Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Recipes From Our Past

   I am not only a purist in the kitchen, but a softy when it comes to recipes our ancestors made. I don't think there is a day that goes by that I don't think about what kitchens smelled like in the era of no electricity yet food was cooked all day lone to feed the large, sprouting families of our "fore-families". So here are some of my favorite recipes that I have prepared that stick to the past as close as I can. 

Christmas Orange Cake
     This recipe really isn't one from the past, but the taste of it reminds me of that special orange I found in my 
Christmas stocking every year. A delicious blend of tart and sweet with the flavors of Christmas, this super moist cake is easy to make and bake and the topping is as simple as it gets. 

Nonstick cooking spray
1(18-ounce)jar orange marmalade(about 26 T.), divided
1 cup cranberry juice concentrate, thawed and divided
1/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon each cinnamon and dried ginger
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten well

Liberally grease a 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a small saucepan, add half the jar of marmalade, 1/2 cup cranberry juice concentrate, milk and butter and bring to scalding over medium heat, stirring often. Once butter is melted, set aside.
In a large bowl, blend the flour, baking powder and spices. Add the marmalade mixture, brown sugar and eggs. Beat until as smooth as possible. Pour into prepared pan and bake 35 minutes, or until it bounces back in the middle when pressed. 
Make Orange Sauce by heating remainder of marmalade and remainder cranberry juice concentrate, whisk well and heat until warmed throughout. Pour over warm or cold cake.

Sweet Molasses Cake

    Molasses cake was a staple at lumber camps many generations ago and sadly it is very seldom made now. But I will guarantee you one thing. If you switch your gingerbread with this recipe for the Holidays, you will be thrilled at the comments from everyone, especially if you top it with vanilla ice cream while warm. I can honestly say that this is the perfect cold weather cake and my all time favorite.

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1 stick(1/2 cup) melted butter or margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and ground cloves*

An hour before making cake, cover raisins with boiling water, cover and set aside. Line an 9-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
When ready, drain and set aside.(See NOTE)
In a bowl, with a hand held whisk, NOT an electric mixer because you don't want every single lump to disappear, add milk,lemon juice or vinegar, molasses,melted butter or margarine,sugar and egg. Whisk well. In a separate bowl, thoroughly blend flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves and add this mixture to molasses mixture. Whisk until just incorporated and then fold in raisins. Pour into prepared pan and bake 38-40 minutes, or until it springs back when touched in the center. Remove cool slightly cut and eat it NOW

* Use allspice if you like that netter, but you really should use cloves

NOTE: The reason we treat the raisins this way is because if you don't, they will sink to the bottom of the batter and burn while cooking. The batter is not thick enough to suspend them and don't listen to other chefs or articles that tell you to coat them in flour to prevent this from happening. It simply does not work in thin batter.

Maine Chocolate Potato Donuts

     I found this recipe in one of my grandfathers music books from his days at the Boston Conservatory from 1918-1920. He was cooking at that time in Boston and am sure he slipped in this while there. I just made them for my family during Thanksgiving and want a fantastic donut to make throughout the winter? This is it folks!

1 1/2 quarts frying oil
Spiced Sugar Coating, recipe below
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cups cocoa
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cold mashed potatoes*
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter or oleo, melted

Heat oil in deep fat fryer until 350-degrees F. You can also heat oil in a sturdy pot over medium heat, using a clip-on thermometer.
 For the Spiced Sugar Coating, mix together 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 teaspoon nutmeg in a shallow bowl; set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder, blending well. Add milk, mashed potatoes, eggs and butter. Beat with a sturdy wooden spoon until it leaves the side of the bowl. A tabletop mixer with a dough hook or paddle attachment works as well
 Empty out onto a well-floured work surface. Knead only for a minute, until smooth. Roll out to about 3/4-inch thick. Cut out with a 3 to 3 1/2-inch donut cutter or glass. If using a glass, find the top of a screw on lid of a soda bottle and press in the center of each dough disc to remove donut hole.
Cooking 2-3 donuts at a time, fry them for 3 minutes per side.
 Remove each donut onto a rack or paper towel-lined plate,
allowing grease to come back to temperature before continuing to cook the remainder of donuts. When cooking the donut holes, you will need to gently swirl them as they are cooking because once the bottom side is cooked and you flip them over, they will NOT, repeat will NOT stay that way!
 While the donuts are still warm, dip in cinnamon sugar to evenly coat both sides or dip in Maple Glaze on both sides, drain excess glaze and transfer to rack for the glaze to harden.

* After you boil, mash and chill potatoes in refrigerator, remove from container and place on double folded paper towels. Place paper towels on top as well and push down to remove any excess water. Put into recipe.

True New England Stuffed Squash

For those of you who enjoy polenta and think only high end, expensive polenta is the best...think again! We New Englanders were the first to make corn meal mush back in the 17th century and this delicious side dish is so cheap to make, I hope you rethink spending so much in an upscale restaurant for something you can make at home for pennies a serving. When combined with other Yankee ingredients, you end up with a Holiday feast accompaniment that is killer.

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and cracked, black pepper to taste
1 large(3 pound)butternut squash *
Twine or butchers string

Prepare polenta by bringing milk and chicken broth to a boil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Slowly add the cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, salt and cracked pepper. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until cooled and firm. When ready, prepare squash.
Cut an inch off of both the stem and bulb ends of squash. Cut in half lengthwise. 
Pare just enough skin and flesh from 2 halves to stand up level on a sheet pan(which you should have lined with foil).
With a sturdy spoon or melon baller, scoop seeds and membrane from each squash half. Continue making this 'well' down the skinnier portion of the squash. This may prove difficult with these utensils so use a sharp knife to begin with by cutting into the flesh at angles if needed. Do not allow this 'well' to go through the outside surface or you will have a mess in your pan while roasting.
Remove polenta from refrigerator and mound it equally among 2 halves of prepared squash. Cover with unfilled squash half, pressing down lightly just to make sure upper half is filled with polenta. Tie firmly but not too aggressive and place on prepared pan.
Bake 50-60 minutes, or until the flesh of squash is soft when pricked with a fork. Remove from oven to cool slightly before carving and serving in 1-inch slices.

Super Easy(and Original) Sugar Plums

     True Sugar Plums were so-named because, although not actually 'sugared plums', the original recipes used raisins or dried plums, otherwise known as prunes. Raisins were held together with nuts of various types and other dried fruits and rolled into small truffle-like balls They were a hit with youngsters and oldsters alike many generations ago. Without altering the original too much, try The Yankee Chef's version of this Christmas sweet the way your forebears tasted them, with only a couple of extra touches to round off the textural experience.
     Today's recipes use the food processor or blender to finely mince all the ingredients, but I think that method muddles the flavor too much and gives it a monotone texture.......Blah! By simply chopping the ingredients by hand, the taste is fantastic and you can actually distinguish the different flavors all "rolled up into one". Adding granola is a great touch as well, but if you happen to have some granola-type cereal on hand, even the nut-laden variety, by all means this is a nice alternative too. Refer to NOTE for extended list of various alternatives to use.
1/2 cup raisins, left whole or chopped
1/2 cup granola
1/2 cup dried banana chips, crushed
1/2 cup candied green cherries, chopped
1/2 cup dried plums(prunes), orange-scented, chopped
1/2 cup candied red cherries, chopped
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup honey
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients well with damp hands or use gloves(latex that is.....work gloves won't work so well here, sad Yankee humor). This may be best accomplished if you have a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. With your hands still slightly wet from water, mold into small balls, pressing tightly to mold. Place on a large platter and let air dry for an hour to dry the outside and make less sticky. Cover and keep until needed at room temperature. For a 'sweet and salty' flavor, sprinkle some kosher or other large-grained salt on top of each Sugar Plum.

NOTE: You may also substitute the following or use some imagination to form that perfect Sugar Plum, I promise Santa will love it just the same. I use candied fruits here because it adds that special flavor and extra holding power. Use all dried ingredients if desired. Try dried apple slices, candied pineapple(both yellow and green), crushed walnut, pecans or slivered almonds, golden raisins, dried apricots, candied or grated lemon or lime peel, candied citron or shredded coconut.

Easy and Delicious Gingerbread Men

     What joy it is when you can gather the children around the table to help cut out gingerbread men. Not only do you have the scent of ginger and molasses wafting through the air, but the joy that is Christmas truly shines through. So what if the shapes or icing is haphazard and not perfect. It is the time spent and the joy created that is important.....don't you think?

  • 1/2 cup(1 stick)butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, optional
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and cinnamon
  • Decorating Icing:
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • Red, green, blue or other colored food coloring
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Line two cookie pans with parchment paper or grease with nonstick cooking spray*; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with brown sugar using an electric mixer until as smooth as possible. Add molasses, milk, vanilla and lemon juice, if using. Continue to beat until everything is well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, blend all dry ingredients. Add dry to wet and beat an additional minute or two until cookie dough is stiff and well mixed.
On a floured work surface, transfer dough and roll out to about 1/4-inch thick, adding more flour to prevent sticking. Cut out gingerbread men, or desired shapes. Lift shapes off counter onto prepared pans with a spatula, leaving an inch between cookies. Reknead dough, cutting out more shapes. Continue until all dough is used. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush, cloth or paper towel. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until evenly puffed and they bounce back in the middle of each cookie when touched.
Remove from oven to cool completely on pans with paper. Peel cookies off parchment and set aside to decorate.
To decorate, simply mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 5 drops desired food coloring and 2 teaspoons water. Repeat with remaining powdered sugar in separate bowls.
Transfer icing to piping bag with round tip or into a very sturdy plastic baggie with a very small corner snipped off.

* Let cool for a couple minutes if using nonstick cooking spray before lifting off onto a rack to cool completely.

NOTE: Want Peanut Butter Gingerbread Men for a change? Simpl omit the molasses and place 1/2 cup peanut butter into a saucepan with milk listed. Over medium heat, stir and heat until smooth and melted. Remove from heat to cool for a few minutes. Beat in butter mixture before adding dry ingredients. The dough will be much softer when done, so you will have to cover and refrigerate until it has stiffened back up, about 30-45 minutes. Continue as directed.Makes about 30(3 1/2-inch) Gingerbread Men

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Perfect Apple Pie

    I have been blessed to have been brought up in restaurants run by my parents, with each proficient and an expert in their respective kitchen areas. My Mom was the hardest working baker I have ever met and she never put out a dessert, pastry or bread products that weren't perfect. She did every single thing by scratch and, although it irked me in a childish way, she constantly washed her caked-on doughy hands in my clean dish water, it only meant that she used her sense of touch along with sight to properly prepare biscuits and pie doughs by hand.

   My Dad, as you all know, was my god-like idol as well. Even though he had his demons, and I had mine later in life, he was never-ending work-a-holic and knew more than any other man when it came to the kitchen. I think it had to do with him climbing the ladder to his position, rather than starting out at some high brow cooking school.

   The one attribute he had that I admired him for was his love of reading. Although he enjoyed reading fiction  mostly, he read nonfiction as well because he always told me to never stop learning.

   I never did enjoy reading fiction, but nonfiction...pile it on, especially if it had to do with how our ancestors cooked, the way they lived in backwoods New England and the daily bread they enjoyed. I admire them for the hard work involved when it came to something as simple as bread, cider, raising crops and the like because they didn't simply go to market to purchase ingredients to make pastries and pies, but grew their own wheat and made their own flour from the ground up. Much like how my Dad and I learned the four corners of the kitchen and restaurant. That is why I consider myself one of the most informed and knowledgeable New England food historians out there. If you choose what you read because you love to read about it, then the more you read and the more you WANT to read!

   So comes the purpose of this blog post. I have been blessed with opportunities my father would have adored to be part of, a food judge. In particular, a Yankee food judge. And especially an apple pie food judge.

   I just was invited to be a judge at the Great Maine Apple Day in Unity, Maine. And it was here that I decided to write my first article on apple pie because of the varied and delicious apple products that were available at this event. It was also here that I tasted what is the best apple pie I have ever tried and judged. Yup, in the middle of nowhere Maine, I took a bite of the most flavorfully balanced apple pie out of the 1000-plus pies I have judged. The reasons it was the best? Because they stuck to my Puritan ideals and preparation, which not many people do anymore. I hate to say it, but the closer you come to how apple pie was originally made, the better it will be. Never mind the fancy decorative crust or the new-fangled baking pan, if you stick with the following information, you will end up with a pie that our New England ancestors enjoyed and at the same time, conclude with the most delicious pie you have ever made.

1. First understand that apple pie was originally called apple tarts and had only 1 crust, and it was on top. They were called coffins for a long period of time as well. The crust was called a paste and as mentioned, only sat on top before baking. But obviously when entering a contest or even preparing an apple pie at home, you would want a bottom crust. There are so many handed down recipes for keeping the bottom crust from getting soggy during baking and, although some may say their way is fool proof, there truly is only one way of keeping it from getting soggy. And that is with the right pie pan. 
   Many bakers and even professional pastry chefs have their own "tricks" but honestly, by using the right pan is the only true method. Toss those earthenware pie plates right to the side! They do not conduct enough heat fast enough to prevent a soggy bottom. That basically leaves 2 types. An aluminum and glass. 

   If you have a glass pyrex pie pan, use it! It conducts heat quickly and evenly and browns the pie up almost perfectly. I can't say enough about glass cookware and especially when baking apple pie.

   Aluminum pans are my choice. There are two kinds of aluminum pans, disposable and non disposable. Each work great by for the BEST, use disposable because they are thin enough to heat up faster than any pan on the market but they have a con to it. Once baked, you are going to have a dickens of a time cutting the pie without cutting the pan itself. I simply put the pan in the earthern ware pie pan before cutting, hahahaha. Hey, found a use for that expensive pan after all. 

2. Apple sizes. Make sure you cut your apples thinly and with each piece as close to the same size as possible. That is half the reason(the other half below)why some of the apple pie is mushy while other bites are done perfectly. Never mind dicing or cutting huge chunks of apple. They will not cook at the same speed as you want your crust to brown.

3. The right apple or apples. While everyone and their mother will tell you to use Granny Smith, please try a different apple. There are a number or reasons why apples mush when baking, with the main being its cellular structure and ph level. Apples get mushy because of its pectin amount. You want the apple to hold its shape once it hits 184-degrees F because that is the temperature at which the cell walls start collapsing. Try Pink Lady, Braeburn, Honey Crisp, Cameo, Fuji and Granny Smiths. Try using 2, 3, 4 or more different apples in each pie. 
   Want to help prevent the cell walls from collapsing into mush? My secret it to prepare my apples, place in a large bowl or pot and pour boiling water over them. Immediately cover tightly and let sit for 15 minutes, then drain very well and cool enough to continue with recipe. This "pre-poaching" transforms the natural pectin into a more heat stable type and helps TREMENDOUSLY from turning to mush.

4. The crust. Now I will tell you what made the pie at the Great Maine Apple Day exceptional. The baker knew that it wasn't the flakiness of the crust that made it perfect, but the time she took to cook the pie. This ultimate search for a flaky pie crust is something fairly new and played no role in apple pie making for centuries. Heck, even biscuits should NOT be flaky. It was the advent of machines and preparation techniques using these machines that flaky products first took hold because they could be made in layer upon layer upon layer without human hands, thereby shortening labor.

Can you mimic this(or close to it) on YOUR apple pie?

   No sir...the kind of crust you are after in an apple pie is the type of crust that reminds me of an artisan bread straight from hot oven. Dark brown, super crispy without tasting burnt and with the taste of what a true Maillard reaction should taste. The Maillard reacton is what happens when the natural sugars in a product turn the resulting food brown. It will never create a burnt taste. And to give your crust a soft and delectable texture, use an acid. Many chefs use vinegar or lemon juice with their water when making crust, and both are great. But I use ice cold orange juice...INSTEAD OF WATER. Perfect, perfect, perfect.  A true compliment to that artisan taste. And remember that it isn't just the edge, or rim, of the pie that should be dark brown, the entire top of the pie should be as well. The top of the pie should be irregular, not smooth. 
   I also think it is a form of cheating when you glaze the top with egg white, any dairy product or anything that will hasten the browning of the crust, even a spice. If you can bake an apple pie and believe in your talents, forgo these "cheats" and do it the right way.
   Having too many large bubbles popping up when baking? Only to be completely hollow when you slice into it? Be sure to properly vent to the top. This also helps in the pie liquid thickening and reducing. 

(Amelia Simmons in her cookbook only had two ingredients in her pie paste(crust). 2 pounds of flour to 3/4 pound of butter. 

5. Butter pats right on top of the apples. We Yankees have been adding butter to apple pie for millenia. If you add 6 teaspoon sized butter pats placed evenly around the top of the pie before the crust, it will taste like heaven. A HUGE difference.

6. Seasonings, seasonings, seasonings...wait, too many seasonings! Many, and I do mean many, cooks add so much seasoning, the apples get lost. I do understand that our day and age, sugar is found in every single thing, in one form or the other. Candy counters have more types of sugar-laden sweets than I ever thought possible when I was a child. Desserts, treats, pastries and more are easily obtainable at a cheap price now than when I was a child as well. That is why our palates are craving sugar at a much higher rate than in decades past. (This is why I came out with It's Just That Simple brand of products, but that is for another time)
   We tend to crave sugar and spices too much now. So when using cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves or nutmeg, just add enough to accent the apples, not bury them(Didn't Marc Antony once say that about apple pies....no, that was Caesar)
   I use only 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon per 5 cups thinly sliced apples per pie. I also add 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon allspice. Try mace for a true Yankee flavor. Use the same amount as you would allspice and omit the nutmeg. Mace is almost exactly the same flavor profile as nutmeg, but more intense.
   (Want to know a little tidbit that will actually turn an apple pie into something special? Rose water. Yup, our ancestors used this in apple pies and it truly is a great addition. Yes, you can still buy real rosewater as well online.

   As for a thickener, I use cornstarch and a hair over a tablespoon per pie. I mix the cornstarch with the seasoning and toss the apples all together before putting them in the shell. If you prefer flour, use 1/4 cup per pie. I don't like using flour because there is much more of a chance you are going to have flour lumps in the pie.

   Now when I say that unfortunately I am a purist, a Puritan purist to be precise, it gives me pause at times. It makes me seem old fashioned and not ready for taste elevations that today's chefs may bring to the table. I really do like different tastes, originality and new flavor combinations. But I also want the true essence of the dish or main ingredient to shine through, as it should. I want to taste the centuries gone by when the sweetness of the fruit was in front of the sugar used. I want the flavor of the main ingredient to hit me before any other spice. I want a crust that is meant for an apple pie and if there is one thing out of all these ingredients and preparation methods that really should not change is the way the crust was "back in the day". After all, if it ain't broke, don't use duct tape on it...or something like that. 

   I could go on and on about that perfect apple pie, but it truly does take patience and trial and error to make a pie that you enjoy personally and one that will be a proud addition to your families heritage. But these are the basic precepts when making that phenomenal apple pie and these tips come from a long line of chefs and a true New England bookworm. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

I Am As Angry As I Could Be!

   And that doesn't come lightly. I very seldom get upset or angry because I know stress kills. But as most of you can relate, when it comes to your kids, ESPECIALLY minor children, there is a very low bar one has to cross in order to make us angry.

As most of you know, I get irritated when I teach all of my children to be polite and understand that you are not entitled to anything but need to earn respect and be very thankful for anything anyone does for you. Adults teach their children this throughout their lives and should lead the way by example, every day of their lives actually.

My children are no exception, especially my youngest. He is 8 years of age and his name is Thomas. Many of you have seen him on the front cover of one of my books, but fewer know that I teach him manners and respect. I receive compliments all the time because he ALWAYS say please, thank you and you are welcome.  But I notice fewer and fewer people who tend the registers at stores, gas stations, supermarkets or any retailer understand just what a simple thank you means. It isn't lowering yourself by saying it, it shows the customer that you appreciate the business. There have been studies galore that extol the virtues of a simple, free and quick  thank you to those who pay your salary or keep your business....well, IN business!

Now every time my son and I go somewhere and we don't get a "thank you" in return, we stand there and say "You're welcome!". And you would NOT believe how many times that person just looks at us as if in a daze because they have NO IDEA what to say in return. Holy Cow! Talk about the dumbing down of society!!!

Now to the heart of this post. There are 2 stores here in my neighborhood. Bratt's in Stetson and Ollie's right up the road(I am not sure if they are in Stetson or the next town over).

Let start with Ollie's Market. Both my son and I abhor going there now and only do so in extreme emergencies. The reason? Because you would not believe how many times we have been in there and have not received a simple "Thank You". I brought it to the owners attention one day and he apologized and told me he would "have a talk with everyone". I was courteous(as I am ALL the time when complaining) and went on my way. Well, every single time that I have been back since then , NOT ONE SINGLE THANK YOU!!!. So both Thomas and I stopped going there. Heck, every time we drive past it, my son says "Dad, don't even look at that place!"

But yesterday was the exception. I was almost out of gas and had ice cream in the van that was quickly melting. Even though Thomas really REALLY hated to stop, I pulled up to the pump and before exiting the van, I asked Thomas to take a 10 dollar bill into the store and tell the lady that "My Dad is pumping $10 of gas."

Now you need to understand that this is the kind of store that you pull up, lift the nozzle from the gas pump, wait for them to turn it on and then you can start pumping. Afterward, you walk in and pay.

This time, I started pumping gas and at the same time, my 8 year old walked into an empty store and gave the lady the money and told her what I had explained to him to say. After a couple dollars had been pumped, I noticed that Thomas wasn't coming back out. So I stopped pumping and began walking to the store. It was at that time Thomas swung open the door and looked like he was about to cry. I said "What's wrong?". He answered "They told me they couldn't put the money in the register until you were done pumping."

According to Thomas, that's ALL the lady told him!!!!

He thought he had to STAY in the store until everything was done. Now from the outset, this doesn't look like a big deal, but let me tell you if you could have seen the scared look on his face, you would have thought differently. That lady DID NOT HAVE TO TELL THOMAS THAT...PERIOD! It is not his concern WHEN they are to put the cash in the drawer! All they had to do was tell him "Thank you!". It instantly made me think they were keeping him in the store to make sure I didn't pump too much.


That lady could also have told Thomas(after seeing him just standing there)that he was okay to leave the store and go back to his Dad, but noooo.

Anyway,. I very loudly, and the door was still open, told Thomas "They don't need you to be in the store while I am pumping Thomas." He said "But they said they couldn't put the money in the register." That's when I hollered, "They can figure it out!" And I know the lady saw the very upset look I had on my face as well as what I said. But still, not a peep from her to show Thomas he didn't have to stay in the store.


Anyway, we finished up, got in the van and I turned to ask Thomas, "Did they at least say thank you?"

Can you guess what his answer was? You would be right. NO!!!!

This is the one time that I wanted to march right back in and say something. But I just didn't have the time. But I showed restraint in front of my son but all you Moms and Dads know how hard it was NOT to march right into that store. THAT was the very last time I will ever patronize Ollie's Market again. They just don't get it!

And by the way, this is the same place where an employee or manager once told me that CUSTOMERS should say thank you because Ollie's provides a service to the area. My jaw is STILL dropped and I am utterly at wits end and speechless at such an unappreciative argument.

Because I was long winded in this post, I will tell you the extraordinary issue I had with Bratt's Store in Stetson. You think this episode was crazy! It pales in comparison to what I experienced with the owner of Bratt's.

Many of you may have good experiences and may not care about the simple things in life such as a thank you. Many of you may not care about people and businesses that think they are entitled. I DO! And I sure hope my son grows up with manners and appreciation.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Long Forgotten Folklore

   Many people think of folklore as something that isn't true. A tale of a man of old with super strength. A woman whose motherly instinct knew no bounds. A heroic deed by a family member that simply cannot be verified.

   Many fail to realize that most folklore is based in reality, it has just changed slightly(IF at all)over the generations in order to keep alive our ancestors memories.
Folklore also involves sayings and names that were once so widespread and generally conveyed, that they are true. 

   New Englanders, henceforth referred to as Yankees, are the epitome of folklore, the definition really. In our Yankee folklore, you will find materials of a homely epic, Yankee toil, Yankee ingenuity and enterprise, Yankee, salty humor, idiosyncrasies, Yankee tradition and invention. Really, the typical American face of Uncle Sam but with the wondrousness of the tree squeak.

   Enjoy a trip back many centuries, only to continue the ride up the the 21st century, where many of you will be reminded of some of the following.

Some of the Yankeeisms that have been continued through the centuries include:

   A fresh cook, meaning a cook that uses little to no salt.

   Thatchy milk, or milk that tastes of thatch. Thatch was the coarse grassland pastured called salt marshes. This was common in the 17th-19th century New England and people could tell if a cow had eaten thatch. 

   Booze fuddle, as in "Got me a jug of booze fuddle." Meaning any type of liquor.

   Ding licker was a very pleasing person. Kind, gently and generally nice.

   Dingmaul was a mythical woods creature that was widely known to hang around lumber camps. Lucivee, or the "Injun Devil", was another name for another 4 legged animal, along with the Mooner, tree squeak and side-hill ranger.

   Dust your back was a phrase that meant to wrestle.

   Herring choker was a person from Prince Edward Island, although it came to mean anyone from English Canada. PJ was another name for the same.

   Prayer handles meant your knees.

   Yankee bullets were rifle shot made of pewter instead of lead.

Pumpkin heads, or rightly punkin' heads. Yes, this name has stuck around for many generations and is still uttered, referring to anyone who has had a "bowl cut". It began in New Haven, Connecticut in the middle 1700s and began  because of the ancient Blue Laws, which governed clergymen and his flock must keep their hair out of their eyes at all times. Over a few years, children too were given this type of hair cut. Ones hair could NOT be hanging down past their respective caps, so everyones hair was cut with their caps on. If one didn't have a cap, and many backwoods families could not afford one, then the dried shell of a pumpkin was used. And always on a Saturday night, right before Sunday services. Why was this important? Four reasons were outlined.

1. To prevent ones hair from snarling.
2. It saved the use of an expensive comb.
3. It kept you from being distracted from the Sunday sermon, instead of constantly fussing with ones hair.
4. And probably most important at the time, "such persons as have lost their ears for heresy, and other wickedness, cannot conceal their misfortune and disgrace."

   Thank'ee M'ams was a phrase I heard often from my uncle whenever we would go over a dip in the road. He told me when your body sunk at the lowest point, you should utter "Thank you m'am" every time. It was true in the horse and buggy days as well.

   How many know what is the Nutmeg State? Of course Connecticut comes to mind, but what about Pudding Town? Or Puddingers? Puddingers were people in Pudding Town(and I am not making this up)who ate hasty pudding with milk for supper every Saturday night. How about Scrabbletown, another name for Chatham? 

   Where were "lard eaters" from? This was another name for Cannucks. How about Chowderheads and mooncussers? Both refer to Cape Cod residents. Bean-eaters should be an easy one, referring to Bostonians.

Us Yankees have always had folk sayings as well, and are quite famous for many, such as:

   "The New England climate consists of 9 months of winter and 3 months late in the fall."

   "Go to Poodic". This is less known and simply meant the same thing as "Go jump in the lake". Poodic was the Indian name for a point  of land on Maine's coast.

   "Put a bag of coffee in the mouth of hell, and a Yankee will  be sure to go after it".

   Yankees are very well known, if not on the positive end, of answering a question with a question.

"Stands out like a blackberry in a pan of milk." The expression alone will tell you how old this saying is. When was the last time you ever had a pan of milk?

From 1888:"As Maine goes, so goes the country."

"Jumped like a cat out of the woodbox."

"Pick up your feet". We all know what this means but originally it was a demand from the top sawyer to the bottom, pit sawyer. When a 6 foot trench was dug and a large log was placed over it, a top sawyer would grab one end of the saw while a man would enter the trench and grab the other. When sawing in this manner, work was much easier, with both men pulling and pushing to saw through a huge timber. If the bottom sawyer wasn't giving his all, the top sawyer would holler, "Pick up your feet."

    Before Paul Bunyan was even a thought in the woodmens minds, Sock Sawyer was the "scape goat" for Yankee lumberers of old. If a riverdriver dropped his peavey in the water, he would say, "Well take it Sock Saunders." Or if he slipped on a log but recovered, he would say "Not quite this time Sock Saunders."

   And my favorite story of a Yankee, which encompasses what a true Yankee wit and ingenuity means is the following.

"A well known sea captain of Searsport, Maine when about 60 years of age, nearly lost his shipping business and 5 schooners as a result of his taste for liquor. His eldest son was appointed conservator of his estate, and allowed the old captain to take a voyage once in a while. The captain of the schooner on which he sailed was always instructed never to let the old gentleman have any money when he went to shore, obviously knowing that a tavern would be the beneficiary of every last cent.
ON the occasion of one of his trips, while anchored at T wharf in Bosotn, the captain sat on deck looking the length of Atlantic Avenue, viewing the many saloon signs witha parched throat. After speculating for hours as to how he could obtain a drink without money, he became inspired. Going to the cabin, he filled a gallon demijohn half full of water, and hurried to the nearest saloon. Entering, he informed the bartender that he wanted the demijohn filled with rum, and said he thought that it would take about 2 quarts as it was already half full. When the bartender had filled the jug and demanded his pay, the captain told him to charge it. Whereupon the bartender reclaimed his two quarts of rum./ Repeating this at the next five saloons along the avenue, the captain returned to his ship with two quarts of excellent rum".

   And lastly, of Songs and Rhymes. We can rightfully call old Yankee ballads as Folk music. It was homespun and rural. Yankee psalms and hymns in the way of deaconing(an ancient New England word for reading a line before singing it so that those worshippers without an expensive hymnal could sing along) were the foundation of the folk music we know today. It all started in the 1600s and is proven and referenced by Cotton Mather when he wrote that he was against the "foolish Sons and Ballads, which the Hawkers and Pedlars carry into all parts of the Countrye."

Long forgotten ballads include:

Old and New England
Old Colony Times
Away Downeast
Yankee Manufacturers
Free America
Ballad of the Tea Party
The Millers Three Sons
Mary of the Wiled Moor
The Shining Dagger
The Boston Come-All-Ye
Blow Boys, Blow
Cape Cod Shanty
Nantucket Lullaby
The Little Pig
The Herring Song
The Old Man Who LIved In The Wood
The Lone Fish-Ball
Old Woman, All Skin and Bone
Devil's Dream(Which I have a copy and play frequently on the violin)

And Corn Cobs Twist Your Hair. This song was a comic song and sung by Little Yankee Hill and was popular by 1800. It is sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Localized rhymes were so many, I simply cannot list even a tenth of them here. Some great examples are:

God is great, god is good. So always do what He thinks you should.

Needles and pins, needles and pins. When a man gets married, his trouble begins.

To the tune of Ring around the Rosy, children sang, "Ring a ring a rounder. Daddy cought a flounder. Oysters, oysters, hurray!"

The Montague girls are pretty, and the Howland girls are sweet. But the Passadumkeag girls, all have big feet.
Rain before seven, clear before 'leven.
A sunshiny shower won't last hafl an hour. Sun at seven, rain at 'leven.
If the rooster crows when he goes to bed, he will get up with a wet head.
A mackerel sky won't have the ground dry.
Mackerel sclaes and mares tails, make lofty ships to carry low sails.
A cold wet may, a barn full of hay.
On Christmas day, half the wood and half the hay.
Half the pork and half the hay on Chrismas Day.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

More Than Money.....

Image result for an amazing journey jim bailey

Ever since my book, An Amazing Journey came out a month or so ago, the book has been a tremendous success. But success in many more ways than I could ever have imagined. Financially, I am astounded at the geographic demand for it. I have sold so many copies to people throughout the United States, England, Scotland, Wales and far beyond. The reason? I can only surmise that it is because this is the first book to completely cover the Bailey family when they first came to America as well as close gaps that for centuries have eluded historians and genealogists.

I uncovered facts that were elusive and simply too far into the fray for many to research unless you had the determination to do so.

It also goes back millenia before 1635 as well. Although supplying the reader with an accurate lineage of this family was quite easy, it was looking out of the box that proved to be the key to unlocking many roadblocks.

I also employed a unique writing style that presented this book to be read as a fiction rather than a name, date and place compilation. I incorporated all references in the main body of the book rather than adding footnotes. I added so much date on allied families as well, along with a huge amount of information about the life and hardships that families(other than the focused family of the book)endured and lived. I added data on people, assets, town governments and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
But the most prized result of finally putting this book in print was a connection of one lost family with another.

In one particular generation, Thomas Bailey(my great great grandfather of Topsfield, Maine and my sons namesake)was married twice. He had a full family before marrying my great great grandmother. For over 20 years I have searched and searched for anyone that was descended from Thomas and Catherine Ripley, his first wife. I came up short every single time and it was the most important roadblock for me to cross all these years.

After the first week of it being on Amazon, I received an email from a lady in Wyoming that was directly descended from Thomas and Catherine and she told me that there was a whole slew of Baileys waiting to connect with the Maine Baileys. That was it!

I can honestly say my life's mission has been fulfilled and this book has accomplished everything I ever expected.

Add that I have connected with so many other Bailey members here in Maine and far beyond is yet another reason I can smile when I look at my book. I have been blessed far beyond what my royalty checks can give me.

What started out as a book that I could literally hand down to my children for posterity has evolved into what was in the top 10 new releases on Amazon for weeks, and what can I say?

Thank you for everyone who has reached out to me. Thank you to everyone who has descended from John Bayley of Newburyport, Massachusetts and thank you to every single person who has purchased this book. I think you will thoroughly enjoy reading it and all I have is one more desire. That is to start the Bailey/Bayley Association back up gain for all of us who are descended from John. This association was quite briskly attended 100 years ago and it sure would be nice to begin again. It would be monumental to have a gathering of Washington County Baileys as well, even if it only once every 5 years. I am sure there are pictures, stories and even memorabilia still out there that would be fascination to see.

Again, my Bailey mission is complete and I am truly blessed at the huge Bailey family that have benefited from my book.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Yes....I am a "Square"!

I will never forget walking into a shoe store a couple of years ago and asking for a certain type of shoes I really wanted. They were called hush puppies, and not just any old kind of hush puppy, they had to come up to my ankle. Now I hadn't been in a shoe store searching for shoes or sneakers for a long time. I ordinarily simply run in, grab a pair of sneakers I like the looks of and leaving. No searching out or looking for any particular type.

So the girl at the mall(after explaining to her what I was looking for, and knowing she wasn't even born in the 70s, 80s or even the 90s)looked at me with a complete blank face. After a few moments of smoke coming out of her ears(figuratively of course), she snapped back into reality and put both hands up. She extended both index fingers and drew an air square. Of course I immediately knew she was calling me a square and how she even knew what that meant is beyond me. Heck, I haven't even uttered that name since high school.

Now my kids roll their eyes at the mere mention of the fun we had in the 60s and 70s and continue on with the allusion that their Dad was truly a square, especially when I mention the different ways we had fun growing up. But there truly is a lot to be said for the former times of creating our OWN, imaginative pasttimes and getting outside to enjoy life, rather than seeking "enjoyment" through electronic means. We thought nothing of hopping on our big wheel or banana seat bike and cruisin' down the street. If we were lucky enough to grab a pillow case or burlap bag, then everyone knew what that meant. SACK RACE!!! Leap frog was so much fun back then as well. Go ahead and put the words leap frog game in any search engine and see what you come up with....I am waiting.......It has all but disapeared from life now.

I am very proud and content knowing that our answers to boredom needed to be sought from within rather than having any device dictate the answer.
There was so many different ways to play tag. From TV tag to frozen tag, this game was probably to most fun. Add to that walking around on stilts, hide and seek, kick ball or simply building our own tree house out back.

When the family wanted to go somewhere on a Sunday, we would hop in the back of the station wagon and go for an ice cream cone somewhere.
THAT was a treat because we weren't able to stop at the store whenever the mood hit us and chose from hundreds of sweets. Not only was it too expensive but our parents wouldn't allow us to "rot our teeth" at a whim.

As for impressing our friends in the way of fashion, well all I can say is that we thought we were so groovy whenever Mom and Dad bought us a new pair of converse sneakers,
those high healed shoes or some flashy bell bottoms. We mixed polka dotted, butterfly collared shirts with striped pants and we were outta sight!

Not only is this post a quick trip down memory lane, but I am hoping it will spark a little incentive in parents to bring their children outside, now that summer is around the corner, and maybe spark your childs interest in something that is healthy for them, rather than seeking "gun" on the internet or other 'thumb-driven' means. Heck, stop and grab a hoolahoop the next time you go out and surprise your child with it.
You will be amazed at the fun they will have, at least for a fleeting day. Don't give up though! Just because your children may think you too are a square, continue to offer alternatives in their lives. I am quite sure 95% of anything you show them will be met with a scowl or brush off, but as a parent it is your responsibility to keep them active, open minded, feel their mind and body and above all....YOU BE THEIR INTELLIGENCE, not the artificial plug in sitting on their lap or held in their hands. I am not here to harp on you, but just stimulate. I am guilty at times of taking the easy route when it comes to entertaining my children, but it is always in my mind to get them to set down their devices and do something that is constructive physically and mentally. It really is easier than you think and it leaves no guilty feeling.

So I am not the least bit offended by being called square! In fact, I am not offended by many things. If I am, I simply turn the other cheek or alter my route. That, too, is something we should be teaching our children. Everything in life doesn't need to be conformed around their likes and dislikes. They need to know how to handle that which they don't like. This plays along perfectly with this post. So let US teach them and nobody or noTHING take that parenting skill over.