My son in law is a competitor in the Highland Games and this weekend we trundled up to Estes Park, Colorado ( 7,500 ft altitude) to watch him perform amazing feats of strength, from throwing huge stones, the seemingly impossible caber toss, the heavy hammer toss, and the sheaf toss (which is about pitching a heavy bale straight up around 12 to 15 feet in the air over a bar). And while those medal-winning activities were entertaining enough (with lots of yelling encouragement) there was also the scotch-tasting tent and drinking single malts at 10am, and many wonderful pipers, dancers, and people kilted out and dressed to kill in tartans, swords, and berets.
Like the handsome gentlemen above (two of whom were visiting from Scotland.) They were kind enough to stand for a photo with me looking squiggly and happy between them. I also wanted the photo because I wanted to remember those beautiful blue berets as I have a pattern for knitting and felting one. Next year, I am definitely coming dressed up!
I am a wee bit past Bastille Day, but in the spirit of that revolutionary and rather bloody event, I would like to offer a meal fit for Death. The Old Foodie, is a brilliant blog devoted to providing readers with 400 words a day on a historical food topic, along with recipes. This offering was a splendid piece on the infamous "mortuary dinner" given by eccentric French gourmand Grimod de la Reynière in 1783. Here's the first paragraph of the article:
"The eighteenth century French gourmand Grimod de la Reynière hosted a most unusual dinner party in 1783 which has gone down in history as 'the Mortuary Dinner’. Grimod was known to be eccentric, but even for him, this dinner was a little over-the-top. The invitation to a 'collation-supper' was in the form of an obituary notice, and guest were advised 'The arrival is fixed for 9 o'clock and supper will take place at 10 o'clock. You are requested not to bring neither dog nor lackey as there will be enough servants. Neither pig nor oil will be missing from the supper. You are requested to bring this invitation, without which admittance will be refused.' ”
The whole event is terrifically weird and worthy of a Tim Burton cinematic moment (who could forget the shrimp cocktail in Beetle Juice?) -- plenty of black crepe on the walls, coffins to lounge in, and a silent audience in the balcony to observe the spectacle. The Old Foodie also provides a tasty recipe for Ragout of Pork Chops -- just in case you, like me, have no idea what "plenty of pig and oil" might actually mean. You can read the whole piece here.
And better yet, here is a wonderful video of a "Black Meal" from the British show "Supersize Eaters" that examines the eating habits of different historical periods and then spend a week living, cooking, and eating in a version of that period. The results are very funny, and very fascinating. In this video -- a celebration of Grimod's "Mortuary Dinner" -- you get a clear, first hand look at this peculiar feast.
I am so happy to celebrate St. Brigid's Feast Day -- especially as I have learned that in addition to being an excellent dairy maid (and therefore patron saint of farmers), she was especially fond of beer. We have been learning how to home brew beer (first batch was a successful dark beer with a mild head and not too bitter.) So as we begin our next batch (a lager this time) I will make my prayers to St. Brigid for a good brew and share this delicious poem she wrote -- she does make it sound like my kind of party. A great lake of beer!
I rejoice at finding wonderful items on the internet, but I am also pleased in being found. I recently received a terrific email from a middle school English teacher whose sixth grade class was tackling poetry with some difficulty at the start. This is what she wrote to me:
After teaching all kinds of dry literary terms to kids who are often intimidated by the misconception that all poetry is cryptic and impenetrable by nature, I presented them with Sandra Cisneros' "My Wicked, Wicked Ways". They were awakened. They were transported. To keep them there, suspended in a state of fascination and of vulnerability, I challenged them to bring in a picture to which they are emotionally connected in some way. Some did, and some, as would be expected, forgot or ignored my request. I warned them, that in that event, I will pick a picture for them and that they would have to write as if my pick were personal to them. I googled family pictures and decided on yours. (see the original post: How The Drank in the 40s)
We wrote. I wrote one too, alongside them. We read them, we clapped, we nodded our heads, we listened. The purpose of this email is to let you know that the act of putting that picture out there changed some of us. It helped us look deeper. It forced us to connect. It made us listen to each other and see things the way we wouldtn've on our own, perhaps.
Feeling very honored (as would my grandmother in the photo have been) I asked the teacher if she would share some of the poems with me. Here's one of the poems written by a sixth grader:
For the greatest feast
Come to drink
They are dressed up
Like Christmas trees
Laughing and talking
Eating and drinking.
Their laughs are noisy
From a concert
As they talk like the dolphins
Drinking the wine
From their cups
Eating roasted vegetables
And have a good night.
Awesomeness! I want to thank all the students and their teacher for sharing their work with me. It has really made my day.
Midori Snyder is the author of nine novels for children and adults. She won the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati, a novel inspired by early Roman myth and the Italian "Commedia dell'Arte" tradition. more>>