“The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart, . . .
When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.
It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took:
we know it because she repented.”
~ Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or washing—
Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day—
At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.
Image of Walt Whitman (1819-1892), age 35, frontispiece to Leaves of Grass, Fulton St., Brooklyn, N.Y., 1855, steel engraving by Samuel Hollyer from a lost daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison. Via Wikipedia.
A spontaneous Labor Day picnic, fried chicken and potato salad beside the pool, followed by carrot cake in air conditioned comfort.
We forgot to take the camera, so later David did a basic recreation and snapped some shots. I got a picture of the cake.
When I remember the elaborate family picnics of my childhood—chicken barbecued on the riverbank, baked beans, potato salad, creamed corn, fresh onions and tomatoes, iced tea, pecan pie, homemade peach ice cream, and on and on—I am ashamed that I let Walmart do the cooking.
When I think of all the labor that went into celebrating warm-weather holidays—most of it done by others while I was splashing around in the river—I’m okay with a scaled-down version.
Today is Juneteeth, the holiday commemorating the announcement of the end of slavery in Texas. Because it was relatively isolated from the rest of the Confederacy and had not been a battleground, and because word traveled slowly, news of war and politics known in other Confederate states was slow to reach Texas. News of Lee’s surrender in April 1865 didn’t reach there until May.
On June 18, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived with troops in Galveston to occupy the state. On June 19, Granger read “General Order No. 3,” which announced the emancipation:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
The order came nearly three years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Former slaves celebrated in the streets, and the next year the first formal Juneteenth celebration was organized.
As is well known, things didn’t go as they should have after that. Black people weren’t allowed to use public parks for celebrations. Some pooled money and bought land for parks where they could celebrate (such as Houston‘s Emancipation Park, Mexia’s Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin.) (Austin’s Emancipation Park has had a difficult history: Read “Staring Down Development, Neighbors Seek Historical Recognition for Emancipation Park, by Syeda Hasan, KUT Austin (NPR), January 19, 2017.)
The Texas Supreme Court finally recognized emancipation in a series of decisions between 1868 and 1874. But Texas and other former Confederate States wrote Constitutions disenfranchising black people and, during the 1920s and ’30s, passed Jim Crow laws that lasted until the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.
Over the years, Juneteenth celebrations spread to other states. The day was made a holiday in Texas in 1980. Now forty-five states observe it as a state or a ceremonial holiday. In 1997, Congress recognized the day through Senate Joint Resolution 11 and House Joint Resolution 56.
Some of this post was drawn from memory; Wikipedia helped me with the rest. Find much more information at Juneteenth.com.
Christmas Night, and all through the house, one person and two cats are sleeping all snug in their beds, while I’m sitting here watching Apollo 13 and a lava lamp.
This is my first lava lamp. I skipped the ’70s. David said it’s his first lava lamp, too. He was present for the ’70s but skipped some of the trappings.
The lamp is fascinating: like a kaleidoscope but with fewer colors and curved edges.
We had a quiet day, one of our traditional nonstandard Christmases. We opened gifts, ate a light breakfast, and sat around.
Then we repaired to Saffron Restaurant, which serves an eclectic mixture of traditional Indian Cuisine punctuated by the flavors of the Himalayas. Goat curry, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, steamed basmati rice, naan… and several things I can’t name because instead of wearing my glasses to the buffet, I left them on the table.
After lunch we came back home, plugged in the lava lamp, and waited for it to erupt. It did not disappoint.
Of course, we took the obligatory photos of the children with gifts under the traditional nonstandard Christmas tree. Changes in living room geography kept us from giving our real artificial tree center stage, so this morning we moved our ceramic artificial tree to a snow-covered chair and accorded it official status.
Facebook reminded me that four years ago, I found these bear foot slippers under the tree. They were the warmest slippers ever. A week later, William sat down and started making biscuits on them. Now they’re called William’s shoes.
It’s now past midnight. Christmas Day is over. Time to turn off the lava lamp and sleep snug in my bed and dream of goat curry and naan. Which, come to think of it, would make a fine traditional nonstandard New Year’s Day lunch.
The pot roast fell apart.
Four hours at 250°, and a three-pound chuck roast falls apart when nudged with a fork.
It has taken me twelve years to relearn that.
Until 1988, I cooked lovely pot roasts, tender and tasty. I followed my mother’s example: no flouring, no searing, just season the meat, put it into a cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven, add onions and a little water, turn on the heat, and leave it alone. On top of the stove, in the oven, it doesn’t matter. Later, add potatoes and carrots. Cook until done.
But in 1988, I stopped cooking–that’s another story–and didn’t pick it up again on a regular basis until fifteen years later when I acquired David and thought I had to feed him nutritious, well balanced meals. He was polite, ate what was put before him, and said it was good. It wasn’t. Tough beef, tough chicken, tough meat in general. Afraid I would poison him and then have to explain it to his brothers, I cooked meat long enough to kill every possible bacterium and then some.
A modern woman steeped in the traditions of librarianship, I spent years googling pot roast recipes: Michigan Secret Pot Roast, Family Style Pot Roast, Busy Day Pot Roast, Hearty Pot Roast, Easy Pot Roast, Pot Roast in Foil, Perfect Pot Roast, Savory Pot Roast, Paula Deen Pot Roast. A plethora of pot roasts. Not much help, though, because temperatures vary widely and instructions equivocate regarding cooking times. So many read something like, Cook until meat falls apart when touched by fork. Well, d’oh.
Meal preparation is labor-intensive, and there’s little room for error. When I cook, I don’t want wishy-washy estimates. I want answers.
The break-through came with a recipe calling for an oven temperature of 250°. I’d never cooked anything that slowly, but desperate times, etc. Last night (on the theory that everything tastes better on the second day) I floured, seared, added broth–still don’t believe in it, but fifty million roasters can’t be wrong–sautéed and tossed in onion and garlic, secured our prospective entrée in a tepid oven, and went back to binge watching Law and Order. Four hours later, I removed roast from oven, inserted fork, and–voila! Immediate disintegration.
Unfortunately, I’d been so intent on the fate of the meat that I forgot to add potatoes and carrots. This morning I boiled them in the remaining beef broth and tossed them into the pot with the main course.
Unless history books have it all wrong, pot roast isn’t traditional Thanksgiving fare. So why did we have it?
Of course, pot roast wasn’t the only dish on our table. We also had dressing, gravy,and brownies. HEB helped with the dressing. Duncan Hines helped with the brownies.
I took care of the gravy myself. It’d been eons since I made gravy, and just before adding homemade flour-and-water thickener, I heard a still, small voice say, You’re going to ruin that. But I didn’t.
So that’s the story of Thanksgiving Dinner 2016: Relatively Perfect Pot Roast. In 2017, I’ll remember to add vegetables.
The other remarkable thing about Thanksgiving Dinner 2016 is that I cooked it, served it, and cleaned up after it. In the past eleven months, I’ve prepared maybe five meals–maybe–and each time I played out halfway through and left the finishing up to David. Today I stayed the course. I must be feeling better.
Oh. I just remembered–I was going to fix deviled eggs. Darn. But I’ll do it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.
And I forgot the cranberry sauce.
David’s supper. He found the cranberry sauce.
I feel lousy!
Oh so lousy!
I feel lousy, and frowzy, and a fright!
And that’s the truth.
My whole body, except for my brain, is out of commission. My brain is set on Grouse. To the widest audience I can find.
I’ve already told my niece and my great-niece, through Facebook, what I think about a couple of things. Niece offered to buy me a drink. I suggested codeine or paregoric instead. Great-niece hasn’t responded.
At this point, even the brain is running out of steam, so, gentle readers, you will be spared the Grouse. Instead, I will post pictures of a family get-together in Houston a year–two?three?–ago.
Both of the mothers said I could post photos of their children. The children’s grandmother didn’t give permission to post a photo of her, but she doesn’t get to say. When I was sixteen and she was almost twice that, and old enough to know better, she set an ice pack on my stomach in the middle of the night, when I was sound asleep.
I have forgiven her, but I will never forget.
Anyway, here are a bunch of very bad photos of people having fun.
P. S. I’ll see how many of gentle family are aware of this blog by counting the number of comments I get from them here and on Facebook.
As you know if you saw our last post, our Christmas tree has been the subject of intense, but not unexpected, conflict.
As soon as the tree lit up, so did William and Ernest. William had to be physically restrained from chewing on the lights.
The next morning found the tree lying on its side and the cats out of sight. The tree spent the day en deshabille, as it were.
After lengthy trilateral negotiations, a compromise was reached.
Ornaments and tree skirt are, of course, out of the question.
Gifts will appear Christmas morning immediately before they’re to be opened.
Featured image by SDRandCo via morguefile.com