Sunday, August 14, 2022

Enter to win a signed copy of A Westminster Wedding

 

I meant to write a longer post about this but I've spent the weekend checking galleys for A Peculiar Enchantment and I now need a nap.  

 You can enter here from 8/14/22 to 8/21/22:   https://rfr.bz/M4im5s9

L𝗶𝗺𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗨𝗦𝗔, 𝗖𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗱𝗮, 𝗔𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗮 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗨𝗞 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆.

Tagline: A new life...for a few more lies.

 

Friday, July 29, 2022

Where are the foods of yesteryear?

"Hard Times and Hardtack" was going to be the title of my article on Civil
War food for Historical Times Magazine. The title apparently failed to please but the magazine and the article will be out on August 1, 2022. 
https://online.1stflip.com/dssx/3jfn/  

I learned fascinating things while writing it. The following tidbits are among the 3,000 words I cut: 

 American cuisine did not spring into existence with the first colonists. They brought their cookbooks and their ideas of what food should be with them, whether they came from Great Britain, France, Spain, Holland (New York City was originally New Amsterdam, founded by the Dutch), or Africa (via the slave ships). 

The first American cookbook was published in 1796 and almost all of the recipes came from English cookbooks. In fact, even in the mid-nineteenth century, American breakfasts did not vary much from those suggested in the preeminent Victorian cookbook, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861). Any cold meat from the larder “can do duty at the breakfast table”, Isabella Beeton advises, as can potted meat or fish and meat pies. For hot dishes she recommends fish, kidneys, mutton chops, rump-steaks, eggs, muffins, toast, marmalade, butter, etc. The only real distinguishing feature of an American breakfast was the occasional appearance of corn, rice, and sweet potatoes. 

Mutton ham used to be a common dish in this country, as it was in Great Britain. Potted meat, potted pig’s head, salt cod, and cold mush sliced and fried appeared regularly in cookbooks. So did corn fritters, oddly renamed hush puppies in the late nineteenth century.  

A letter from Alexis de Tocqueville to his father dated December 20, 1831, written at Memphis, Tennessee after a trek through the wilderness shows us how primitive frontier food could be: 
…we happened upon a log cabin with chinks on every side through which a big fire could be seen crackling…Picture a fireplace half the width of the room…a bed; a few chairs; a six-foot-long carbine; a hunter’s accoutrements hanging on the log wall and dancing in the draught…the [two or three] poor Blacks served us at his behest: one presented us glasses of whisky, and another corncakes and a plate of venison. The third was sent off to fetch more wood. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

I finally have a newsletter! Plus you get...

 I'm a techno-dinosaur, perhaps because my mind is so often in the 1740s. For several years I've known I needed a newsletter because every writer does. And every time I thought of it, I went and did something productive: wrote a novel, or ate dulce de leche ice cream, or cleaned the toilet. The thought of figuring out how to set up a newsletter gave me a megrim. 

Illustration for Pamela by Samuel Richardson
I tried twice, unsuccessfully. The house was getting really clean. But after working on it again for several days, I finally succeeded
and sent out my first one. Here I am, preparing to post the first issue. There are still a few bugs to iron out but I'll fix them eventually. And after I hit the magic button and sent my chatty little letter off, I set up a "welcome" letter.

The advice for producing a newsletter that wouldn't be annoying was to put an "unsubscribe" widget at the top, in addition to the one that  automatically appears at the bottom. I tried to do this, but unfortunately, the actual instructions were written by computer geeks for computer geeks. I did not (and still do not) know what a widget is or where to find one, much less how to insert one. One of my less refined characters would probably have a pithy comment about that.

So I jury-rigged one by adding a line at the top that said something like, "If you ever want to unsubscribe, there's a button at the bottom of the page (because I can't figure out how to put one up here...)."

 Surely it should be easier to do this stuff than it is?  Oh, and by the way, the subscription thing is at the bottom of my website "landing page": https://18thcenturyromance.com/. There must be a way to put a button (or widget?) someplace else, too, but that's something I haven't figured out yet.  

And because this is a short post and I happen to have a couple of short reviews, here they are: 


16 Souls
by John J. Nance is as good as a disaster novel can be. Even better, it’s a perfect blend of disaster novel and courtroom thriller. The story gripped me and the characters were believable.  I had things to do and places to go yesterday and instead I immersed myself in it until well after bedtime. 



The Pied Wizard of Regis Towne
by Laura Strickland is a delightful fairy tale. Who could fail to be enchanted by the story of a self-respecting Rat transmogrified into a Man very much against his will? It’s all the things I enjoyed about fairy tales when I was a child, but with more humor and depth. I spent a thoroughly enjoyable evening with it and will be looking for more by Ms. Strickland. 

  

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Hard Times and Hardtack

 As some of you may have noticed, I occasionally write about Georgian era food. This is not solely because I write novels set in the mid-eighteenth century. My fascination with the history of food began when I was nine or ten.  

My father was an excellent and imaginative cook, and should probably have been a chef instead of a rate and tariff analyst. Even so, I might not have caught the culinary research bug but for two things. The first was that he began bringing home Gourmet Magazine. The other was that I loved to read and would read anything I could find. Read "above grade level"? Absolutely, including some books even I wouldn't recommend for children. My mother returned Fanny Hill to the friend who loaned it to her before I got very far into it. Just as well, perhaps. 

So of course I read Gourmet Magazine. At the time, it frequently ran articles on food history, which led to collecting old cookbooks which led to my volunteering to write about Civil War period food for Historical Times online magazine (https://www.historicaltimes.org/). That issue, Number 013 covering the Civil War, will be coming out in late autumn.

Mt. Harmon plantation kitchen at
World's End, Earleville, Maryland

Over the first six months of this year, I researched what people ate in the years leading up to and during the Civil War. Possibly I over-researched: Not only what they ate but why they ate it, how they cooked it, why a distinctive American cuisine took so long to develop, why maple syrup didn't really become a "thing" until after the Civil War, the effect of the Union blockade of Southern ports, and army logistics. 


I tried cooking a couple of the odder dishes. I studied dozens of nineteenth century cookbooks. Most were available on Google Play Books or from institutions for free, thank goodness. 

The first draft of  "Hard Times and Hardtack" ran to well over 5,000 words. The submitted version was down to 2,300, but nothing will be wasted. Some of the cut bits will be recycled as posts here or on my Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/anunsuitableduchess) or on Instagram (18thcenturyromance). 

And now that I'm no longer busy researching for the article, I plan to try making coconut pralines and a couple of other recipes I discovered, including one for sandwich cookies stuffed with coconut, pecans and raisins. 

Oh, and my eighth novel is in the editing stages. A Peculiar Enchantment is coming along faster than I expected. With luck maybe it will be released by the end of the year.

Love is the most peculiar enchantment.


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Saturday, June 4, 2022

Roman army medics and pecan pie

 

Recently I learned a new word: capsarius. All right, it’s not one likely to come up in casual conversation…unless one is talking about the Roman army. Maybe not then.

The legions had medical units (and wouldn’t that make an interesting TV series? Sort of a cross between M.A.S.H. and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum) which set up about a quarter mile back from the front lines. But the capsarius, about one per eighty-eight legionaries, was in the thick of it, like a modern army medic.

Fun fact: the capsarius took his name from the leather satchel he carried, a capsa. And when he wasn’t stitching a wound, removing an arrow or sending an injured man back to the medical tents, he returned to fighting.

I gleaned all this from the ancient history issue of Historical Times, which also includes pieces on the fate of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony’s children, Hadrian’s Wall, and Bronze Age barrows, among others. It’s online, interactive, and each issue features a different period. You can find it at https://www.historicaltimes.org/.

Currently, I’m writing a piece on food at the time of the Civil War for an issue which will appear later this year. It’s not my usual period, but I’ve been interested in the history of food since I was a child. My research in far, far too many nineteenth century American cookbooks has turned up some astonishing things.

Did you know pecan pie is (relatively) modern? I couldn’t find it in a cookbook until 1910. The Karo® corn syrup that is an essential ingredient was first manufactured in 1902. Sadly, no one was eating pecan pie during the Civil War.  

What they might have eaten for breakfast as suggested in The Kentucky Housewife (1839) was “ham poddage”: eggs served on fried mashed potato cakes, with gravy. “Ham sandwicks” was another possibility: slices of ham seasoned with pepper, nutmeg and lemon, in flour batter, fried in lard, with a gravy of onions, parsley, pepper, flour and cream poured over the whole thing.

If you try either of those, please let me know how they turned out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Memorial Day

 Many of us mostly think of Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer. Sometimes it's good to be reminded of what it's really about, so this post is dedicated to Captain Benjamin L. Salomon, Surgeon, serving in the Marianas in the Second World War. The following is the citation from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Captain Ben L. Salomon was serving at Saipan, in the Marianas Islands on July 7, 1944, as the Surgeon for the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. The Regiment's 1st and 2nd Battalions were attacked by an overwhelming force estimated between 3,000 and 5,000 Japanese soldiers. It was one of the largest attacks attempted in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Although both units fought furiously, the enemy soon penetrated the Battalions' combined perimeter and inflicted overwhelming casualties. In the first minutes of the attack, approximately 30 wounded soldiers walked, crawled, or were carried into Captain Salomon's aid station, and the small tent soon filled with wounded men. As the perimeter began to be overrun, it became increasingly difficult for Captain Salomon to work on the wounded. He then saw a Japanese soldier bayoneting one of the wounded soldiers lying near the tent. Firing from a squatting position, Captain Salomon quickly killed the enemy soldier. Then, as he turned his attention back to the wounded, two more Japanese soldiers appeared in the front entrance of the tent. As these enemy soldiers were killed, four more crawled under the the tent walls. Rushing them, Captain Salomon kicked the knife out of the hand of one, shot another, and bayoneted a third. Captain Salomon butted the fourth enemy soldier in the stomach and a wounded comrade then shot and killed the enemy soldier. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Captain Salomon ordered the wounded to make their way as best they could back to the regimental aid station, while he attempted to hold off the enemy until they were clear. Captain Salomon then grabbed a rifle from one of the wounded and rushed out of the tent. After four men were killed while manning a machine gun, Captain Salomon took control of it. When his body was later found, 98 dead enemy soldiers were piled in front of his position. Captain Salomon's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself his unit and the United States Army.