Like SamHenry, my maternal Grandmother was also from Britain. She was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1885 and moved to London where she resided until the end of World War 1.
At the end of the “war to end all wars”, she married my Grandfather and moved to the United States, bringing along her recipe box filled with instructions for preparing traditional English fare.
Every Christmas my Grandmother would spend days & days in the kitchen, baking cookies, fruit cakes & plum pudding as gifts for her family and friends.
Plum pudding was traditionally made in a “bag” & hung for weeks prior to Christmas to enhance the flavor. By the time I came on the scene, my Grandmother had adopted the pudding can* since she liked to make several small puddings to give away as presents.
You can’t get much more traditional English fare at the Christmas holiday than than a good plum pudding.
Mo’s Plum Pudding
3 cups sifted flour
1 TSP. baking powder
1 TSP. salt
1 TSP. cloves
1 TSP. all spice
1 TSP. nutmeg
2 TSP. cinnamon
1/2 TSP. ginger
1 package brown sugar
1 # chopped beef (suet)
1 package currants
2 # seedless grapes
1 package seeded raisins
1 # chopped, mixed peel
slivered almonds, blanched
6 beaten eggs
1 can apple sauce
1 TSP. molasses
1 TSP. almond extract, grated lemon rinds or essence of lemon
1 cup of broth. Can be water, cider or fruit juice
Mix all ingredients together
Grease bottoms and sides of pudding cans*
Put wax paper in bottom of cans
Fill cans with mixture and cover top with wax paper
Steam for about 6 hours or more in roasting pan, with water halfway up side of cans
Add boiling water about every hour
Remove from water, place on rack and leave covers off cans overnight
*Don’t have any “pudding cans”? Wash & save a few empty soup cans from your kitchen. Recycle – that’s what your Grandma did!
posted by Mountain Republic recipe by Amy Chenevert
My Great Grandfather had a home on the Halifax River in Ormond Beach, Florida where he lived winters. He was a Scottish merchant and other Scottish merchants had homes near him. They called themselves “the Scottish Syndicate.” The home was called Rowallan after a castle in his native Ayrshire.
Above is my Great Grandmother’s table at Rowallan (ca 1915). The centerpiece appears to be flowers and fruits. These round tables are making a comeback now but with one difference: they are constructed so that you can add leaves around the outside to expand them if you wish. Otherwise, they might be ungainly in today’s interiors.
There was a small orange grove on the property. When the house was sold, the appraiser, in trying to devalue the place for tax purposes said: “it must have cost one dollar per orange to produce fruit in that grove.” In other words, it wasn’t set up for economies of scale!
You could eat fruit al fresco in the grove as my cousins did here:
Or you could eat it at table using a citrus spoon with enameled orange blossoms. This is a spoon actually used at Roallan. It was the gift of a cousin in the family pictured above. She was the youngest and is not pictured.
We know for certain that wild turkey was on the menu at the house. Here is a picture of my young father (ca 1925) with one that had just been shot. We must remember that Florida in those days was not developed to the extent it is today and so wild turkeys were not far away.
We are fortuate to have these pictures and some artifacts from those days almost a century ago. There were seven children in the family and so a spoon is a treasure!
We used to have big old-fashioned family gatherings at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas at Grandma’s house. Helping Grandma and Grandpa, it was as if everyone were in a flotilla. Deep in conversation, we all floated in family formation from the kitchen to the dining room and back again to set the table and to help make sure everything was ready.
Ah but then something came out that ended the togetherness: a smaller table. We little cousins knew what THAT was: the children’s table – our table. Face it, we loved playing together but we did not want to eat together. We wanted to be with the adults. The adult’s table was only a matter of feet from us but it seemed as if we were on an island off the coast.
After dinner, the adults would sit around the table for hours talking in the residual glow of another good meal at Grandma’s. We children carried plates to the kitchen as they talked. I hurried through this so that I could stand by my parents at their table and listen to the stories. There was a living room filled with comfortable furniture but that table was the center of the universe at holiday time. To move to another room would have broken some kind of spell.
The sad fact about a table for children and another for adults is that it gets the children thinking about what it would take for them to get to the big table. If there were room enough for everyone, we would all have been together. So you think and you imagine a way and then it hits you: death. Someone at that table would have to die before you could have a place. Oh my God did you felt guilty for having such a thought as if the thought itself were a murder weapon. Kids are ripe for tragedy. They despair of a way out. It’s the drama of childhood!
When we all became adults with little people of our own, the reasonable solution finally arrived: dinner out. It was never as cozy or warm or as good as holiday dinner at Grandma’s house but then in this milieu, I usually got to sit next to Grandma herself. That was worth the wait. That’s one of the wonderful moments when you realize it isn’t about a place – it’s about the people in it. Grandma’s table can be anywhere as long as Grandma is sitting at it with us.
There was a canning company in my family until 1920. After her father’s death, my Grandmother (paternal) ran it with her uncle. But when he died and she had married my grandfather, the time had come to sell it.
The Company had a rich history. The Curtice Brothers, Simeon and Edwin, had a grocery store in Webster, NY near Lake Ontario. It was a prime growing area for fruits and “garden truck.” They made jams and jellies in their mother’s kitchen after hours. All of this led them to found a canning company in 1868. The headquarters was located in Rochester, NY but their produce came, in the main, from the Genesee Valley south of Rochester.
Their fastidiousness about freshness and quality led them to locate canning plants in the fields where produce could be captured and processed at the peak of freshness. They were pioneers in this approach.
Today, their advertisements, labels, jars and bottles are prime collectors items. Anything I have has been purchased on the internet since most records of the company did not survive.
Here is a little booklet published in 1908 “Original Menus” that includes suggestions for the use of Curtice Brothers products along with original recipes. Over time, I will reproduce some of the pages from this booklet. It is a gem.
My maternal great grandfather started going to this little gem of a Lake in the foothills of the Adirondacks before I was born. His son, my grandfater, owned his first cottage in a fairly well-populated bay but found a heavenly parcel with three lots and government property ringing most of it.
The house dated from the turn of the last century and was buried in trees with tall grass. Not much mowing and all natural.
Inside was plain, not winterized, with tongue and groove unpainted walls. The furniture was about the same date as the house; the kitchen dishes were depression-era glass and cheap reproduction willow ware and deep blue glasses. In short, these camps were filled with anything you didn’t want at your main house anymore.
I began my trips there my first year on the planet and they continued until the camp (cottage for non-Adirondack vacation homes) was sold following my grandfather’s death. In later years, my grandfather, a doctor, was the chief cook. He and my uncle cooked wonderful breakfasts. There was no dishwasher, a refrigerator only instituted in the place after 1970 and just the most basic iron cookware. Water piped in from a well and turned off and on using faucets replaced the pump on the counter next to the sink around the same time.
All dining table and cooking equipment was kept in tall metal cabinets that shut tight to protect them from the mice and bugs. Shelves were lined with oil cloth and, unlike today, seemed effortlessly spaced for successful storage.
I loved going fishing with Grandpa – often for the entire day. He made up some Grandma Brown’s Baked Bean sandwiches (canned beans made in Mexico, NY) and brought some pop and other unrefrigerated snacks for lunch. This was before ice packs and coolers. He was not good about minding my mother’s rules about candy. He would give me a few pieces and say “now I want you to take one of these once every ten minutes and see if you don’t feel better.” When she would complain, he would turn to her and say: “I don’t get cavities from eating candy. I keep my teeth in a glass nights and they are fine.” He was a tease and a character.
In the summer of 1966, my brother and I were tramping about Britain and we treated ourselves to a stay at the Chase Hotel, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire just because we drove past and liked how it looked! Serendipity is the best travel planning guide.
We had no idea that its main restaurant was gourmet and had been awarded Britain’s highest honor, an AA Rosette. This inspired the owners to have napkins folded in the shape of a rose on each service plate at table.
My brother who fancied himself a chef but was more often mistaken for one of the Beach Boys at airports, was fascinated. Soon he was getting up with the sun and wending his sleepy way to the dining room to be educated in the mysteries of napkin folding. He also satisfied his chef fantasy by ordering Steak Diane made at the table each of the four nights we were there until he had that down.
♣ Napkin folding
was practiced in the 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe and America by people in service who had entire guide books for the purpose to train them.
I found one – a fragile “paperback” in a used book store a few years back and bought it for my brother. Now, through the magic of the internet, instructions formerly confined within such covers or to the memory of an aged grandmother or an old flunky would have limited the instances of the art found on tables today. Many of the old patterns may be found here.
The rosette – alone or with a cup of soup nestled in its center – is found below:
The Rose Napkin Fold
Despite looking fairly elaborate, this fold is an easy one, and it can be done with almost any variety of napkin. Display small bowls or glasses on top of these, or use them as novelty cocktail napkins.
1. Lay the napkin face-down in front of you.
2. Fold the two right corners of the napkin in so the tips rest at the center.
3. Fold the remaining two corners of the napkin in so the tips meet with the last two in the center.
4. Once again, begin folding the outer corners in so they meet at the center.
5. Once all of the tips are folded you are left with a square about 1/4 the size of the unfolded napkin.
6. Flip it over.
7. Fold the corners in so they meet in the center and then place something sturdy in the center, or hold it with your fingers.
8. While maintaining downward pressure in the center of the napkin, reach underneath each corner and pull out the flaps to create petals.
9. Remove the center weight and your rose should look as pictured here.
10. If you like you can reach underneath the center of each side and pull out a second set of petals to fancy it up some more. Place something in the center and you’re done, have a rosy meal!