Thursday, March 4, 2010

Below is an excerpt from the “Incidents of Western Travels” by Rev. George Pierce ©1857 These letters were his reflections on his travels from GA to Nashville, to Oklahoma, to Arkansas, to Texas and back to GA.

Galveston 1856

Galveston, the “city of cottages,” is a charming place. Open to the winds on every side, with wide streets and sandy soil, and a soft and balmy climate, it is eligibly located for a great and nourishing mart.

Orange and lemon trees are found in almost every garden. They grow luxuriantly, and were laden with fruit when I was there in December last. The oleander is the common ornamental shrub in the town. It flourishes even along the sidewalks.

The plantain, too, with its clustering fruit, is successfully cultivated. What the temperature may be in summer, I know not; but a visitor in winter would conclude that the good people had the productions of the tropics, without the accompanying fervor of a tropical climate. It is well nigh impossible to conceive of a finer beach than the one around Galveston. An evening ride on these surf-beaten sands is a delightful recreation. The beautiful and the sublime, nature and art, the works of God and the inventions of men, combine in panoramic order. The island, with its human habitations; the Gulf, with its ever-heaving waters; the steamship, bannered with smoke, proudly defying wind and wave; the sea-birds, with tireless wing fanning the air, or descending to ride upon the billows ; the merry voices of the gay and the glad, as they gather shells upon the shore, mingling with the everlasting roar of the tide in its ebb and its flow, constitute a scene where one may well pause to think and feel, to admire and adore.

Galveston cannot be a sickly place, unless it be by the criminal. carelessness of the city authorities, or the bad habits of the people. Yellow-fever certainly cannot originate there, and if it prevail at all, it must be by importation. When Texas shall count her citizens by the million, and communication with the interior by railroads shall be opened, this city on the Gulf of Mexico will become an emporium of wealth and commerce.

Posted by Lynn Coleman at 7:28 AM

Labels: 1856, 1857, old letters, town histories


Below is an impression about Coffee taken from the “Incidents of Western Travels,” letters written by George Pierce a Methodist Minister on a trip out to the Indian Mission in Oklahoma in 1856 and published in 1857. I’m supplying the context for you to enjoy his comments about coffee.

A little before dark we came to an Indian cabin, and by signs and gestures made known our wish to tarry for the night. By signs and gestures we were made to understand that we could stay. We were left, of course, to wait upon ourselves; so we stripped our horses and led them to water; and when we returned, our host had brought to the lot a turn of corn and fodder, and as he let his own horses out, we put ours in and fed them to our hearts’ content. Now we marched to the house t* see about our own prospects for food and rest. There was but one room, but this was neat and comfortable, save that there was about it an undefinable odor, any thing but pleasant. It is common, I learned, to Indian habitations. The man, his wife and children, were well clad, and were attentive and polite according to their notions. N”ot a word of English could we get from any of the household. They could speak it, for they understood us very well in much of our talk: that was very obvious.

My good friend, McAlister, undertook to secure us a good supper by giving special directions, more particularly about the coffee—with me, when good, a favorite article. But, alas ! he succeeded better with every thing else than with this necessary beverage. By the way—pardon a little digression on this interesting theme—bad coffee is one of the afflictions of the land, and it is one of the miseries of travel. We find it everywhere—in taverns and private houses—among the rich and the poor. Often, when every thing else is clean and well prepared, the coffee is execrable stuff. Weak, or black, or unsettled, it is enough to make a well man sick. Why is this ? It is not stinginess, for there is often enough of the raw material, if it had been boiled and cleared. Sometimes, it is true, a man has to drink a good deal of wate» to get a little coffee ; but, generally, the difficulty is that the fluid is.muddy, the grounds all afloat; and then “the cup cheers” not, but sadly offends sight, smell, and taste. The country needs a reform. It is more necessary to the welfare of the people than some other things that agitate the nation. In these days of Womens’ Rights I will not invade their province by pretending to give a recipe. I will only say, there must be good grains, well parched—not burnt—well boiled, and well settled; and then, as the cookery-books say, cream (not milk) and siigar “according to taste.” A lady of my acquaintance says it takes a tablespoonful of coffee to every cup; a little more would not hurt to make the article decently good. I wish the people—Indians and all—would try her proportions.

Posted by Lynn Coleman at 7:41 AM

Labels: 1856, 1857, Food, old letters


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The primary figure that we should recognize is Esther Howland who received her first Valentine card in 1847. Her family owned and operated one of the largest book and stationery stores in Worcester, MA. She decided she could make similar cards to market in the United States. Esther ordered her supplies from England and started selling her cards the next year. In 1850 she advertised these cards and hired staff to help her keep up with the orders. She retired in 1881 and sold her business to George C. Whitney Company.

St. Valentine’s Eve was celebrated in the earlier part of the century for many years. Different countries would have different customs. One such custom was in England where the single men and maids would be gathered, each with a card they’d made. Here’s a quote from “The Book of Days” by Robert Chambers ©1864
‘On the eve of St Valentine’s Day,’ he says, ‘the young folks in England and Scotland, by a very ancient custom, celebrate a little festival. An equal number of maids and bachelors- get together ; each writes their true or some feigned name upon separate billets, which they roll up, and draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men’s billets, and the men the maids’; so that each of the young men lights upon a girl that he calls his valentine, and each of the girls upon a young man whom she calls hers. By this means each has two valentines ; but the man sticks faster to the valentine that has fallen to him than to the valentine to whom he is fallen. Fortune having thus divided the company into so many couples, the valentines give balls and treats to their mistresses, wear their billets several days upon their bosoms or sleeves, and this little sport often ends in love.’

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale ©1857 It’s a good description of the various ways to prepare pork.

Curing Pork.—

The pork being killed, several points require attention —first, the chitterlings must be cleaned, and all the fat taken off; they are then to be soaked for two or three day* in four or six waters, and the fat may be melted for softening shoes, &c.; the inside fat, or flare, of pork must be melted for lard as soon as possible, without salt, if for pastry. The souse should be salted for two or three days, and then boiled till tender ; or fried, or broiled, after being boiled. The sides for bacon must be wiped, rubbed at the bone, and sprinkled with salt, to extract the blood : the chines, cheeks, and spare-ribs, should be similarly salted. On the third day after pork is killed, it may be regularly salted, tubs or pans being placed to receive the brine, which is useful for chines and tongues. December and January are the best months for preparing bacon, as the frost is not then too severe.
The hog is made into bacon, or pickled.
Bacon—(The method of airing Malines Bacon, so much ad mired for its fine flavor).—Cut off the hams and head of a pig, if a large one; takeout the chine and leave in the spare-rib, as they will keep in the gravy and prevent the bacon from rusting. Salt it first with common salt, and let it lie for a day on a table that the blood may run from it; then make a brine with a pint of bay-salt, one-quarter peck of common salt, about one-quarter pound of juniper-berries, and some bay-leaves, with as much water as will, when the brine is made, cover the bacon; when the salt is dissolved, and when quite cold, if a new-laid egg will swim in it, the brine may be put on the ba con, which after a week must be rubbed with the following mixture:—Half pound of saltpetre, 2 oz. of sal-prunella, and 1 pound of coarse sugar; after remaining 4 weeks, it may be hung up in a chimney where wood is burned; shavings, with •awdust and a small quantity of turf, may be added to the fire at times.
Westphalia Hams—Are prepared in November and March. The Germans place them in deep tubs, which they cover with «vers of salt and saltpetre, and a few laurel-leaves. They ar« left four or five days in this state, and then are compk-tcly covered with strong brine. At the end of three weeks, they are taken out, and soaked twelve hours in clear spring water • they are then hung for three weeks in smoke, produ”-.ed from the branches of juniper-plants.
Another method is to rub the leg intended for a bun with half a pound of coarse sugar, and to lay it aside for a night. In the morning, it is rubbed with an ounce of saltpetre, and an ounce of common salt, mixed. It is then turned daily for throe weeks, and afterwards dried in wood and turf-smoke. When boiled, a pint of oak saw-dust is directed to be put into the pot or boiler.
Obs.—Dried meats, hams, &c., should be kept in a cold bui not damp place.
Smoked provisions keep better than those which are dried on account of the pyroligneous acid which the former recei\v from the smoke.
Hams superior to Westphalia.—Take the hams as soon as the pork is sufficiently cold to be cut up, rub them well wit! common salt, and leave them for three days to drain; throw away the brine, and for a couple of hatns of from fifteen to eighteen pounds’ weight, mix together two ounces of saltpetre, a pound of coarse sugar, and a pound of common salt; rub the hams in every part with these, lay them into deeppieklinf;paus with the riud downwards, and keep them for three days well covered with the salt and sugar; then pour over them a bottle of good vinegar, and turn them in the brine, and baste them with it daily for a mouth; drain them well, nib them with bran, and let them be hung for a month high in a chimney over a wood-fire to be smoked.
Hams, of from 15 to 18 Ibs. each, 2; to drain, 3 days. Common salt and coarse sugar, each 1 Ib.; saltpetre, 2 ozs.: 3 jays. Vinegar, 1 bottle: 1 month. To be smoked 1 month.
Obs.—Such of our readers as shall make trial of this admirable receipt, will acknowledge, we doubt not, that the hams thus cured are in reality superior to those of Westphalia. It was originally given to the public by the celebrated French cook, Monsieur Ude, to whom, after having proved it, we are happy to acknowledge o’tr obligation for it. lie directs that the hams when smoked should be hung as high as possible from the fire, that the fat may not be melted ;—a very necea. sary precaution, as the mode of their being cured renders it peculiarly liable to do so. This, indeed, is somewhat perceptible in the cooking, which ought, therefore, to be conducted with especial care. The hams should be very softly simmered, and uot over-done. They should be large, and of finely-fed pork, or the receipt will not answer. We give the result of out first trial of it, which was perfectly successful.
Leg of farm-house pork, 14 to 15 Ibs.; saltpetre, 1^ oz. • strong coarse salt, 6 ozs.; coarse sugar, 8 ozs.: 3 days. Fine white-wine vinegar, 1 pint. In pickle, turned daily, 1 month. Smoked over wood, 1 month.
Obs.—When two hams are pickled together, a smaller proportion of the ingredients is required for each than for one which is cured by itself. .

Posted by Lynn Coleman at 7:48 AM

Labels: 1857, cooking, farming, Food