Thursday, December 3, 2009

3 December 1955 “News,Recipes, Dresses, Photos, and Catching Up”

rosa parks 1 On 1 December of this year, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger in Montgomery AL. Again, here we are in 1955, well before the 1960’s, openly dealing with racial issues.

Interestingly enough, ten years earlier a woman we don’t hear as much about, Irene Morgan, had a similar situation happen in Virginia. From her arrest and refusal in a 1946 landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-1 that Virginia's state law enforcing segregation on interstate buses was illegal. This is amazing to me, that ten years earlier this was already illegal in Virginia, yet we allowed it to happen again in Georgia.

What this really makes me realize is the danger and evil inherent in complacency. You know there were many, even back in 1944, who were white and found such ideas of segregation barbaric. There had to be a new found feeling of equality for all after the wars we had fought, yet those good meaning and wise, as usual, were quiet and kept to themselves as the loud crass small minded people rallied and shouted and eventually caused all the problem that  lead to the riots in the 60’s. I feel that so often happens throughout history. The uprisings are often simply to defend a simple idea that most people probably agreed with in the first place, equality and fair treatment, but it is always the small minded fear monger who shouts the loudest.

Just think of the pain and suffering even reverberating today that could have been ceased if the quiet intelligent loving and compassionate masses just stood up and said, “Well, so what? Who cares where any of us are sitting. We are all sharing this bus, let’s get along” but that is never the case and then a few crass individuals always begin to represent we as a whole.

Now, the 1950’s are just represented as if every white person was trained to dislike black people which is NOT true. Yet complacency lead to the upheavals of the 1960s which, I feel in some way also hurt the black people as well. Certainly we would have all been happier and made quicker strides to equality had we been sensible and just realized we are all human beings. If peace talks and actions were made to make equality a more central point to our living together, then the riots and ‘taking sides’ would not have had to happen.

Yet, I see today the same thing will continue to happen. Those who disagree with others who are ‘different’ will rally and shout and make a scene while most of us really don’t care and why shouldn’t we all have equal freedoms. I mean, if we all are allowed to worship and believe and act as we feel right as individuals, than we should not be threatened by the actions of others as long as they don’t directly affect us personally, but I know it won’t matter. There will always have to be the loud squeaky wheel making a fool of themselves and ultimately causing troubles for the majority of us.

Really, when you think about it, simple good manners of listening and discussing, not saying things in front of crowds or to strangers that we would not want to say to our mothers, simply using our manners, really could go a long way to help heal the various wounds we encounter.

It puts me in mind of that famous quote by Martin Niemoller ( a protestant minister and activist) which goes:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

This quote has been changed sometimes to touch in various ways such as:

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me -
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

There are many ways today we could alter this to suit the current trends of hatred. And, when it comes right down to it, hating is merely misunderstanding and loss of compassion is fear of the unknown. It really is amazing what keeping quiet and ‘minding our own business’ can lead to. This certainly reflects many things going on in our political and social world currently and could even be extended to include our being quiet as the big box stores enter and take over our towns.

Complacency seems the real root of all social evil. Let us, we Apron Revolutionaries, not be lead by silence, but use the manners and quiet strength of will and character to set examples by our actions. And do affect change through our attitudes towards one another and our examples of good living and caring for EVERY person, rather or not they subscribe to our beliefs or way of thinking. Why segregate when we can encourage and come together as a community? When someone is down or being hurt or mistreated they cease to be a Catholic or a Black or anything other than a fellow human. We are all in this together, so I know we can make a difference by caring to speak up when we need to, never shouting and always with compassion, reason, and intelligence over hatred, fear and mistrust.

Again, I find some of the very basic elements of homemaking so pertinent to the world as a whole. Wouldn’t we all get along a little better if we sat together at a table to a nice meal, and waited our turn to speak, being sure to listen to our guests when they spoke? Just a thought as we lead into this season of cheer and forgiveness.

Now onto recipes:

I unfortunately, most likely as I was having a good time and not paying attention, did not get many photos of my Thanksgiving food. I felt bad and still can’t believe it as it looked so lovely in my nice china. I do have a picture of the table set before we ate.

My turkey turned out beautiful and moist. Many commented on how juicy the white meat was. My trick there, though it seemed counter to most of what I was being told in my cookbooks, was I kept it covered for the majority of its roasting. While most recipes have you keep it uncovered and of course basting it, they tell you not to cover or foil it until the end. I did the reverse and let it create its wonderful juices and then for the last hour let it brown uncovered, with frequent 15 min interval bastings of the broth mixed with orange juice, maple syrup and the reserve juice from my freshly cooked cranberries. I also spread some of the cooked cranberries about the skin for the remaining half an hour. It made a beautiful picture and was a delight to eat!

Here is the recipe for my stuffing/dressing:

Mayflower Johnny Cake Stuffing (this is my own ‘made up’ recipe and name, do you like it?")

First, bake cornbread. The smell is wonderful as you are preparing the early items for Thanksgiving dinner. I posted my recipe in an earlier post for cornbread. (If anyone can tell me how to have it so anyone could search my recipes on this blog, please let me know. Does such an option exist with Blogger?)

I made my cornbread the day before I made the actual stuffing, as I wanted it to be a little hard. Then I simply crumbled it into a bowl (I made two 5 x5 pans of it) added 5 TBS softened butter, some chopped celery, 1/2 cup of my cooked cranberries, chopped chestnuts, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and one egg and salt and pepper to taste. Then, just mix and stuff bird. It was a lovely mix of sweet and savory with the turkey. Sorry I haven’t any photos, it looks rather lovely and golden.

Now, I have been in a flurry of preparations it seems, for here we are a few days after Thanksgiving and I just hosted a Christmas Cookie Tea and Tree trimming party. I also made a new dress in the bargain. Let’s start with recipes.

hot chocolate We had some lovely hot chocolate with our cookies whilst trimming the tree, homemade of course. We doubled this recipe and it made enough for over six cups, of course these are 1950’s cups that are probably about 6 oz. if you use a modern mug, it will make less.

1 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 TBSP instant coffee

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup water

2 cups milk

combine chocolate, sugar, coffee, cinnamon, and water in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for four minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the milk and heat, but do not let the mixture come to a boil. Remove from heat and beat with a whisk until foamy. Pour into cups, top with whipped cream and a peppermint stick for a garnish!

We also made, of course, homemade whip cream (never use canned or premade if you can help it, it is SO easy to whip cream and you can flavor it how you like). To which I add bits of broken candy chocolate 2 They were scrumptious!

chocolate gingerbread I made chocolate gingerbread. It was quite good, but I think next time I will use twice as much ginger. Though the dough itself was a chocolate version of gingerbread, I felt dipping it in chocolate and then a sprinkle of peppermint candy looked nice and added a pretty touch. I was told by one guest that the cookie without the chocolate dip tasted like teddy grahams. I have never had a teddy graham, so not sure that is good. I do think it will need more ginger for certain. Here is the recipe:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Directions
    1. Combine butter or margarine, molasses, and unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Heat until chocolate melts. Stir until smooth.
    2. Sift together flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, and salt. Stir in melted chocolate mixture and milk. Mix well. Chill until firm.
    3. Roll dough about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes. These can also be rolled into balls and baked and dipped in chocolate.
    4. Bake at 375 degrees F ( 190 degrees C) for about 10 minutes.

    peppermint meringues 1 These peppermint meringues were fun to make and looked a treat! If you are not familiar with meringues, but have had ‘sea foam’ candy, then you will be familiar with the texture. They are an odd confection in that they are not baked so much as dried in a warm oven for hours. If you take them out too soon they will be sticky, the trick is when you can lift them from the tin foil easily, they are done. Also it is better to have the oven a little cooler and leave them longer otherwise they will slightly brown and that is not exactly correct. But, if that happens, as did with me, they still taste good.

    These were quite good, but next time I will use peppermint extract, as this recipe only called for finely ground peppermint candy canes, which did not quite give them enough flavor for my liking. I also decided, as you do, to dip them in chocolate, because honestly gals, what isn’t better dipped in chocolate? We even debated as to whether bacon itself might not be improved by some!

    You can see how glossy and lovely it makes them look.peppermint meringues 2 This close up shows the lovely little bits of peppermint candy. These could have looked lovely with a sprinkle of candy canes as well, but sometimes, ladies, we have to show some restraint. Even in baking we need to take Coco Chanel’s advice and step back and remove one thing and then we are done.

    Here is the recipe:

    • 2 egg whites
    • 1/8 teaspoon cider vinegar
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/3 cup white sugar
    • 3 peppermint candy canes, crushed
    • Melted chocolate for dipping. (a few chocolate chips of your favorite brand with a little butter in a double boiler works rather well and you can also add an extract flavor to the chocolate at that point if you so desire)
    1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F (110 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
    2. In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites, vinegar and salt to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar while continuing to whip until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Fold in 1/3 of the crushed candy canes, reserving the rest. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls, one inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle remaining crushed candy canes over the top.
    3. Bake for 90 minutes in the preheated oven, or until dry. Cool on baking sheets. (Mine actually took closer to 2 hours to completely dry. I will tint my batter pink next time)

    I am going to make some peanut butter meringues (if I can figure out how) and dip those in chocolate, as well as coconut. They look so pretty and last well so would make a great homemade Christmas gift or housewarming or hostess gift. You could make up your own ‘chocolate box’ with pretty tissue and maybe decoupage lovely vintage images on the box lid.  And, be the belle of your cookie swap when you unveil these lovelies!

    Now, in the case of meringues you will be left with egg yolks. So, what I did this morning, as hubby actually requested eggs Benedict for breakfast, was thought, “Great!” as Hollandaise uses only the YOLK. So, I made a large batch of that reserving the egg whites to make a few more ‘trial’ flavor meringues.

    Here are some shots of guests, you can see my close friends are kind enough to dress ‘accordingly’ for my soirees.

    A guest arrives bearing her cookie contribution.stef arrives

    gals in the kitchen 1 The gals in the kitchen.

    xmas trimming1 Here we are before the tree is trimmed. You can see my new dress somewhat. The fabric is really quite lovely and it is very comfortable.

    trimming the tree1 Here we are trimming the tree. tree trimming 2 More tree trimming.

    plaid dress 1 Now, my dress. I have really only a few dresses under my belt (excuse the pun) so far, but have got to the point where I don’t want to just copy a pattern. With this dress, I used a bodice pattern that fit me from another dress and made up the rest. I pleated the skirt, as I had such success with the dark plaid wool dress, and the pattern of the plaid proved to be a great grid work to pleating!

    Now here are some things I learned with this dress that I tried to make it easier or more finished early on. Rather than cutting an interfacing, I decided to cut two of the front and back bodice piece. This allowed me to sew them together and then flip them out have a nice finished edge to them as soon as I sewed them together. With the skirt I took four yards as they were, decided the length I wanted it hemmed and then rolled up the remainder of the fabric into a thick double hem that I then stitched BEFORE I made it into the skirt.plaid dress hem It was so easy this way, as I just had one long yardage to work with and again the grid of the plaid made for a wonderful straight line. The color of the thread blended so beautifully with the plaid. The large hem you see here (about 5 inches) is actually the material doubled, so it really helps all the yardage hand nicely.

    Here is a close up of the fabric.plaid dress fabric You can see there is just the slightest hint of gold thread, which makes it wonderful for the holidays, but still wearable all seasons, really. As it is sleeveless, it can be worn with a blouse or cardigan in cooler weather or even be a great summer dress with sandals!

    I also attempted to make this dress so I could wear the zipper in the back.plaid dress backI am not sure if you can see it in this picture or not, but this is the back with the zip. The two bits that fold down are going to get two vintage buttons as ornament and some simple closures over the zipper so it will look like a different dress when worn this way. It is rather wrinkled here, as I had not as yet pressed it. 

    I have found now that I have allowed myself to have  a simple silhouette to work with, my imagination has increased on ways to adjust or add to this. Really, the conformity of dress people seem to think existed in the 1950s was actually the equality of fashion, where one was given a silhouette to work with and then could add or create their own take on it with different necklines or ribbons etc. Now, the real conformity exits in jeans, hoodies, printed t-shirts and jersey tops. Try to make your own jeans and you will stop sewing in one minute! Yet, a simple dress pattern is easy to master and then the sky is the limit. You can add or alter to your hearts content and have a lovely wardrobe you can add to. I am sure, for you experienced seamstresses, this dress must seem simple and not perfectly done, but, much like the kitchen, I learn something with every dress to apply to the next one. It does reinforce the fact that homemaking is never a completely mastered skill, one is always learning. That, of course, is part of the joy of the career. There is little time or place for boredom, as you are always learning and expanding your ideas and then challenging yourself.

    Well, I have rattled on long enough, back to work. I hope all of you are getting excited for the upcoming holiday. We shall have to share all we can with our recipes and ideas for vintage Christmas.

    Happy Homemaking!

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