said so.

Actually, he didn't, but that's never stopped anyone from invoking his patronage for their causes.

The image above comes from a legend, in which Augustine, pacing back and forth at the seashore as he ponders the mystery of the Trinity, comes upon a small child, who dips water from the sea and carries it back to pour into a hole in the sand.

When asked, the child said, "I'm going to empty the sea into the hole I dug in the sand."

"That's impossible!" said Augustine.  "You'll never be able to fit the entire sea in that little hole!"

 "And you will never be able to contain the infinity of God within the confines of your mind," said the child, and vanished.

The Old Schoolhouse.  Look closely, and you can see the chain which surrounds the house, attached to the large anchor, which is supposed to keep the schoolhouse from getting underway in a hurricane.
This is also the titular holiday of the City of St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States, founded in 1565 as San Agustin by the Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles.


1/4 cup fat salt pork, diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 lb shrimps, cooked
1 cup rice, cooked and hot
And the usual salt and pepper to taste

Fry the salt pork until well browned and crisp.  Remove pork, add onion and pepper to the fat, and cook until soft.  Stir in pork, shrimp, and rice; season with salt and pepper. Let simmer about 10 minutes.  You could also brown sliced okra in a little butter and add about 5 minutes before the Pilau is done.

Of course, when Admiral Menendez was there, the cuisine was that of shipboard - hardtack, chickpeas, olive oil, salt cod - any or all of which could have turned bad during the cruise.  Perhaps he thought longingly back to the cuisine of his home in the Asturias, like FABADA:

1 lb dried fava beans or navy beans, soaked overnight
1 onion, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lb chorizo, large dice
1/2 lb blood sausage, large dice
1/2 lb ham, large dice or 1 smoked ham hock
1/4 lb bacon, large dice
1 teaspoon ground saffron or a pinch of saffron threads

Bring beans and fresh cold water (about 6 cups) to a rolling boil.  Drain, cover with fresh cold water, and again bring to a boil.  Add onion and oil.  When water is at a full rolling boil, add meats and saffron.  Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours, or until beans are tender, adding water as necessary to keep beans and meat covered. When cooked, season to taste. Remove ham hock (if used), allow it to cool so that it can be handled, and shred meat into pot.  Then enjoy.

27 August 2010

27 August - Saint Monica and hummingbirds

Feast of Saint Monica, patroness of difficult marriages and disappointing children.

Of her own three children, the eldest was a really difficult son named Augustine (whose feast is tomorrow).  She could also be the patron of the truly persistent, as she spent 17 years trying to get Augustine on the straight and narrow path.  Her tears and prayers finally paid off.

(You know that she must have said, at least once, "That boy!  He's going to drive me to drink!  I knew he was trouble from the moment I started carrying him!")  There is more on the persistent saint here and here.

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, hummingbirds migrate south today.  A lot of Yankees migrate with them.  Would that I could.

For those hummingbirds coming from the north on their long journey to warmer climes, make sure your feeder still has food.  An easy recipe is 1 part white granulated sugar to 4 parts water (it can be more, up to 1 part sugar to 1 part water, but the lesser amount of sugar is closer to the nectar they get from flowers).

Boil the water, then measure out the amount needed into a saucepan; add sugar and stir.  When sugar is dissolved, cool completely, then fill the feeder (any extra can be kept in the refrigerator, but not longer than two weeks).  And note: NO DYE OR FOOD COLORING!  NO HONEY!  NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS!  Sugar and water are all that is needed.

Read more here.  And if you want to know when to hang out your feeder again in the spring, check out the map at Hummingbirds.net.  (Here in the smallest state, it is about the beginning of April).

26 August 2010

26 August - 19th Amendment

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

Today in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was formally adopted after receiving the requisite number of state ratifications (in this case, 36) on August 18.  

Ladies!  It was a long and tough battle to get this.  Don't treat it lightly!

I remember reading some of the arguments against woman's suffrage, including that we would invariably vote for the most handsome candidate.  Well, that hasn't happened, has it?  No indeed!  Trust me.  Women, just like men, look at the issues, study the positions of each candidate, and vote according to their conscience.  Don't they?

Of course, the first president elected after women got the vote was handsome Warren Harding - he of the Teapot Dome (and other scandals) - which was held up as a good reason NOT to let women vote.

Well, if nothing else, let us celebrate the right of women to make asses of themselves right beside men in the voting booth.

On a happier note, today is my sister's birthday:

"Whom the angels named Lenore..."
(I left off the candles, because I don't think she'd want me to show how many there would be.  Let's just say that the fire department is on stand-by.)
Happy Birthday, sis!  And many more!

25 August 2010

25 August - Saint Louis IX, Bret Harte, and Hangtown Fry

Today is the memorial of Saint Louis IX, King of France (1214 - 1270), and patron of (among other things) the 18th California mission, San Luis Rey de Francia (1798), seen here in 1856. 

It is also the birthday of Bret Harte (1836), author of tales set in the era of the California gold mining camps, such as "The Luck of Roaring Camp":

"There was a commotion in Roaring Camp.  It could not have been a fight, for in 1850 that was not novel enough to have called together the entire settlement.  The ditches and claims were not only deserted, but "Tuttle's grocery" had contributed its gamblers, who, it will be remembered, calmly continued their game the day that French Pete and Kanaka Joe shot each other to death over the bar in the front room."

You can read the rest of it, and his other tales of mining life here.  As you read "The Luck of Roaring Camp", "The Outcasts of Poker Flat", and "Tennessee's Partner", see if you recognize them in the movie "Four of the Apocalypse" (1975) and the movie version of the musical "Paint Your Wagon" (1969).

And what better dinner than that lovely concoction called "HANGTOWN FRY" (a pox on those who call it an abomination!) accompanied by heavenly sourdough bread.

Simply put, Hangtown Fry is an omelet with oysters and bacon. Lots of other things can be added - diced onions and peppers, grated cheese, herbs - but the basic recipe is one like this:

6 strips of bacon
6-8 oysters
6 eggs
Flour and coarse cracker crumbs (saltines do nicely)
Salt and pepper

Fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and crumble.
Beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water.  Dust oysters lightly with flour, dip into the egg mixture, then roll them in the cracker crumbs. Allow them to dry slightly. Beat the remaining eggs with another tablespoon of water, add the dipping egg mixture to them with salt and pepper to taste.

Fry the oysters quickly in the hot bacon drippings (you can add butter if not enough drippings).  Half a minute to one minute per side should be enough to brown them.  When golden brown, pour the beaten egg mixture over them, sprinkle on the crumbled bacon, and cook as you would an omelet.

When it is cooked, but not dry, roll the omelet onto a hot platter, and garnish as you wish. This is supposed to serve 6, but 3 really hungry people can demolish it.

24 August 2010

24 August - Saint Bartholomew, Vesuvius

As Bartholomew's Day, so the whole autumn.
If it rains on Bartholomew's Day, it will rain the forty days after.
Thunderstorms after Bartholomew's Day are more violent.  (More violent than what, do you ask?  More violent than before, perhaps?)
Today we celebrate - you guessed it - Saint Bartholomew the Apostle, patron of tanners, butchers, shoemakers, and bookbinders, among other things.  He was martyred for his faith by being flayed alive, and is often shown holding a knife and his flayed skin, as in the painting of "The Last Judgment" in the Sistine Chapel (above) [the face on the flayed skin is supposed to be that of Michelangelo].

FRUIT LEATHER would be a good thing to make today.  There are several recipes available online - some good, and some which seem to have left out several key steps. Basically, it is ripe fruit mashed or pureed to a pulp, sweetened if necessary, then spooned onto a flat surface - a plate or cookie sheet (lined with wax paper or foil if you want your life to be easier) - then placed in the sun or in a slow oven to thicken and dry. Once that is done, you can sprinkle on powdered sugar, cut the whole mass into strips, roll them up, and store them in something airtight.  And eat them.

Today is traditionally the day that, in the year 79, Mount Vesuvius (having given fair warning for the previous couple of weeks) erupted - spectacularly - burying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  You can read Pliny the Younger's eyewitness account of it here.  

20 August 2010

20 August - Hawaii Day (celebrated)

Hawaii was admitted to the Union as the 50th state on August 21, 1959, and its day is celebrated on the third Friday in August.  This year, that is today.

So fire up the tiki torches, wear a bunch of leis, put on the Don Ho records, and have a luau.

The traditional luau foods include kalua pig, poi, poke (and other delicacies of the sea), and the fresh fruits of the islands - pineapple, coconut, papaya.  Recipes for kalua pork and other lovely luau dishes can be found here, along with decorating ideas.  There is nothing like fresh pineapple; cutting a pineapple is not as hard as you think.

To accompany the pork, you might try FRIED BANANAS

6 green-tipped bananas
Salt and pepper
fresh lemon juice
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

Cut bananas into halves crosswise and lengthwise.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Beat egg with water; dip banana pieces into egg mixture, then into bread crumbs.  Fry in deep fat until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

And of course, there must be those umbrella drinks - colorful concoctions dripping with fruit pieces, and topped with a little paper umbrella.  Mai Tai's are always a favorite (so what if they are Tahitian), Zombies in those ceramic Tiki Mugs,  spectacular Flaming Volcanos, and my favorite

Blue Hawaii   

16 August 2010

16 August - Saint Roch, Spotted Dog

A santo or bulto of Saint Roch from Puerto Rico
Today is the celebration of Saint Roch, patron of dogs, and invoked against pestilence and plague, and skin problems.  And what could be more appropriate for today than Spotted Dog?

This is a suet-based steamed pudding, and not for the faint of heart.  There are recipes online which make this dessert lighter in calories,  so if your heart misgives you, try one of them instead.

First make your dough.  Mix together 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2 cups dry stale bread crumbs, and 1/4 cup of sugar.

To this mixture add 1 cup finely ground or chopped suet, and mix well.

Then mix in 1 egg and (here is the tricky part) SUFFICIENT milk to make a workable dough.  This could be anything between 1/2 and 1 cup of milk.  I add it about 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough is reasonably stiff and can be rolled into shape.

Now, blend 1-1/2 cups each of currents,  sultana raisins, and white raisins into the dough (you can also roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately 8" x 12", and spread it with the fruit mixture.  Moisten the edges with a little water and roll it up, starting from the short end, to form a log).  I prefer to add the raisins directly to the dough, as this is what gives it the 'spotted' look.

You can soak the fruit in a few tablespoons of brandy or whiskey for about half an hour (or more) for a little added decadent flavor.  Add them (liquor and all) to the dough before stirring in the milk.

Now, roll the mixture into a sausage shape on a well-floured, damp cloth (or roll the sausage shape on waxed paper, so that the paper covers it  loosely, fold the paper ends under, and then roll up the wax-paper covered log in a damp cloth).  Securely tie the ends of the cloth closed with string.  Note: if boiling the pudding, do not use wax paper.

To cook by boiling: After tying the ends of the cloth, make a little handle out of another piece of string, securing each end to the tied ends.  Use this handle to carefully lower the pudding into boiling water.  There should be sufficient water in the pot so that the pudding can float.  Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid, and check to make sure the water doesn't boil away during cooking time, approximately 2 to 2-1/2 hours.  Remove the package from the pot using the string handle, allow the cloth to dry slightly, then unroll pudding.  Slice and serve warm with cream or a dessert sauce.

To cook by steaming (my preference): Place package in steamer, on top of boiling water, cover pot, and steam for 2 to 2-1/2 hours.  Check occasionally to make sure there is sufficient boiling water.

To bake: wrap in foil instead of wax paper or floured cloth, and bake in a 400 degree F. oven for 1-1/2 hours.

And what is left after that but to enjoy?

15 August 2010

15 August - Assumption, herbs, and chocolate

Today we celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven, which you can read more about here.  This painting, attributed to Bartolome Murillo, is one of the most famous of this subject. 

"On St. Mary's Day, sunshine brings much good wine."
Which is especially enjoyed in my backyard on a lazy August day.  And the weather report says that tomorrow will be sunny and comfortable, with maybe showers late at night.  Hooray!  Looking forward to much good wine!

Today is the traditional day for blessing the herbs.   
Herbs, to my way of thinking, are a blessing in themselves, especially the herb of grace, Basil.  Not only does it add flavor to cooked dishes, the plants, set out next to tomatoes, protect those beautiful red globes from pests.

Tomatoes and basil together, ready to be picked - sliced tomatoes, still warm from the sun, drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of chopped basil, a glass of good wine standing by...  How much better can an afternoon be?

But Wait!  There's More!

On this day in 1502, Columbus encountered cacao beans, a happy encounter for the chocoholics among us.  Let us indulge in chocolate in all its myriad lovely forms, in honor of those who first discovered the heavenly properties of cacao beans (pictured here), and those who (in 1502) discovered it from the discoverers.   

 I, myself, am very fond of the really, really DARK stuff, just barely sweet enough to eat.

This is a glorious day, all around!

10 August 2010

10 August - Saint Lawrence; Missouri; Wheel-spoke Casserole

Feast of Saint Lawrence, patron of cooks and the poor, a deacon who suffered martydom in Rome, probably during the reign of Valerian in the 3rd century.  Tradition says that he was entrusted with the goods of the Church and with distributing the alms collected for the poor.  When the local government official ordered him to produce the ecclesiastical riches in his charge, he pointed to the great crowd of crippled and destitute people and said that they were the treasures of the Church (he could also be the patron saint of the passive-aggressive types).  For that, he was roasted to death on a gridiron.

Today is a good day for a barbecue, in honor of Saint Lawrence.

On this day in 1821, Missouri was admitted to the Union as the 24th state.

Missouri was the Gateway to the West in the 19th century.  The Santa Fe Trail took traders from the Missouri River southwest to New Mexico starting in 1821; miners and settlers used it to get to the gold fields of Colorado.  Emigrants to Oregon Territory left from the same place and headed northwest along the Oregon Trail, many of them jumping off for the Mormon settlements of Utah and the Mother Lode of California.  The Texas Road / Shawnee Trail led from St. Louis and other towns along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers south to Texas.

Every year in the early spring, hundreds of wagons would arrive, buy supplies for the trip, and set off in long trains so dear to the heart of western movies.  Of course, some got only as far as the western border of the state, before their drivers decided that such beautiful land shouldn't be in their rear-view mirrors, so to speak.

So, in honor of all those wagons, here is a recipe for WHEEL-SPOKE CASSEROLE:
cllipart courtesy FCIT 
First make 3 cups of hot cooked rice (1 cup of regular white rice in 2 cups of water will make 3 cups cooked; omit the salt).

Lightly brown 4 minute steaks. Cut into strips about 2-3 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide.

Mix the cooked rice with 1 packet of onion soup mix and 2 tablespoons of butter; put in a shallow 1-1/2 quart baking dish.  Arrange the steak strips on the rice to resemble the spokes of a wagon wheel (and if you've never seen a wagon wheel, check out the graphic above).

Pour 1 (4 ounce) can of mushrooms and with its liquid over top of the casserole.
Bake in 325 ° F oven for about 30 minutes.
(Recipe originally found in Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Volume 1)

08 August 2010

8 August - Saint Cyriacus; Squirrels; Brunswick Stew

Today is the feast of Saint Cyriacus, one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and invoked against diseases of the eye.    A good reminder to make an appointment to have your eyes checked.

From The Old Farmer's Almanac: "Gray squirrels have their second litter now."
Which means more  fuzzy-tailed thieves enjoying the bird feeders.  Oh well.  I like to listen to their chatter.

Squirrel meat is supposed to be tender, and with less of the gamy taste found in other wild game.  I wouldn't know.  Don't care to know, either.  Be that as it may, squirrel is the main ingredient for Brunswick Stew:

3 squirrels
1-1/2 gallons boiling salted water
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1 cup green Lima beans
1 cup chopped tomatoes
Salt, pepper
1-1/2 cups corn, fresh cut with milk scrapings
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup diced boiled potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup grated cabbage

Clean squirrels, draw, and soak in cold salted water for 3 hours.  Parboil in salted water and then place in boiling water in an iron kettle with the bacon.  Cook until the meat loosens from the bones.  Take out squirrels.  Remove bones and return meat to the kettle.  Add Lima beans and tomatoes.  Season.  Cook until beans are done.  Add corn, butter, potatoes, carrots, celery, and cabbage.  Stir and cook until ingredients appear as one.  Serve hot.
(Recipe from Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Volume 5.)

If you can't catch sufficient squirrels, you can substitute a 4-5 pound stewing chicken.  In a kettle, simmer the cut-up chicken and 1/4 pound of bacon (either chopped or whole) in enough water to cover, until chicken is tender.  Remove the chicken (and the bacon, if it is a whole piece), allow to cool, then cut meat into bite size pieces.  Discard the skin and bones, return the meat to the kettle, and add the following: 1 chopped onion; 2 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes (a 1-pound can is sufficient); 2 cups of Lima beans (fresh, canned, or frozen); 2-3 cups of cubed potatoes; 1-1/2 cups of corn, fresh cut from the cob (or a 12-ounce can); 1-1/4 teaspoons of salt; and either 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper or 1 teaspoon of paprika.  You can also add a cup or two of diced carrots and celery, if you like. Simmer  for about 30 minutes.

According to my husband, my mother-in-law, as a young wife, made Fried Squirrel one night for dinner.  Maybe she got hold of a tough one and didn't parboil it first, but for some reason, this entree foiled all attempts to eat it.  First her husband tried to cut it, then he tried gnawing it off the bone like a chicken leg.  When that didn't work, he tossed it to the dog, who worried it for a few minutes, and then took it outside and buried it.  After that, squirrel never showed up on the table again.  (And if you're wise," said my husband, "you won't mention cooking squirrel to her."  I didn't.) 

03 August 2010

3 August - Saint Lydia

Saint Lydia of Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth, Saint Paul's first convert, and the first Christian convert in Europe.  Not a bad resume.  As a businesswoman, she is one of my patron saints.

Today would be a good day to celebrate those women, past and present, who have put their lives and livelihoods on the line to start and maintain their own businesses.

02 August 2010

2 August - Colorado; Denver Sandwiches

Colorado Day (observed) - On August 1, 1876, the Territory of Colorado was admitted to the Union as the 38th state.  Think of Pike's Peak (or Bust) and Sweet Betsy from same, the Garden of the Gods, Mesa Verde National Park... visit them if you can.

Also, admission to the Colorado State Parks is free today.  Pack a picnic and head out to enjoy some really gorgeous scenery.

Denver Sandwiches are wonderful for breakfast or brunch (not sure how they do on picnics).

1/2 lb ham, finely diced
2 onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
8 eggs
salt and pepper
8 slices of bread

Fry diced ham with onion and green pepper in 1 tablespoon butter until lightly browned.  Add eggs and seasonings; stir gently.  When lightly browned, turn, cut into 4 wedges, and serve between slices of buttered bread.  Makes 4 sandwiches.
(Recipe from Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Volume 1.)

The good-but-lazy cook makes what she calls "Fort Collins Sandwiches" (as in 'not quite Denver'), in which she fries the ham (if she has any) in a small amount of butter, mixes a couple of tablespoons of salsa into the eggs, adds that mixture to the pan, and proceeds from there.  A sprinkling of shredded cheese on top before sliding between the buttered bread slices does not come amiss.

A shout-out to my brother and his family in Windsor.  Hi, Mark!

01 August 2010

1 August - Lammas Day; Saint Peter in Chains; Swiss National Day


Lammas Day - Bread that is baked from the first harvest of grain is blessed today.  This would also be a good time to take some of the harvest from your garden to be blessed as well.  In all things, give thanks.

Saint Peter ad Vincula (Saint Peter in Chains) - Tudor-philes will recognize the name as that of the Chapel Royal in the Tower of London, wherein Anne Boleyn, her brother George, her cousin Catherine Howard, and her husband's grandniece Lady Jane Grey, are buried.

Colorado Day, which will be celebrated tomorrow (the first Monday in August).

Swiss National Day, commemorating the confederation of three cantons in 1291, the opening salvo in the foundation of Switzerland.

There is a delicious-looking yeast bread that is traditional for today, called 1. August-weggen, which you can see here, along with the way to make the various cuts in the roll that produce the Swiss White Cross.

Someday, I will get that recipe and give it a try.  Meanwhile, in honor of the Swiss, I will turn the cheesecake slated for today's tea into a representation of the Swiss flag, by painting the corners with strawberry glaze in such a way that the White Cross stands out front and center. (A right-angled wedge form made of aluminum foil will probably help to keep the edges straight.)


A glorious month!  It is also the Widow's birth month.

The full moon this month (on the 24th) is known as the Sturgeon Moon or the Corn Moon.
The Perseid meteor shower is slated to take place in the predawn hours of the 11th, 12th, and 13th.

Weather for August
Based on the 12 Days of Christmas: Mix of clouds and sun. Warmer.
Based on the first 12 days of January: Overcast, snow flurries, chilly.
Based on the Ember Days: Warm, but not uncomfortable.  Sunny with some clouds.

If the first week in August is unusually warm, the winter will be white and long. [Describe 'unusually'.  For that matter, describe 'white and long'.  Up here, all winters are white and long.  Sometimes there is more 'white' one year than the next; nevertheless, winter starts somewhere in October and lasts through May, no matter how much white has fallen.]

As the Dog Days commence, so they end [August 11].  [From July 3: "The Dog Days have  commenced rather nicely here - warm, and getting warmer, but not the 90+ degrees F predicted for the next couple of days."]

Observe on what day in August the first heavy fog occurs, and expect a hard frost on the same day in October.

A fog in August indicates a severe winter and plenty of snow.

As August, so the next February. [I don't want to think about next February.  It comes soon enough.]