ELDERBERRIES: Multipurpose fruit©

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In 1656 William Coles documented the belief that gathering the leaves of elder on the last day of April and attaching them to one’s doors and windows would, “disappoint the charmes of Witches”.  Elder bushes were an integral part of gardens through the 18th century, and why not?  How could one overlook the tasty flowers and berries prepared in a myriad of ways with the added benefit of warding off witches?

Elder plays a part in the early folklore of several countries.  Russians used to believe the spirit of the elder had great compassion for human beings and drove away evil spirits from them.  The Danes refused to make furniture from elder wood believing that doing so brought ill luck.  “If a cradle is made of the wood, the Elder Mother will come and pull the child out of it”.

Bushes can be dug from the wild, propagated by rooting in water or planting in soil, or bought from a nursery.  If rooting 6 inch cuttings in water plant them in small pots once roots are established.  Place the pots in a shaded location and keep watered until the following spring then plant in the home landscape.  If starting in soil, place the pot with the cutting inside a plastic bag so that a humid environment is simulated until the cuttings are rooted (keep out of direct sunlight), and proceed as above.  While the bushes are self-pollinating, planting more than one variety is said to produce bigger berries.

Elderberries are small and it would be very time consuming to pick them individually, therefore, when harvesting the recommended method was (and is) to cut the heads and let them drop into a basket.  One can then pick off the berries, or wash the heads and drop them into boiling liquid removing and discarding the remaining stems.  A quicker way to remove the berries from the stems is to cover a bowl or bucket with half inch wire mesh and just pass the berry bunches back and forth across it.  The berries will fall through the holes into the container.

All parts of the bushes have been used for one thing or another.  “The pith of the tree has wonderful powers, for, if cut in round, flat shapes, and dipped in oil, lighted, and then put to float in a glass of water, its light on Christmas Eve will reveal to the owner all the witches and sorcerers in the neighbourhood.  While this sounds ridiculous today, the Salem witch trials are proof that such things were once deadly serious.

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Buds were pickled with pepper, mace, and lemon peel, elder tops (young shoots) were pickled, flowers were used to flavor vinegar or make drinks, the flowers were dipped in batter and fried to make fritters, sprays of flowers were put into sugar to impart a pleasant flavor, the berries were used to make wine, juice, pies, jam and jelly, tea can be made from the leaves, and the berries were used to make ink and to dye various items including champagne and leather.

Why aren’t we familiar with using these berries today?  Because, like many other plants, the lowly wild berry came to be considered inferior when tame berries were cultivated to produce larger and juicier fruit with less labor.  “It is strange that when there is a scarcity of fruit, as there was last year, people will lament the lack of fruit, when behold the fence corners are filled with these valuable bushes, bending down and overloaded with ripe delicious fruit that all goes to waste.  You need never be at a loss for fruit to make pies, for it grows spontaneously…Remember other fruit is liable to fail while this is a never-failing fruit”.  – “The Ohio Cultivator”.  1853.

Below are some historic elderberry recipes which may tempt you, but you may also want to try adding the berries to muffin, fritter, or pancake batter, mixing elderberry syrup with iced soda water for a refreshing drink, using the juice to make frozen popsicles or ice cream, etc.

ELDERBERRY ICE CREAM [modern].  This is similar to black raspberry ice cream that is popular in Pennsylvania.

2 cups elderberries (no stems); 1 cup water; sugar as desired; 2 cups heavy cream or half and half; 1 ½ cups milk; 5 egg yolks.  The syrup can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.

Combine the berries and water, bring to a boil and simmer until the berries begin bursting.  Add sugar half cup at a time until as sweet as you like.  Let the mixture cool slightly, then run it through a food mill or sieve.  Discard the solids.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the ice cream:  Put the cream and milk into a heavy pan and slowly heat it, stirring so that it doesn’t scorch.  Add the elderberry syrup a half cup at a time until the flavor is as deep as you wish.  Bring the mixture to steaming but not simmering or boiling.

Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl.  Add a few spoonfuls of the cream mixture, whisking all the time, to the egg yolks.  Continue until the egg yolks are brought up to temperature without cooking and whisk all together.  Chill the mixture.  When cold put into an ice cream maker and proceed as for any basic ice cream.  The ice cream can be served as is, or made into popsicles.

ELDERBERRY PIE.  “Table Talk”.  Aug. 1903.

Line a pie dish with paste, upon which sprinkle a scant tablespoonful of flour; to this add a half cupful of sugar and a half teaspoonful each of cloves and cinnamon, rubbing all together evenly.  Upon this pour the berries, a pint more or less according to the size of your pie dish; pour over another half cupful of sugar, dot generously with butter, adding last one large tablespoonful of good vinegar.  Apply top crust quickly and bake.

ELDERBERRY PIE.  “Good Housekeeping”.  1891.

For a large pie, allow three cupfuls of berries, two tablespoonfuls of lemon juice or vinegar, two tablespoonfuls of flour, three-fourths cupfuls of sugar, and spices to taste.  Bake in one crust with a latticework top.

ELDERBERRY SHRUB.  Pour one pint of weak vinegar over one quart of elderberries; let them stand for twenty-four hours.  Strain, and pour the juice over a second quart of berries.  Let them stand for twenty-four hours, strain again, add one cupful of sugar to each cupful of juice, boil it up, and can or bottle if wanted for future use.  [To use, combine with ice water and drink].

ELDERBERRY CATCHUP. 

Elderberry catchup is excellent with game or cold meats.  Boil one quart of the berries with two cupfuls of vinegar and one tablespoonful of pickling spices tied in a muslin bag, for twenty minutes.  Put through a press or sieve that will retain the seeds, add two cupfuls of brown sugar, and simmer for ten minutes before sealing.

ELDERBERRIES DRIED.  Berry, Mrs.  “Fruit Recipes”.

Sun-dry the berries as for strawberries.  In some parts of Europe peasants use these in soups through the winter.

ELDERBERRY DUMPLINGS.  “The Ohio Cultivator”.

Make the crust as usual and put in the berries as you would other fruit.  Boil them fast till the crust is done, then take them up and eat with a dip of white sugar and sour cream, and you will confess they are delicious.

ELDERBERRY SYRUP.  “The Every-Day Cook-Book”.  1889.

Take elderberries perfectly ripe, wash and strain them, put a pint of molasses to a pint of the juice, boil it twenty minutes, stirring constantly, when cold add to each quart a pint of French brandy; bottle and cork it tight.  It is an excellent remedy for a cough.

ELDER TOPS, TO PICKLE.  “Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery”.

About six inches of the tops of young elder sprouts, if cut at the right time—in the middle of April—will make a good pickle.  The sprouts should be first blanched in boiling water, then pickled in vinegar, adding salt and white pepper.  [Month when these shoots are at their prime will vary with locale].

Blissful Meals yall, cultivated or foraged, there are good things growing out there.  –  Thehistoricfoodie aka Vickie Brady.  Copyright©

See:  Rohde, Eleanour, “A Garden of Herbs”, 1922.  Berry, Mrs.  “Fruit Recipes”.  1903.

Soap Fit for a Queen©

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Soap is a necessary item for our comfort and health yet it rarely receives notice or praise.  When made for a Queen, however, it is quite another matter.  In 1892, advertisements for Pears soap read:  “Pears Soap Makers by Special Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen”, and “Pears Soap Makers by Special Appointment to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales”.

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Queen Victoria conferred the original Royal warrant for the sale of soap to the royal household and the honour was renewed by Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.  Another Royal warrant was held with the King of Spain

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The soap was praised by such notables as the senior surgeon at St. John’s Hospital for the Skin, London and the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.  The latter wrote an endorsement on Nov. 29, 1882.  “If ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness,’ soap must be considered as a ‘Means of Grace’—and a clergy-man who recommends moral things, should be willing to recommend Soap.  I am told that my commendation of Pears’ Soap some dozen years ago has assured for it a large sale in the U.S.  I am willing to stand by any word in favor of it that I ever uttered.  A man must be fastidious indeed who is not satisfied with it.  Henry Ward Beecher”.

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Pears’ Soap took the highest prizes at International Exhibitions around the world – Paris, London, Philadelphia, Melbourne, Adelaide, Chicago, Santiago, Edinburgh, etc.

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Pears Soap had humble beginnings but through keen marketing strategy it has remained popular into its third century of manufacturing.  Andrew Pears began making soap in London in 1789 and it is still available today.  Andrew took his grandson, Mr. Francis Pears, as a partner in 1835 and The House of Pears became A. & F. Pears.  Andrew left Francis to work alone in 1838 making a modest living but the soap wasn’t quite living up to its potential until 1865 when he was joined by Mr. Thomas J. Barratt and a young Mr. Andrew Pears (son of Francis and great-grandson of the original owner, Andrew Pears.  Francis Pears retired in 1875.

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Thomas Barratt’s contribution to the success of Pears’ Soap was his persistence advertising it.  He was responsible for soliciting the endorsement of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and others and made sure it was featured in magazines and newspapers in Britain and the U.S.  The soap, as developed initially in 1792, was good enough in quality that all that was needed to make it a household item was acquainting the masses with the product.

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“Each cake of Pears’ Soap goes through a drying process for a full year before leaving the works, which removes every particle of water.  A cake of Pears is all soap and only soap, that is why it lasts so much longer than ordinary kinds”.

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So successful was Barratt’s advertising campaign that Pears Soap was truly, “in leading hotels, banks, clubs, steamship lines and hospitals throughout the world”.

Blissful Meals, thehistoricfoodie, aka Vickie Brady.©

 

Destruction Can Come in Small Packages©

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Prior to moving to coastal Georgia about 30 years ago I’d never heard of a fire ant.  The yard where we settled was manicured except for one area maybe 4 x 4 feet.  I decided to clean that up and as soon as I made one pass into the area with the mower I was covered with thousands of stinging ants.  The stings are quite painful and a single large colony can contain up to 250,000 worker ants.  Each bite causes an infected pustule and swelling.  I still have scars from that encounter 30 years ago topped off by more recent ones I got working in the garden and trying to get the ants off chicks and eggs.

Photo from Extension of fire ants on a newly hatching quail egg

We have lost several chicks (duck, chicken, and goose) this year.  At first I didn’t realize why we were finding so many half-hatched or day old dead, but seemingly fully developed, chicks in the pens and nests.  Eventually I found a pipped egg in a nest inside the chicken coop with ants on it, in it, and swarming all around inside the nest.  This wasn’t a case of a few ants crawling on an egg.  When I began to carefully remove bits of shell, ants came pouring out of the egg.  It was like something from a horror movie.  There must have been at least 200 fire ants inside the egg mercilessly stinging the poor chick.  Naturally it died and I realized we have a huge problem.

As soon as the chicks pip, the ants seize upon the bit of moisture and sting the poor chicks to death.  I had a hen hatching eggs in a cardboard box atop my freezer yesterday and by the time I saw the eggs were hatching the ants had already killed three of the chicks.  They climbed up the brick wall in the carport and from there managed to bridged the gap from the wall over to the freezer to get in the box.

A look at some chicken forums confirmed that the problem has been experienced in many areas of the South and one woman claimed the ants had killed a full-grown rooster.  The local Extension office has published papers to educate youngsters raising poultry, goats, rabbits, and other small animals for 4-H club on the dangers of fire ants when animals are penned and cannot escape them.

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Cluster of fire ants floating in flood water, Wiki

The quail population in the Southeast has declined drastically, primarily due to newly hatched quail succumbing to fire ant stings.  Quail nest on the ground where the ants have no trouble  getting to the hatching eggs.  A similar problem has been observed with the brown pelican.  “Two years ago, a colony of brown pelicans off the coast of Georgia completely abandoned an area of their rookery right in the middle of the nesting season.  This was a sure signal that something was wrong.”  Brad Winn, UGA, investigated and found fire ants in the nests. *

The University of Nebraska did a study on the impact of fire ants on hatching turtles and reported a loss of 70% of hatchlings on Southeastern coasts.  Brad Winn, a DNR biologist from Georgia said, fire ants damage eggs by chewing holes in the eggs and while the University of Georgia report didn’t seem to think the problem as severe they did note that during and just after hatching young turtles are found that have been killed in the shell by fire ants and others that were killed by fire ants after hatching.

The ants are particularly dangerous for people who are allergic to their stings because so many of them can attack at once.  A young Alabama mother of two died this summer after fire ants came out of a bale of hay she was sitting on and stung her numerous times.

There are multiple types of fire ants, with “our” Red Imported Fire Ant being the worst.  It is the worst because of its swarming behavior, its painful stings, and its ability to reproduce at an astonishing rate.  They are also seemingly indifferent to poisons that finish off other kinds of ants.  “One sting isn’t serious but fire ants can use their stingers again and again, and they have a nasty habit of ganging up on their victims.  Mass stingings can kill animals and people”.  **

So far we haven’t used anything I’d consider an effective poison although I’ve seen recommendations for Advion Fire Ant Bait and Extinguish Plus Fire Ant Bait, both of which should be broadcast outdoors in the spring and fall. For existing mounds, granules should be spread, not on the mound, but about 3 to 4 feet around the mound.   For those of us with free-ranging poultry, the first step is penning them up so that they don’t eat the bait.  I put Sevin granules in my chicken nests using the recommended amount for the coops but that hasn’t helped the birds nesting outside the pens or the poor hen on top of the freezer.

Travelers to Brazil and other destinations described the painful stings of fire ants in the 1860’s, I wonder what they’d say if they knew that these miniscule stinging menaces were introduced to the U.S. through ship ballast, probably in Mobile, AL, and have spread to this degree throughout the Southeast.

* http://apps.caes.uga.edu/gafaces/index.cfm?public=viewStory&pk_id=963

**  Boys’ Life.  Sept. 1992.

Reclaiming Neglected Grape Vines©

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We inherited a row of grape vines when we bought our little farm and this year they have rewarded our efforts at reclaiming them with sweet purple grapes.  The elderly couple who built the home had not been able to properly care for the place for a few years and as a result the fruit trees were all in desperate need of pruning.  The plum trees were beyond saving so we cut those down and planted new ones.  The grape arbor was a massive tangle of old vines with some green growth just at the top.  We severely pruned them per instructions in 19th century treatises, half expecting them to die from shock, and this year we were pleasantly surprised with grapes.

Yesterday I picked 3 large dishpans full of grapes, stemmed them, juiced them, and canned seven quarts of grape juice, not bad for vines left neglected for so long.  Besides jelly, what might the juice have been used for by my grandmothers?  A little research provided loads of ideas.  Perhaps a few may inspire you as well.

GRAPE JUICE AND SODA. “Practical Druggist”.  Sept. 1908.

There is a demand for grape juice just served with many of the carbonated waters.  To do this, fill the glass half full of the desired water and pour in the grape juice last.  Mix with a spoon or by pouring.

GRAPE SUNDAE.  Same, Oct. 1908.

Ice cream is very tasteful when covered with the grape pulp; for this purpose the pulp is better if it be left undiluted.  This may be topped with a little whipped cream if desired.

WELCH’S GRAPE PUNCH.  Same, May 1908.

For a dainty, unfermented punch, take the juice of three lemons, juice of one orange, one pint of Welch’s grape juice, one quart of water and one cup of sugar.  If served from a punch bowl, add sliced oranges and pineapple.

GRAPE CREAM SODA.  “American Druggist”.  Oct. 1912.

Put a small cone of vanilla ice cream in a soda glass, add 2 ounces of grape juice, a spoonful of crushed fruit and fill up with the fine stream.  Top with a spoonful of whipped cream.  [Soda water].

ENGLISH PLUM PUDDING.  “Eureka Cook Book”.  1907.

Three cups chopped suet, 6 cups sifted flour, 2 cups raisins, 2 cups currants, 1 cup citron, 1 teaspoon each ginger, cloves, allspice, 1 grated nutmeg, I heaped teaspoon baking powder, a little salt, 3 eggs, wine glass of grape juice, milk enough to make a stiff batter.  Soak fruit in grape juice, chop the suet, and put it in a cool place overnight.  Mix baking powder and suet in the flour dry, add fruit, milk and the eggs, stir thoroughly.  Boil 6 or 8 hours in a well floured pudding bag or in a tightly covered pudding mould.  [The mixture can be put into a mixing bowl that is then placed inside a larger pan of simmering water when one does not have a pudding mould.]

GRAPE SOUP.  “The North End Club Cook Book”.  1905.

Stem, wash and cook enough Concord grapes to secure 1 quart of rich grape juice.  Add 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of seedless raisins (which have been soaked in water for 2 hours) and 4 sticks of cinnamon.  Let boil for half an hour, remove the sticks of cinnamon and thicken with 4 tablespoons of flour.  Grape jelly can also be used in place of the grape juice.  To be served hot or very cold.

MINCEMEAT.  “Hanover Cook Book”.  1922.

1 ½ lbs. of beef boiled and chopped, 2 lbs. beef suet chopped fine, 4 lbs. apples, 2 lbs. raisins, 2 lbs. currants, 2 lbs. sugar, 1 pt. [pint] grape juice, 2 nutmegs, ½ oz. cinnamon, ¼ oz. cloves, ¼ oz. mace, 1 teaspoonful salt, ½ lb. citron, 2 large oranges.  [The mincemeat could be frozen in portions for baking pies.]

MINCEMEAT.  2.  “Hanover Cook Book”.

3 lbs. lean meat, ¼ lb. suet, 3 lbs. sugar, 5 lbs. apples, 2 lbs. raisins, 2 lbs. currants, ½ lb. citron, 3 lemons, 3 nutmegs, 1 oz. mace, ½ pt. grape juice, ½ gal. cider.  All these things must be chopped, meat well cooked; fresh tongue is best.

FRUIT CAKE.  “Hanover Cook Book”.

1 lb. sugar, 1 lb. flour, ¾ lb. butter, 8 eggs, 2 lbs. raisins, 1 lb. currants, ½ lb. citron, ½ pt. grape juice, 1 tablespoonful cinnamon, 1 teaspoonful allspice, 1 tablespoonful cloves, and 2 nutmegs.  [The amount of spice is probably too much for modern palates, adjust per your taste.  Cream the sugar, butter, and eggs.  Mix in the flour into which the spices have been mixed, the fruit, and grape juice.  Bake at 350 until done, test with a toothpick.  Fruit cakes flavored with grape juice were relatively common.]

FRUIT COCKTAIL.  “Country Kitchen Cookbook”.  1922.

1 cup cherry juice, ½ c. lemon juice, ½ c. grape juice, 1 pineapple, ½ lb. marshmallows, powdered sugar, 3 oranges.  Shred the pineapple.  Peel the oranges, free from membrane and seeds, and cut into small pieces.  Snip the marshmallows into small sections.  Mix the fruit and marshmallow and sweeten with powdered sugar.  Mix the fruit juices.  Serve the fruit mixture in cocktail glasses.  Put a couple of tablespoonfuls of the fruit juices over the fruit and finish with a spoonful of lemon sherbet.  A fruit cocktail may be served before a soup or in place of the soup.

GRAPE CATSUP.  Mothers’ Congress Cookbook.  1922.

5 lbs. nice ripe grapes mashed, cooked and run through the colander.  Add 1 pt. vinegar, 3 lbs. sugar, 1 tsp. ground allspice, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. black pepper, ½ tsp. salt.  Boil all together until thick enough for catsup.  [Put up per modern canning instructions in small jars].

GRAPE CATSUP.  1906.

1 quart of grape juice, 1 pint of vinegar, 1 lbs. sugar, ground cloves.  [I’m adding the allspice, cinnamon, and a wee bit of pepper found in most such recipes.  I won’t be dipping my fries in this, but tonight’s project is turning a quart of my grape juice into this catsup to serve with cold meats].

GRAPE JUICE SHERBET.  “Everwoman’s Canning Book”.  1918.

1 pint grape juice, 4 tablespoons lemon juice, Juice of half an orange, 1 tablespoon granulated gelatin, 1 ½ cups boiling water, ½ cup cold water, 1 cup sugar.  Soak gelatin in cold water five minutes.  Make a syrup by boiling the sugar and hot water for fifteen minutes; then add the soaked gelatin.  Cool slightly; add grape, orange, and lemon juice.  Freeze, using a mixture of three parts ice to one of salt.

Blissful Meals, Yall, enjoy summer’s bounty.  – Vickie Brady, aka thehistoricfoodie.©  Copyright 2016.

When is a Bean not a Bean?

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My uncle was a good country gentleman, a veteran of WWII, and what one might call a gentle giant in that he was generally quiet but when he did speak it was worth listening to.  He was the glue that held our family together as my grandfather died young and my uncle assumed the duties of patriarch.  His occupation was simply “farmer”.  He raised cattle, kept chickens, turkeys, guineas, pigs, and grew fields of corn and common, as well as some uncommon, vegetables in his kitchen garden.  Some of what he routinely grew when I was growing up faded into oblivion with his passing so when I rediscover one of his classics it is a little like regaining a piece of my childhood.

One such plant is cucuzzi, aka, edible gourd, Italian edible gourd, etc, but which my uncle called Yard-long bean.  The latter is what I knew it as, so, when I researched it and realized that his bean and the cucuzzi gourd are in fact one and the same I wondered how he came to know it as a bean.  An article from “Popular Science”, May 1920, reveals the plant was known by many as such, sometimes called New Guinea bean.  The article was entitled, “When a Bean Is Not a Bean It’s a Gourd”.  It has sometimes been called snake gourd although the two are actually two different plants.

“This gourd springs up as by magic when the seeds are planted after the danger of frost has passed.  Like the ordinary pole-bean, it will grow whether cared for or not.”  The plant is an aggressive spreader so give it plenty of room then let it do for itself.  Unless sprawling over other vegetables is considered desirable they are best trellised.

A humorous discussion on how an edible gourd came to be called a New Guinea Butter Bean” was found in “Bean-bag” [June 1920].  “All jests aside, the elongated gourd with the funny name is conceded to be a quite acceptable vegetable.  It can be prepared in a score or more ways and finds favor with many appetites…The gourds are at their best when about twelve inches long and covered with a white fuzzy growth”.

The plant’s merits are many.  Cattle, goats, and pigs eat them, poultry eat the seed, seed are easily perpetuated by letting one or two of the gourds grow to full size and harvesting the seed for the next year’s crop, and any that are inadvertently overlooked and get too large to cook can be dried and used for containers or crafts.  In the 60’s and 70’s my mom and aunts made floral arrangements, dippers, and bird houses out of the large dried gourds.

I’ve made out an order for seed from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and by this time next year I’ll be cooking a treat from my childhood and have my very own Mason jar full of dried seed stored away just like Uncle Wallace.

A 1909 book [“The English Vegetable Garden,  1909] spoke of its merits as a vegetable and recommended it for soups and stews.  It can be cooked in any way one would summer squash.  We most often sliced and fried the young tender gourds after a dusting of cornmeal.  After all, we are from the South and you know what they say about us and our frying pans.  Blissful Meals, yall, may your growing season see plentiful rain and sun and may your skillet never be empty.  -Thehistoricfoodie, aka, Vickie Brady.

Queen Victoria’s Poultry Yard©

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“Her Majesty’s poultry-yard, at Windsor, is situated in a small pleasure-garden just opposite Frogmore, and being rather for the amusement of rearing fancy fowls and pigeons in the manner of an aviary, than for breeding them for the table, is only, at present, upon a moderate scale.  The hen-house is erected at the back of a high wall, and…is merely a simple, though fancifully-decorated cottage, displaying considerable taste in the architect.  Over the roof is a well-stocked hexagonal erection for pigeons of various race, which are so familiar as to perch upon the person of her Majesty, who feeds them from her hand; in the centre of the building is a small room of entrance, on each side of which are the several compartments for the poultry, with a yard divided into separate courts by wire fences, and no birds can have more snug retreats for depositing and sitting upon their eggs—the nests being tastefully formed of moss, giving them the appearance of bowers; the whole warmed by a heated flue running underneath, and communicating with each cote by gratings.

Here may be seen a curious collection of white Java Bantams, odd little birds, covered with a sort of hairy feather, but laying, it is said, the richest kind of egg; which, however, are not a little difficult to be got, for it seems that no sooner is one layed, [sic]than the whole tribe, even the hen herself, begin pecking at it until eaten up:  yet in this, we imagine, there must be some mistake, or it would be impossible to rear a brood from the parent hen.  There are also some of Sir John Sebright’s celebrated bantams, with their golden speckled feathers, and other small breeds of a rare description.  By way of contrast, there is an enormously large breed of Cochin China fowls, the cock, although very young, weighing upwards of ten pounds, and the hens very prolific of eggs of superior flavor; which, although white when layed, [sic] soon become afterwards speckled.

There are likewise various other sorts of fancy breeds—both fowls and pigeons, of a curious description—all under the care of a man especially qualified for such a charge, as perhaps there are few better acquainted with the habits of the feathered tribes.  He has evidently passed much of his time in the recesses of the woods and forests, trapping birds for sale, and examining their modes of life…

The shrubberies in the garden afford shade enough from the sun, but the fowls should also have shelter from the rain, by a verandah extending along the front from each side of the porch…

We understand it to be the intention of her Majesty to establish a large poultry-yard, for the supply of the royal table, in the breeding and fattening of all sorts of fowls—in the care of which her Majesty takes especial interest; nor can there be a doubt that the introduction of foreign breeds will thus—under the example of her gracious patronage—in the course of time, cause much improvement in the stock of our native species…”

The author went on to extol the virtues of exercise citing the royal couple as an example.  “Those residents of Windsor who are in the habit of taking an early morning walk, to enjoy ‘the cool, the fragrant, and the silent hour,’ in the splendid demesne, proudly crowned by its ancient castle, must have often seen two persons in plain attire, tripping lightly across that pleasant meadow called ‘Datchet Mead,’ in order to visit a farm at the extremity of the Home-park.  These persons are Her Majesty and Prince Albert, pursuing their way to the dairy and poultry-yard, and in their progress sporting with their infants…It is impossible to witness the unaffected enjoyment of the royal couple in this domestic excursion, unalloyed as it is by any restraint of official etiquette…”

Queen Victoria's chicken coop early 20th c photo

Photo taken early 20th century

Murray, John.  “Farming for Ladies”.  1844.  London.

America’s Greatest Problem: We’ve been off the farm too long

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This article is from Appalachian Magazine.  It carries a powerful message, one that every American should heed.

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This is an opinion article from Appalachian Magazine, written by Jeremy Farley:

This week, our nation celebrated its 240th birthday and though my heart fills with patriotic fervor each time I catch a glimpse of those red stripes flapping in the wind, I can’t help but have those feelings checked by the harsh understanding that America 2016 is a nation in dire trouble.

Far from being the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are now a nation of spineless weaklings ready to be offended at the drop of the hat and often it is the very ones who dropped the hat who are the most offended.

I do not pretend to be an expert on sociology or American history – everything I know I had to learn from my life’s experiences, mostly as a child on a +200-acre beef farm in nowhere Virginia.  The older I get, the more I have come to realize, however, that it was here that I received the type of education no Ivy League institution can come close to offering.  My only regret is that 200 million other American children never had the same opportunities I enjoyed – opportunities to bottle feed a baby calf, drive a truck through an empty field at the age of 5 (alone), spend summers sitting alongside my father inside the cab of a John Deere tractor, begin Christmas morning the same way I began everything other cold and windy winter morning – opening the gates for dad as he unrolled hay for hundreds of hungry animals.

In the year 1790, 90% of the American population were farmers.  By 1850, this percentage had dropped to 64%, and then down to only 21% by the year 1930.  Today, only 2% of the American population serves as farmers.

And though American agriculture is more productive than ever, I’m afraid that as a nation we are beginning to witness the consequences of having raised multiple generations who have never looped a metal chain through a gate or chased lightning bugs through a field of freshly mowed hay.

As a nation, we have allowed Disney to convince our children that all animals are cute and cuddly, then wonder why dozens of people get killed each year attempting to take selfies with grizzly bears, cougars and copperheads.

As a nation, we have replaced the garden hoe and watering bucket with an Xbox and cell phone, then wonder why our “children” refuse to move out at the age of 30.

As a nation, the vast majority of our families have never even came across an injured bird, let alone taken the time to nurse one back to health, then we wonder why a generation has been brought up to have no respect for nature or its Creator.

While our forebears were busy praying for rain, we have come to regard the water that falls from the sky as being a cursed object — unaware that it is the rain that keeps us fed each day… All sunshine and no rain makes a barren desert, but hardly anyone realizes this in 2016 America; which is why so many never find peace during their darkest days.

There was a time when Americans consumed bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy, fried eggs and a big glass of milk each morning — and yet they rarely got fat.  Why? Because after eating such a hardy breakfast, they went out in the fields and spent the next thirteen hours fixing fences, hanging gates, delivering calves, killing, yes, killing predators, and harvesting food.

Farm work is dirty, tiring, sometimes cruel and always difficult; which is exactly why the percentage of Americans who engage in this work has declined with every generation.

Yet, it was this type of upbringing that allowed a nation to produce men and women who pulled together to fend off the forces of Hell in the Second World War, explore the heavens, eradicate disease and tap the ocean depths.

Sadly, those farm children are dying off the scene each day. They have been replaced by “men” who have never gotten dirt under their fingernails and purchase overpriced coffee as a status symbol.

I’m not so foolish to believe that all of our ills could be solved by a trip back to the farm, but I am confident that if a few more people had the type of upbringing I enjoyed, the world would have a lot more common sense!

“Men In Denim Built Our Country…Men In Suits Destroyed It.”

What to do With Loads of Summer Squash©

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I have been blessed with an abundance of yellow squash this year and yet I hold my breath for fear insects will destroy my vines and my crop along with it.  I have sprayed the base of the plants to control squash bugs and once they were killed I began destroying any eggs I found to prevent a second hatch.

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I am harvesting from one row of summer squash, but I have two more rows that should be producing by the time this row has played out.   I haven’t harvested any of the Pennsylvania Crookneck squash yet.  I’ve put several quarts in the freezer from which I will make squash casseroles, soup, and fritters, and since I want to get the most out of the fresh ones while they last, I took a quick peek at squash recipes from days gone by.

Having grown up in the South the first thing I think of is slices breaded in cornmeal and fried nice and golden brown, but for a change I discovered we really like them breaded in Jiffy cornbread mix.  An old method that is still excellent is to dust the slices with salt and pepper, dip them into beaten egg, and then into bread crumbs before frying.  Panko bread crumbs are a welcome change and the slices can be baked in a hot oven until the squash is tender and the crumbs brown for those who want to avoid the oil in frying.  There’s always squash sautéed in butter, with or without onions.

SUMMER SQUASH CUSTARD. 

2 lbs. summer squash

½ lb. well-flavored cheese

Pepper, ½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

¾ cupful of milk

Corn flakes or cracker crumbs

1 tablespoonful of butter

Boil the squash until tender, drain, put into a deep baking dish.  Add the cheese, reserving a little to go on top.  Add salt and pepper, the eggs which were beaten just enough to combine the white and yolk, and the milk.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Cover with crushed corn flakes or crackers and dot with butter.  Bake at 325 for 30 minutes or until the top is brown and the mixture firm.

[WINTER] SQUASH SOUFFLE.

2 cupfuls of hot, steamed squash

¼ cupful of butter

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 teaspoonful of salt

1/8 teaspoonful of pepper

1 ½ cupfuls of half milk and cream

2 beaten egg yolks

2 egg whites, beaten stiff

Force squash through a sieve, add the brown sugar, butter, salt, pepper, milk, cream, and egg yolks beaten.  Fold in the beaten egg whites and place in a buttered baking dish.  Bake at 350 until firm and lightly browned.

SQUASH CAKES.

Mix fine flour with half its bulk of stewed squash or pumpkin, and add milk enough to make a thick batter, about a cup of milk to each cup of squash.  Cook on a griddle.

[Winter] SQUASH PIES.

Pare, boil, and sift a good dry squash.  To one quart of the squash pour on two of boiling milk, and then stir in two cups of sugar, two spoonfuls of salt, one of cinnamon, one grated nutmeg [1/2 to 1 teaspoon], and five well-beaten eggs.  Line deep plates with plain paste, fill with the mixture, and bake one hour in a moderate [350] oven.  The pies look nice to boil a stick of cinnamon in the milk instead of using ground.

For those who find winter squash hard to cut and peel, this may be the recipe for you.

WINTER SQUASH.  The small Hubbard squash is best for baking.  Saw the squash in halves; scrape out the soft part and the seeds.  Put the halves in the oven, and bake about three-quarters of an hour, or until tender.  Serve in the shell.  Help out by spoonfuls.

WINTER SQUASH WITH ROAST MEAT.  Pare, and cut in long slices, about 1 ½ or 2 inches thick.  Cook in a dripping-pan with a roast.  Baste when the meat is basted.  It is nice baked in a pan by itself with meat drippings.

SQUASH CROQUETTES.  Mix a pt [pint] of mashed squash with ½ a cup of bread crumbs, a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper to season.  Heat thoroughly, shape into croquettes, dip in egg and crumbs and fry in deep fat.

STUFFED SUMMER SQUASH.  Hollow out center of squash.  Fill with dressing made of bread crumbs, celery, boiled ham, onion, summer squash cut from centers.  Season with butter, celery, salt, cayenne, etc.

SQUASH SOUP.  To one quart of thoroughly cooked pumpkin or squash allow two quarts of milk, plenty of butter, pepper, and salt.  Serve with toasted bread.  [This soup can be improved upon by topping each bowl with a dollop of sour cream, grated cheese, and/or a bit of crumbled cooked bacon].

Blissful Meals, yall.  Enjoy those bumper crops while you can for soon we’ll be emptying those Mason jars and dipping into our freezer stash.  – Thehistoricfoodie©, aka, Vickie Brady.

Bibliography:

Callahan, Genevieve Anne.  “Sunset All-western Cook Book”.  1933.  “What to Eat, and How to Cook It”.  1874.  Parloa, Maria.  “Appledore Cook Book”.  1880.  Rorer, Sarah Tyson.  “Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cook Book”.  1886.  Owens, Frances.  “Mrs. Owens’ Cook Book.  1903.  “The Cook County Cook Book”.  1912.  “Twentieth Century Cook Book”.  1914.  “Vaughn’s Vegetable Cook Book”.  1898.

A Look at Various Breads©

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In 1809, “A Dictonary , Spanish and English, and English and Spanish”, defined tortilla simply as “a little cake”.

“Tortillas, which are a sort of cake made of Indian corn, are a general article of sustenance in Mexico.  They were prepared in precisely the same way as at present before the conquest of that country.  The maize, of which the tortillas are composed, is first parboiled, to cleanse and soften the grain, and then, in a quantity sufficient for the day’s consumption, is left to cool.  For the purpose of crushing or mashing the maize, the women have a large square block of black lava, or basalt, about two feet in length and sixteen inches broad, which stands on two, three, or four legs, so arranged as to give it a gentle slope.  There is a very slightly-elevated rim on either side, and the great solidity and weight keep the stone steady, while the operator bruizes [sic] the maize with a long stone, not unlike a rolling pin, which is held at each end, and so moved that it crushes the grain to paste, and at the same time pushes it down to a bowl placed ready to receive it.  This process is gone through once, twice, or more, according to the fineness required; and, where great care is taken it is passed through a fine sieve.  A lump of this paste is then taken, and patted skillfully between the hands until it becomes as thin as a light pancake; and the great art consists in thus flattening it out without breaking the edges.  The cake is then laid on a smooth plate of iron or flat earthenware, which is placed over some charcoal or wood embers, and kept at a certain heat; here, first one, and then the other side of the tortilla, receives a toasting, and great care is taken that it should not be at all browned.  The grand object in the latter part of the process is to serve up the tortillas hot and hot, as fast as possible, in a clean napkin; and a slow eater who begins his first tortilla, will find twenty or thirty piled up in a smoking heap at his elbow, long before he has made any progress with  his dinner.  The making of tortillas is so important an art, that in the houses of respectable people a woman, called from her office “tortillera,” is kept for this express purpose; and it sounds very oddly to the ear of a stranger, during meal-times, to hear the rapid patting and slapping which goes forward in the cooking-place until all demands are satisfied.”  – “The Young Gentleman’s Book”.  1832. London.

Church noted the presence of someone to bake tortillas during a meal so that they were always hot and fresh.  “When stale, the tortilla not only loses its elasticity, but becomes hard, dry, and tasteless as a chip”.  He described the “chile Colorado” referred to earlier as a sauce of red pepper and tomatoes cooked with a little lard, and sometimes with jerked meat and described the manner of smearing this paste between two tortillas and rolling them into a thick round sandwich.  Church, William Conant.  “The Galaxy”.  June 1868.

Thomas Jefferson Green, likewise, referred to the tortilla as, “a cake of bread made of Indian corn, about the thickness of upper leather, and quite as pliant”.  He wrote that it served the Mexicans as bread and also as knife, fork and spoon, the eater using his thumb and first two fingers to form a spoon shape with which food was dipped up and placed in the mouth.  “At every dip the spoon shape disappears”, or was eaten and a new piece used for the next bite.  – “Journal of the Texian Expedition Against Mier”.  New York.  1845.

Edward Thomas Stevens described the difference in texture of tortillas made in Mexico and those made in Central America.  Taylor described the former as “soft and leathery” whereas Stevens found those made in Nicaragua “hot and crisp”.  Brantz Mayer described Mexican tortillas as, “tough buckskin-like victuals”.  Stevens noted that tortillas could be purchased on the street from an Indian woman and chile to go in it from another, but his use of the word “Indian” referred to native peoples of Central America and not native people of the U.S.  “ Flint Chips:  A Guide to Pre-historic Archaeology”.  London.  1870.

No references were found of natives in the U.S. making tortillas.  James Henry Salisbury noted they boiled the maize and ate it with fish or venison “instead of bread”.  – “History and Chemical Investigation of Maize, Or Indian Corn”.  Albny.  1849.

Carver penned an excellent description of Indian bread which is vastly different from Mexican tortillas.  “Among this people [Indians of North America] I ate of a very uncommon kind of bread.  The Indians, in general, use but little of this nutritious food:  whilst their corn is in the milk, as they term it, that is, just before it begins to ripen, they slice off the kernels from the cob to which they grow, and knead them into a paste.  This they are enabled to do without the addition of any liquid, by the milk that flows from them; and when it is effected, they parcel it out into cakes, and enclosing them in leaves of the basswood tree, place them in hot embers, where they are soon baked.  And better flavored bread I never ate in any country”.  – Carver, Jonathan, Capt. “Three Years Travels Throughout the Interior Parts of North America”.  Charlestowne.  1802.

Bailey spoke of savages from the Rocky Mountains who came down to St. Charles who had never eaten bread prior to their encounter with the whites.  Napier, James Bailey.  “Sketches of Indian Character”.  1841.

Joseph Taylor wrote that the bread of New England Indians and, “many other parts of America” was made of maize and called “weachin”.  It seems doubtful he saw them eat much bread as he went on to say they, “boiled it whole in water, till it swelled and became tender, and then they fed on it, either alone, or eat it with their fish and venison, instead of bread”.  – “The Wonder of Trees, Plants, and Shrubs Recorded in Anecdotes or A Description of Their Wonderful Properties…”  London.  1823.

In a treatise published in 1841, is found mention of North American Indians pounding maize to make a, “sort of cake”, which they bake by means of hot cinders.  This serves them, and, indeed occasionally the Anglo Americans, as a substitute for loaf or leavened bread…”  There was no mention of flattening it as one would with a tortilla.  – “The Guide to Trade:  The Baker Including Bread and Fancy Baking”.

Let’s touch on the modern day Native American fry bread before we go our separate ways.  This food is passed off as authentic at practically every re-enactment period, however, there is no indication that this was made prior to the reservation period.  It was produced from the limited supplies they received in an effort to produce as much food as possible from as little as possible.

“Fried bread” referred to more than one product.  Throughout the 19th century there are numerous mentions of frying bread, for a process in which bread was diced, or cut it into fanciful shapes, and browned in butter to serve with soup.  Bread crumbs were prepared in a similar manner to serve on top of various dishes.  Recipes for French toast were also sometimes titled Fried Bread in 19th century cookery books.

A recipe for Fried Bread similar to modern Navajo fried bread was published in Mrs. Chadwick’s “Home Cookery:  A Collection of Tried Receipts, Both Foreign and Domestic” in 1853, but the index contained nothing that might be construed as Native American food.  It is this author’s belief that the fried bread recipe was copied from other books published during that time on East Indian food, thus the word “foreign” in the title.

Fried bread is mentioned five times in “Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book”, 1860, however this book was certainly written about the country India and not North American Indians.

The following was penned by Mrs. Marcus Whitman who accompanied her missionary husband on his travels and to the Oregon territory.  “Our dinner consisted of dry buffalo meat, turnips, and fried bread which was a luxury.  Mountain bread is simply coarse flour and water mixed and roasted or fried in buffalo grease.”  Those lines were most likely written in 1843 when Whitman led the first large group of wagons west from Fort Hall in southeastern Idaho because his wife did say the meal in question was taken at Fort Hall.  She went on to elaborate on the fort’s builder, appearance, and history.  Whitman died in 1847.  – Humphreys, Mary Gay.  “Missionary Explorers Among the American Indians”.  1913.  NY.

Assumptions are not acceptable proof of an item’s history so one must ask if the inhabitants of Fort Hall who served the dinner were preparing foods they’d seen Indians in the area making or also just making what they could from supplies on hand.

Blissful Meals, I leave you with the following recipes to tempt you in your kitchen endeavors.  – Thehistoricfoodie, aka, Vickie Brady.  ©

TO FRY BREAD TO SERVE WITH SOUP.  – Acton, Eliza.  “Modern Cookery in all its Branches”.  1858.  Cut some slices a quarter-inch thick, from a stale loaf; pare off the crust, and divide the bread into dice, or cut it with a deep paste-cutter into any other form.  For half a pound of bread put two ounces of the best butter into a frying-pan, and when it is quite melted, add the bread; keep it turned, over a gentle fire, until it is equally coloured to a very pale brown, then drain it from the butter, and dry it on a soft cloth, or a sheet of paper placed before a clear fire, upon a dish, or on a sieve reversed.

FRIED BREAD, VERY NICE.  Mrs. Chadwick.  Make a sour-milk cake, put in just saleratus enough to foam the milk, then melt a piece of butter the size of an egg in a great spoonful of hot water.  Salt to taste.  It must only be made just stiff enough to roll out.  Fry in lard, as you do symballs.

MRS. HILL’S FRIED BREAD PUDDING.  Knight, S.  “Tit-Bits”.  1864.  One pint of milk, three eggs, a little salt, and flour enough to make a thin batter.  Cut a stale (baker’s) loaf in slices; half an hour before using, place the sliced bread in the batter.  It must be removed carefully when ready to cook, and fried as griddle cakes; to be eaten with sauce.

Got Tomatoes? Make Preserves©

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Photo (public domain) from Wikipedia, melba toast, goat cheese, and tomato preserves

I have 60 tomato plants out this year in three varieties – Big Boy, Better Boy, and Atkinson – so unless the horn worms find them or in spite of regular watering the drought and blistering sun render them incapable of setting fruit I should have enough to preserve.  We enjoy home-made soups and stews so a good portion of them will be canned or frozen, perhaps I’ll try my luck with the dehydrator, and then preserves could be made from any remaining fruit.  I envision a toasted bagel and cream cheese topped with tomato preserves and if I’m feeling particularly decadent some crispy bacon on the side.

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The earliest published receipt this author found for tomato preserves was the mid-1840’s, but mixtures under different names were published much earlier.  The Oct. 31, 1828 issue of the “New England Farmer” contained a receipt entitled “Towit of Tomatas”.  The housewife was to take a pint of tomatoes and a pound of fine sugar and reduce them in the same way as any other jam [cooked until thickened], then add the juice of a lemon.  “This makes a very good to wit.”

Mary Randolph’s “The Virginia Housewife” contained a form of the preserves called Tomato Sweet Marmalade in 1836.

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Half of the author’s garden, some of the tomato plants in front (before staking)

Randolph’s Tomato Marmalade was made from stemmed green tomatoes stewed and rubbed through a sieve, and the pulp combined with pepper, salt, pounded cloves, and garlic.  It was stewed thick, “keeps well”, and was considered an excellent seasoning.  Her sweet tomato marmalade instructed the housewife to add loaf sugar to the tomato pulp and stew until it was a stiff jelly.  It isn’t clear if the salt, pepper, and garlic were used in the sweet version.

“Tomatoes Preserve.—Mr. Editor—The tomato is favorably mentioned in your last number:  it is a valuable vegetable.  But I do not recollect, that in the variety of uses to which it has been applied, your paper assigns it any place among the different species of preserves.  As we are deprived this season of that pride of the fruit of Georgia, the peach, it may be of service to housekeepers to know that the tomato forms a most admirable substitute for the peach as a preserve.  The flavor is almost precisely the same—it looks as well, and is altogether an excellent article for the tea table.

Directions:–Take good ripe tomatoes—peel them and preserve them with good brown or loaf sugar.  If not peeled they burst, and do not retain the consistency so much desired by housekeepers, though they are very good without peeling.  I give you this, at this time, that the industry of the fair hands about your flourishing town may profit by it, before Jack Frost shall cut off their hope from this new source of table ornament and luxury.  “The Gennessee Farmer”, Aug. 1834, as quoted from the “Southern Planter”.

Old-Fashioned Tomato Preserve:  Take six pounds fruit, five pounds sugar, a bag containing two large tablespoons of ground ginger, and cook till quite thick.  Allow one lemon, sliced, to every quart can of preserve.  It can be cooked with the tomato or sliced into the can as it is being filled.  – “Good Housekeeping”.  August, 1904.

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Date and original source unknown.  Clippings found online at the Milwaukee Public Library digital collection of historic recipes.

Tomato Preserve.  8 qts ripe tomatoes (after peeled and sliced), 4 qts sugar, 3 lemons sliced very fine; boil down tomatoes and lemons before adding the sugar.  – “The Warren Cook Book.  1920.

Historic Recipe File, Milwaukee Public Library

Green Tomato Preserve.  To one pound of fruit use three-quarters of a pound of granulated sugar.  Allow one sliced lemon to two pounds of fruit, first tasting the white of the lemon to be sure it is not bitter.  If bitter [as most are], use the yellow rind [zest], grated, or shaved thin, and the juice.  Put the sugar on with just water enough to melt it, add the tomato and lemon, and cook gently until the tomato is tender and transparent.  Cut the tomatoes around in halves, and then quarter the halves.  This shape is preferable to slices.  This will keep without sealing, but it is better to put it in small jars, as it is so rich that only a little is wanted at a time.  – “The American Kitchen Magazine”.  Sept. 1898.

Tomato Preserve.  4 lbs. green tomatoes, sliced, 2 lemons, 2 ½ lbs. sugar, 3 or 4 small pieces gingerroot [sic].  Cook until rich preserve.  – “Woman’s Club of San Matco”.  1909.

About the only thing that has changed in these receipts in recent years is the process of putting them up.  Directions:  After boiling  a spice bag containing 1 Tablespoon mixed pickle spice and a 1 ½ inch piece of ginger, sliced, with 4 cups sugar, 2 medium lemons, seeded and sliced, and ¾ cup water for 15 minutes, add 6 cups peeled tomatoes (quartered or sliced if large), boil until the tomatoes are transparent.  Let set in a cool place from 12 to 18 hours.  Heat jars in hot water and heat water for processing the jars.  Transfer cooked tomatoes and lemon slices to a glass or stainless steel bowl and set aside using a slotted spoon.  Discard spice bag.  Bring syrup to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil hard, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add reserved tomatoes and lemons.  Bring back to a boil and boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and skim off foam.  Ladle hot preserves into hot jars leaving ¼ inch headspace.  Wipe the rim clean.  Place the tops on the jars until fingertip tight and process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude.  Remove jars and cool.

As always, Blissful Meals yall, from thehistoricfoodie, Vickie Brady.  thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com©

 

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