Snooty ghosts hovered around old houses along the winding road to the Inn that brought passers by to inviting nooks and crannies. Inside the lobby of the Inn, starched people laughed and sipped cold beverages. Outside, a veranda displayed a view of the water with a faraway mountain watermark in the hazy pale sky. The dim library housed well-aged books, and as I entered the room the wood floor creaked like an ornery granny reprimanding me for not being more ladylike in my footsteps. The shelves were filled with titles from a time that only those beyond had experienced. Alone in the room with just the hundreds of us, I felt that I was about to be entrusted with their secrets. I ran my finger along their spines and stopped at the title, Now Or Never, or, The Adventures of Bobby Bright by Oliver Optic*.
Here’s a simple evening exercise to help you gently step away from overly complicated living. One of the greatest conveniences of brief mental time travel (or going off the cultural grid) is that it doesn’t cost anything. No fancy machinery, expensive tickets, long lines, or invasive security searches need be involved. In fact it’s the opposite!
If you’re not from Maine, you might think the above photo is of a homemade Mounds candy bar. You’re close! But you’d probably be shocked to learn that they contain mashed potatoes in the coconut centers! They are a delicious traditional Maine candy called “Needhams” which have also historically been called “potato candy” or “potato fudge”. However, if you are from Maine and familiar with Needhams you may be surprised to discover that the modern version has gone far astray from yesterday’s healthier and more wholesome homemade versions dating as far back as 1924.
Within my collection of vintage Maine and New England community cook books dating back to the early 1900s are dozens and dozens of recipes for “Indian Pudding.” It’s a humble, mildly sweet and spicy baked cornmeal dessert served warm and paired with whipped or iced cream. Each recipe is as unique as the contributor. Even within one cook book there are sometimes multiple variations offered: Lottie adds tapioca, no eggs while Cora uses eggs and no tapioca. Mary bakes hers in a “slow oven” (lower temp) for four hours while Alice only bakes her for 1 1/2. After carefully reviewing my vintage sources I am offering you my own kitchen and taste tested (plus Wayne approved!) adaptation that’s made in a cast iron dutch oven. (This is an updated recipe from last year with new photos taken this morning!)
My experience from both sides of the “couch” has taught me that there’s nothing simple about PTSD nightmares. The things I tried in my teens and twenties–using food and alcohol to try and bury and drown them, sometimes to the point of blacking out, created new real-life nightmare scenarios. In my late twenties through my forties I was afraid to go to sleep; I averaged about five broken hours a night. When I did sleep, and the nightmares struck, I woke up extremely exhausted.
I wish I could say that I am now completely free of nightmares and experience restful sleep. The good news is that I have made incredible progress over the past couple of years. I have fewer nightmares, am not terrified of going to sleep and am making my peace with them.
I purchased this beautiful 19th century leather-bound family bible at the flea market this summer. I love the vision of a Christian family sitting together around it, reading and praying together. It’s very heavy, weighing about fifteen pounds!
Every weekday morning Wayne reads an excerpt to me from one of my smaller-sized vintage bibles and then we reflect on it together. We started from Genesis and have made our way to the New Testament this past year. I truly cherish this time we spend together and the opportunity to speak from our hearts, free of judgement, about what we’ve read.
This simple circa 1930s recipe for banana fritters was inspired by Ms. Ann Knight’s version in The Fellowship Cook Book by Members and Friends of The Second Congregational Church in Norway, Maine. These fritters are sweet with a smooth texture and best eaten piping hot from the skillet. They have no refined sugars other than the optional dusting of powdered sugar for presentation.
Saturday was sunny and crisp. We left early for a day trip up coastal Route One to the charming town of Camden, Maine with stops in between; our first was the Maine State Prison Showroom in Thomaston.
What does it mean to be authentic? Does it mean that you have to share every passing thought, desire, opinion and passion with whomever will listen? Do you have to follow every fancy, eat whatever you’re craving because well, you gotta be you? Not for me, no. “To thine own self be true” is something I try and live every day which is not to be confused with self-centeredness, narcissism or lack of self-restraint. Sometimes it involves making life-altering choices; other times it’s seemingly inconsequential, however when such “little” decisions are strung together over time they look a lot like a lifestyle.
So why then do I sometimes feel like I need permission to be myself? And from whom does this permission need to come? What if it never comes to pass?
I’ve been using store bought gluten-free pasta for decades because it was something I never dared to make on my own; I wrongly assumed I needed special equipment. Then I noticed a number of recipes in my vintage cookbooks for hand cut wheat egg noodles. The recipe in my 1936 copy of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book includes the usual vintage open-ended ratio of flour to eggs: “flour enough to make very stiff dough.” While this may seem daunting to some as it was to me at one time, I actually now like the freedom to make it work with my own gluten-free creations and ratios.