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.
When I was little the idea of Santa Claus gave me permission to dream beyond my means and reality. It didn’t matter what was happening in my life, the realities of budgets or whether he would deliver. When I made my list and handed it to my Nana, “Santa’s Helper” as she referred to herself, there was an exciting passage of a few weeks when it seemed that anything was possible.
We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.
Our cares are bold and push their way
Upon our thought and feeling.
They hand about us all the day,
Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives,
And conquers if we let it.
I’m not sure what month the vintage photo was taken, but it likely wasn’t in November! We’ve had record-breaking snowfall this month. It’s ironic because it was only a week and a half ago that Wayne insisted we order that day the sparkly new two-stage snowblower to replace our existing single-stage. I wanted to wait until closer to December so that we could see how it performed in an actual storm and still be within the 30 day window to return it if he didn’t like it. I gave in but not without a bit of an eyeball roll and a comment about his being overly cautious. Well, it won’t be here until this weekend so to make up for it (and burn some calories in advance of tomorrow!) I hand shoveled our entire driveway three times yesterday as a surprise for Wayne for when he got home from work!
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!)
For those of you who are gluten-free, your store-bought options are limited if you want stuffing that is free from Xanthan gum (I bring this up from time to time. Xanthan gum is in almost all gluten-free baked items. It’s the by-product of bacteria feeding on sugar that can have a laxative effect among other unwanted side-effects. No thanks!)
For those of you who love your gluten, you may love my recipe as much as Wayne does. It’s made from whole grain oat and corn flour with added fruits, then baked in an iron skillet. With the recent turkey salmonella scare it’s a good idea to not stuff your turkey and make a safe and delicious stuffing that’s just as good. Here is my favorite and original recipe.
A year ago this week a chipmunk I later named Wishy walked into our life. Although he is no longer on this earth he is still with us. One of the many things he showed me is that you never know when something or someone wonderful will show up out of the blue and bring you unexpected happiness. At that time there was no snow on the ground and temps were above normal. It felt like an extended October! Wishy didn’t go into his burrow for the winter until early December after our first gentle snowfall. That experience taught me to not dread November, so I went into it with a positive and accepting attitude this year. Sunset before 4:30? I can cope. Brown leaves and bare trees? Poetic. But to have our first snow not even be of the fluffy introductory variety and instead 6 inches of wet heavy crusty February-esque snow? That’s a clear and unexpected boundary violation. Right?! I’m so relieved that it didn’t happen last year, because we would have never met Wishy!
For the past five or so years I think of my special late friend “Mrs. T”, may she rest in peace, when I set up my vintage aluminum Christmas tree. For a year I visited with Mrs. T weekly at a local assisted living home for the elderly. She loved to hear about my yard sale adventures and what I had bought. “We used to call it junkin'” she informed me. Not that it matters, but Mrs. T was a very elegant lady. When I told her in the summer that I had purchased a beautiful vintage aluminum tree at a moving sale where the basement had been a private winter square dance hall she was thrilled! Not because of the square dancing but the tree: “I always wanted one but my husband wouldn’t allow it. He said it was tacky.”
By “it” I mean unofficial winter, but on the positive side the weather is cooperating with early Christmas decorating. We have blustery winds, was in the teens this morning, my car door and trunk were frozen shut and we’re getting
3-5 5-8(!!) inches of snow tomorrow night! Vintage Christmas decorating definitely takes some of the chill out of it for me. To begin, I added some modern lights to my Victorian Fairy Christmas store display soap box. I think the lights look rather retro, almost like an old time marquis.