Saturday, May 23, 2009

21-23 may 1955 “Oldest Driver, Cutest Diver, Gardening, Cooking, and the Blues vs. Depression”

 louis cheron Oldest man to drive in the Grand Prix (55) comes in 6th. Today, in 1955, in front of a hometown Monte Carlo crowd, a few weeks before his 56th birthday he became the oldest driver to compete in a Formula 1 race. To the applause of Prince Rainier and his many fans he guided his Lancia D50lancia d50 to a sixth place finish in the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix.

zale perry cover Zale Perry on the cover of the sports illustrated for today in 1955. She was a well known diver (still alive today) and played a small part in Hollywood. She played the resident damsel in distress in the Sea Hunt series (starring another ‘star diver’ Lloyd Bridges. The series would not start until 1957, however, so I have not seen it.) Prior to this, she was a test diver for major equipment manufacturers. Zale Perry began her diving career in 1951 and is considered an authority on sport diving. She was key in the development of decompression chamber treatment for diving injuries and is now a member of the Diving Hall of Fame

 gardening in skirt

My posts have not been as regular as I like, but it is finally nice out and I cannot stay out of my garden. My time out of the home and it’s chores finds me there.

It left me to ponder how like Housework is Gardening. Or really, how being a homemaker is much like being a gardener, with some minor differences, in the house I am always taking the dirt out, while in my garden I am always hauling dirt in.

One can really see and feel the early homemakers when one is both a homemaker and a gardener. For, there was a time when what happened in the garden fed what went on in the kitchen. Your food and your cleaners, your soaps etc all came from your garden and farm. Today we have the luxury of the grocery store and certainly they did in 1955 as well. Yet, as I have mentioned before, being the age I am now in 1955, I would certainly hold fast to my Victory Garden. I would be happy for the full shelves at the grocery store, but there would be too many memories of want in me from the depression through the war to not be ‘prepared’. Today, it seems, being prepared means over buying everything you can get your hands on at BJ’s and stashing it away, but that, for me,  is too much and really I want to become more self-reliant. I don’t know how my little garden will yield this year. We shall see. I will document it in pictures, words, and drawings so I can learn from it and enjoy it later.wwII garden poster My plan is to fill some shelves this fall with canned items and to see how many jams and things I can actually make from what my little plot of land yields.

We New Englanders know we have only a small window to prepare and enjoy our warm weather. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to live and garden in a warm climate year round. It must be lovely. Though, I cannot take the heat, so anything above 80 degrees and I need to sit in the shade or in a pool or  the ocean, so I guess I am a true New Englander in that. I actually like the cooler seasons. Somehow it makes spring and summer more sweet. I guess it is the ‘too much of a good thing ruins it’ adage for me.

garden book1I just ordered this 1949 Gardeners manual and will share the skills once I get it. There are all sorts of “how-tos” and hints. It will be fun and exciting to see what they offer.

Now, my own vegetable garden is still under way. As in much of my current life, I want my garden to first be practical and serve its purpose, but then to please the eye and senses. I don’t want to live in a house that is only functional, I want it to look and feel good and to make me smile. So, too, then should my veg garden when I think of the time I will spend it it. Really, I was thinking, if we look at our gardens, our yards, as our home on the outside, then certainly the vegetable garden is like our kitchen in that ‘outside home’. And, in fact, it is often called a ‘kitchen garden’ as it serves the kitchen. But, and again here we see this happening in the 1930’s on, the kitchen, now being more populated by homemakers than servants, a place to work AND to decorate. Therefore, it follows that the kitchen should be functional but pretty with a nice place to sit and relax, so should the veg garden. So, while I am getting all my veg in on time, amongst that I am trying to ‘decorate’ as well.

Here is the beginning stages of my little garden.veg garden1 Here you can see the shambles of it, but if you can believe it, it looked worse than this when I started this summer. There was no tall fence ( I put that in this spring) and the front post is in for my now fence there. The beds have not been turned nor fed with wheel barrel loads of compost, which came later. Thisveg fence1 became thisveg fence2 and is now this:veg fence3 I have not painted nor added all the finials to the top. Here you can see I weeded and mulched the areas outside of the beds. The plants planted along the fence on the inside of the garden is my ‘tea garden’. It contains lemon balm, two types of mint, Roses (for rosehips) bee balm (bergamot) and Anise. These all grow and spread wonderfully and so will be cut often and dried for my homemade teas for the future. In front of the fence facing the road are two hydrangeas (very popular on the cape as our soil has them blooming in the most amazing blue you have ever seen!) and daylilies I took from our antique house we rent out.

Here in the second veg bed I have added an old copper obelisk. veg obelisk It has a nice patina. This bed has snow peas climbing up chicken wire in the back and three rows (another row next week) of various tomatoes. The front has my kale and cabbage and onions, celery and beets. This is nicely mulched, but you can see behind it has yet to be mulched. There, however is where I am planting grapes. grape plant All along the back fence you see will be grapes except the first panel nearest the road are my zucchini which will trail up the fence as well, as it saves space from having them spread on the ground and makes nicer fruit, I feel.

Here are some shots of my roses:rose closeuprose 2queen elizabeth rose

The future plans for my veg garden involve the fence continuing around the whole garden with a built in bench at one end under an arbor which will also grow grapes. I am planting grapes along the rest of the fence around the garden and training them to the fence height. I have future plans for homemade wine and of course eating fresh and making jams. My other fruits, like blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, and strawberry are being planted around my little orchard. I hope to one day have a living fence around the orchard of blackberry and raspberry bushes. Thus, beauty, protection and food for the table.

So, really, much like my home, I think it important that each ‘room’ of the garden should 1)function 2)be well maintained with regular chores 2)be pleasing to the eye and of course 4) have a comfortable place to sit for you and friends. Because, why go not sit and enjoy your labor and it allows you to dream up what you can do better in the future. And, as a homemaker, we really should in whatever way we can (depending on if we live in the city or suburbs or country) have gardening be a part of our work.  Try gardening, if you have not yet, and you will see that, like housework, it can be the most frustrating and the most rewarding sort of work.

“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling. “ ~Mirabel Osler

Now, into the house and on to cooking. As I mentioned the other day, I have been relegating only three days a week to a dessert, as we are trying to watch our waistlines. One of my desserts this was was lovely apple tarts from my 1950s Boston Cooking School book (one of my favorites). Here is the recipe and the result:apple dumpling recipe Here is the recipe for the biscuit dough you would use: biscuit recipe And here is the hard sauce recipe: hard sauce recipe

Really, they were wonderfully light. I thought the biscuit dough would not cook all the way through and it would be doughy, but it was nice. Biscuit dough, as you know, is not sweet, but the baked apple inside with the nice hard sauce on top, was really lovely. I highly recommend it and would make it again.

I did a photo shoot of the process:appledumplings1 appledumplings2 appledumplings3 appledumplings4

I forgot to get a picture of it, but I made a nice lamb stew the other day. What I have learned is the best method for thickening sauces and gravies ( I am sure most of you already knew this) is to take a bowl and siphon out some of the hot broth from whatever you want to make into a sauce or gravy into the bowl. Then you add your flour to that and beat it with a hand whisk. The rule of thumb is roughly one tbs flour for each cup of broth, but I am learning to really wing it more or ‘feel’ the dishes.  Now whisking the flour and broth in the bowl separately from the dish you are making will make it smooth and you can add flour until it looks a little thicker than you would want. Now you slowly pour this into your stew or the remaining broth in your pan in which you are making gravy and whisk as you pour it in. It works every time and makes a nice smooth sauce/gravy. I remember at one of my vintage dinners someone commented on it being homemade and having no lumps ( I remember an old commercial like that!). A long cry from my old way of making gravy which was to literally just take the hot grease out and serve that as is as. I could never get the gravy to not be lumpy. I have come a long way!

I just want to address a comment I received yesterday on my post about feeling the “Blues”. I originally talked about this because a few of my regular readers asked me how I deal with them. I felt right in answering their query and also sharing with you how I deal with sadness. Yet, this comment really has hurt me in a way and made me think more about our modern concepts of ourselves. Here was the comment (which was anonymous by the way) Since starting this post, though, I have received some nice comments which seem to go along the lines of how I feel about it. Here was the comment:

Please don't make light of depression, which really is a serious mental illness, and not just a low period in your life. It's too easy to generalize--people in the 1950's managed depression vs. people today dwelling in it. In the 1950's clinical depression most definitely existed, and even more dangerously so, as it went unchecked and untreated. Like in so many other ways, medical treatment of the 1950's was very misguided (though well-intended), but the days of locking patients away still lingered.
Depression is truly a physical illness caused by improper chemical production in the brain. No putting on a happy face can cure that.

My response, of course, was that I know there is clinical depression and that my thoughts were for those of us who DO NOT suffer from clinical depression and that I hopefully never make light of any ailment.

It really got me thinking how this concept of foreboden subject is very modern. Certainly, clinical depression is very real and sad. Yet, for those of us who DO NOT suffer from it, we should not be denied the ability to discuss our own sadness and grief. Those with an accepted and clinically diagnosed disease do not own the ailments. That is to say, someone with cancer might feel certain aches and pains yet those of us who do not have cancer should still be allowed to discuss how we ourselves deal with such pain without making the cancer patient feel as if we are not sympathetic to their own burden. It is not making light or not having empathy for those with the clinical real problems.

I also find it interesting that if someone were to have clinical depression, I certainly hope that they would not come looking for answers on a blog. I am not a professional psychologist and this is merely a blog of my feelings. Perhaps, I am taking this too personally, but I tend to now take things I see in the modern world and digest it into the comparison with the old. Certainly, I am glad for those with clinical depression that they have medicine and therapy and not shock treatment in mental hospitals, but that does not diminish those of us who merely are blue from having valid discussions on ways we can ‘deal with the blues’ and sometimes ‘putting on a happy face’ does help, I know I have tried it and it HAS worked. If a simple solution does not work for someone than perhaps they could use that as a key to go and get checked to see if they DO have clinical depression. Something they may not have known had there not been discussion of it.   If it were considered not PC to discuss this, then perhaps a reader who felt they had tried that and it didn't work would not have known to go and get diagnosed for clinical depression.

So, my point is, discussing our feelings and how we deal with it IS important in such a case and is in no way offensive to those with the real depression. Yet, we also don’t want to over analyses them or ‘dwell’ in them, because this will often lead to feeding and continuing the feeling, that is if you do not have clinical depression. I really do feel, from my own experience, that dwelling or feeling the need to ‘reward yourself’ with a treat as you are feeling blue, only sets yourself up to continue to feel blue in the future. Of course we will be sad, but sometimes a Pavlovian response could happen where there is a day you might feel lazy and not want to deal with your usual routine and you suddenly feel ‘blue’ as a mechanism to get to the ‘reward’. I know sometimes that is how it worked for me. And I KNOW I used it as an excuse to be lazy. Which, in a way, could be fine, except I find my life fuller and happier being busy and doing and not being lazy. Then, when I have a day of rest, it is really appreciated and all the little things, like sitting and watching my chickens scratch in their yard, have a more poignant feel to them because it is a special moment of relaxation. Not being all the time IN your emotions or how you ‘feel’ about every little thing, really is an important boon to happiness. I honestly felt I was just not a happy person and happiness was for the mindless, but since becoming more active and really allowing the things I enjoy which I use to view as silly to have more meaning, my life, in turn, seems more meaningful.

I also have a very dear friend who is clinically depressed. He is very intelligent and is currently studying math at university. He is, in my opinion, a genius. And with his intense mind and ability to view the world in abstract mathematics, he has to deal with depression. And he does this through medication, but I can tell you there have been many times that hubby and I have had to help him ‘out of his funk’ with putting on a happy face and helping to get him active. What may work for one does not work for all, but that does not mean that no one can then discuss it. I remember, when we were sailing a lot and that summer we were literally sailing beach bums, he came along with us often and the simple act of sailing, handling the lines and sheets and trying to guide us on the water kept him out of himself and he was the least depressed I have ever seen him. Activity really does help.

I don’t want to be seen as always saying, ‘it was better then’. I know there are many things that are so much better now, but it seems with the advancement in science and technology and the move to more equality, we have also, somehow, lost some of our humanity. And what I mean by that is I think it very human to be kind and considerate. I think to put yourself second sometimes is very human. Any mammal can grab for the best piece of meat and growl at its neighbors, but a human can stop and asses and think, “Hmm, maybe in this instance, I should let the other person go first”. It is good for the survival of ourselves to think of ourselves first, but it is also human to think, sometimes, outside of yourself. I know from my own experience you can be too much in your own head and view the world always as “well, how is that going to affect me?” That is why I think it a modern moment to have someone view a talk about feeling less blue while they have depression and think, “Hey, I can’t do that, they are making fun of me”. Now, I am not picking on the anonymous commenter and I certainly am guilty of this same thing, but again, I feel it is a very modern moment.

What do you think? Have I merely somehow taken this out of proportion, or do you also feel somehow in the modern world the fear of offending leaves us to not discuss the important things but instead watch TV, and care more about Brittany Spears’ new boy toy or who is doing what on Survivor?. I don’t want to live in the modern world if I am not allowed to discuss things that I find very real with other very real people. I don’t want to exchange fear of offense for mindless prattle about movie stars and what happened on ‘desperate housewives’ last night. But, again, perhaps I will merely end up living in my world populated by only a few people, but I would rather that than a sort of watered down ‘safe’ sort of life.

I guess, rather it is good or bad, I feel more the pull to really just make my own life the way I want it to be and if that means disconnecting myself more from the ‘grid’ of the consuming media driven world, then so be it. I might be lonely, but I would rather keep busy in my garden and home and community, then spend hours talking about some reality show or how awesome it is to play a video game. I don’t think either of those things bad nor not enjoyable, but I do think having a real discussion about art and life and craft and how they fit into our world and history IS important to me. Maybe I am just becoming a ‘vintage snob’ if there is such a thing. How do any of you who love the ‘old ways’ cope and make it work in modern days? That might be a nice discussing point.

Well, I will leave you with that to ponder and then hopefully to discuss here and we shall see how we all feel on that subject.

Until later, then, happy homemaking!

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