While the world is abuzz about the Duchess of Sussex “stepping back” from her royal duties (seriously, though, I didn’t see that coming and apparently neither did the Queen!) I’ve stepped back in time and from the fancification of Duchess potatoes with this simple, frugal 1915 recipe found inside a Portland, Maine elementary school book. All that is required to make these tasty little puffs are three ingredients plus salt and pepper for seasoning.
“A snug and a clean home, no matter how tiny it be, so that it be wholesome; windows into which the sun can shine cheerily; a few good books (and who need be without a few good books in these days of universal cheapness?)–no duns at the door, and the cupboard well supplied, and with a flower in your room! There is none so poor as not to have about him these elements of pleasure.” -Samuel Smiles, Eliza Cook’s Journal, 1850
There was a lone late October rose growing on one of the bushes that I cut and placed in a stem vase today. I came across the above quote minutes afterward! It really speaks to me. One doesn’t need to be poor or have a large, modern kitchen to enjoy the many riches to be found in the simple things! Here are some more gifts I’m appreciating right now:
Gregory, the Terrible Eater was forced to eat junk which for his family meant literal garbage. It’s a cute 1980s children’s book about choosing healthy eating, but sadly that choice isn’t exactly a reality today. You’ve likely seen some of the heartbreaking images of plastic waste killing marine and wildlife. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that a recent study reveals humans are ingesting 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and breathing in a similar quantity. We are now involuntary consumers of plastic, literally, and our planet is being consumed by it. How can we stop this if, as consumers, most everything is made with or comes in plastic?
Any one who uses the term ‘menial’ is touched with intellectualism. There are no menial tasks.
“God will not look you over for Medals, Degrees or Diplomas, but for Scars!” -Elbert Hubbard, The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard
I’ve learned that time does NOT heal all wounds but God loves them and us! There can be beauty in a graceful brokenness when we use God as a crutch. But wait, isn’t needing a “crutch” a sign of weakness?! YES! Aren’t we weak when we’re left to only our own devices? I choose spiritual prowess over destructive earthly vices I’ve given up. I no longer feel ashamed about my scars, a shame which fueled a lot of my destructive crutches (smoking, drinking, overeating). I’m not ashamed to say I’m in recovery, my last drink being almost twenty-five years ago. I’m cool with not being cool. My deepest scars are invisible, although I do have, shall I say, an “oven kiss” on my hand I acquired while removing a lasagna from the oven last fall.
When I first started “eating retro” and lost weight over ten years ago I was leaving behind the tyranny of an insatiable appetite which seemingly stemmed from two issues: my relationship to food and eating junk. Underlying the usual analysis of overeating and weight loss was that I was feeling sorry for myself. Why? Because I couldn’t eat as much as I wanted when I wanted without consequences. I was also attached to the illusion that a lifestyle of eating too much, especially sugar and refined carbs was somehow good for my soul. I mistook edible artifice for nourishment. I was always “hungry” but was feeding the wrong appetite. I was focused on eating all the things instead of seeing all the gifts from a healthy relationship to and with food. Why would I, right? Shouldn’t I be entitled to unlimited access to what was mine? Did God put food on my table? No! I worked hard to put that food on the table, and why even talk about God when all I wanted was an Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen.
Thanks to the Maine Rebekahs, whom I consider to be some of the greatest New England home cooks who have also provided almost 100 years of recipes, you can make a winning, traditional New England fish chowder. I’ve adapted this simple, frugal 1920s recipe to make it meat-free since New England fish chowders almost always contain pork in addition to seafood. Wayne said that he wouldn’t have noticed its absence based upon how flavorful this is. Truly it’s so easy to make yet it will produce a chowder that will make you feel like a seasoned New England cook.
“A fear of disagreeable facts, and conscious shrinking from clearness of light, which keep us from examining ourselves, increases gradually into a species of instinctive terror at all truth, and love of glosses, veils and decorative lies of every sort.”
John Ruskin, 1887
“What other men have thought is valuable, but its chief value is, not to save us from the labor of thinking, but to enable us to think the better for ourselves.”
From “The Golden Way to the Highest Attainments” by Rev J.H Potts D.D, 1889
Some Mainers (aka “snowbirds”) go to Florida to escape February (and the couple of months prior and after) during their down time. I keep it local and go to the couch! February is a time when I do more reading. The cozy simplicity of snuggling under a wool throw with a cup of tea and good book takes the edge off of one of my least favorite months. I’m actually starting to grow fond of this time of year. The more I accept February as it is instead of feeling righteous indignation in response to things like the short daylight, icy public walkways, the lonely glossy white landscape outside my window that’s devoid of friendly furry or feathered visitors, the more agreeable it is/I am! In fact I often think a good test of true inner joy is not needing summery days to have a sunny disposition.
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*.