Saturday, November 21, 2015

First Turkey, 1964

The first turkey I ever cooked myself was in the year of 1964. I was a young married, an ex- student, as was my husband. We were living in a dismal basement apartment in NYC, with a front window whose view was the back of the building’s garbage cans. Needless to say, we kept the blinds closed. We shared a bathroom with some elder ladies who we never saw, but who, no matter how loudly I scrubbed the tub after using it, would come in as soon as I’d left and wash the entire bathroom all over again. I suppose I can’t blame them, for lots of poor people in the city lived in fear of all manner of dangerous unknowns.

We’d managed to buy the turkey, a small one, although it took some financial planning to get the cash together, as I didn’t have a job. Only my husband, Chris, did.  As a nineteen year old with zero skills, as expected, that didn’t pay much and rent took most of that. As for me, I’d left the hospital I’d been working in back in Philadelphia and come to NYC in order to be with him. Plus, I was violently morning sick—to the 9th degree. I mean, Rosemary, in “Rosemary’s Baby,” had nothing on me. The only things I could reliably keep down were weird cravings: green pea soup, white bread, grapefruit and sardines. Anything else—upchuck! Maybe that’s why the invisible ladies next door were so diligent about scrubbing our shared bathroom.

On the big day we cleaned up our turkey as I’d seen my parents do, slapped it in a big bakeware pan that we’d found in the kitchen, turned the oven to 350 and then walked over to Broadway to see a little of the Thanksgiving Day parade. We were so far uptown that there wasn’t much to see, but there were bands and high school kids from out of town feeling really proud of themselves, and people wrestling with a couple of balloons—my favorite, Dino the dinosaur—being dragged about in the gusty wind. The other big event for me was seeing Fess Parker of Davy Crocket fame, waving and smiling from the back of an open car. Like a zillion children from my generation, he’d been my hero back in the fourth grade.  I’d wept while watching the Walt Disney show the night “Davy” died at the Alamo.



Now that child’s life seemed incredibly distant. Chris and I looked at each other. We were married, pregnant and close to broke. Whether one or either of us would ever get back to college—and how the heck we would manage it--was still up in the air. Nobody's parents were happy. With all this drama swirling through our minds, the parade, so very pointedly an event for little kids, got old fast.  


We turned and walked back through the wind, weak November sun, and grimy uptown streets to our little pad. When we got there, the place was redolent with roast turkey and baked potatoes. The bird made snapping noises as the juice splattered about inside the oven, casting a kind of smoky pall around the kitchen. We decided that this must mean it was cooked. Chris fetched it out, and lo and behold, it was done, all crispy, juices running clear.  I was a little surprised that I was, for the first time in months and all of a sudden—genuinely hungry. It was quite a fine meal, our first Thanksgiving—meat, potatoes, squishy store bread and a freshly opened can of cranberry sauce. Who knew I’d be remembering it fifty-one years later?

~~Juliet Waldron
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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Butterfly Bride~Hand-me-Down Bride's Little Sister


“Waiting for someone, Miss?” A tall, good-looking American swept off his hat in an exaggerated gesture. He had short brown hair, a tanned face, blue eyes, and a neatly trimmed moustache. He wore a yellow waistcoat with a golden pocket watch chain.

“Yes sir.” Elfie hoped the conversation wouldn’t get too complicated. She was afraid her English wasn’t yet up to it. Aunt Ilga, who had brought her from Philadelphia, had just disappeared into the crowded little station house to see if there was any message for them and hadn’t yet returned.

“Well, I’m waiting for someone, too. Perhaps,” the smiling young man leaned closer, “it’s you.”

Elfie had seen him earlier, one of a group of three, who had all come piling out of a buggy with a double-hitch of chestnut geldings. The horses were lathered, so they’d obviously been going fast. They’d arrived in a cloud of dust, practically running down a newsboy who’d been crossing the yard, just as the train had pulled in. They’d looked around a bit, and she’d noticed them just as they’d noticed her. The best looking, the one who had come over, had lifted his hat, but Elfie had turned away, pretending to be distracted by some children who were racing along the platform. 

A moment later, when she turned back, here he was, boldly walking up. She hadn’t been in America long, just a few weeks, but in Philadelphia, she’d seen his like when she’d been out walking with her Aunt Ilga. “A swell,” her Aunt would call him.  Aunt Ilga had warned Elfie about young men like him.

Elfie looked him up and down, trying her best to appear severe, but it was not an easy thing for a willowy girl who was barely eighteen to do.  Besides, she knew she looked pretty, in a green dress and with a darling new hat which sported a curled feather atop her dark brown curls.

“I don’ tink zo.”

“Oh—hahahaha—tink what, you adorable creature?”
He leaned in even closer, and Elfie took a few prudent steps back, putting her steamer trunk between them.

“Come on—tell me your name, Darlin’ and where you want to go. We’ve got plenty of room in the buggy there. Me and my friends will be happy to drive you anywhere you want to go.”
From a work in progress, Butterfly Bride, the sequel to Hand-me-Down Bride. Elfie arrives in Pennsylvania, and proves to be quite different from her earnest, hard-working older sister Sophie. Instead, Elfie is an impulsive beauty who turns the heads of every young fellow in the Great Valley.

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Saturday, November 7, 2015


A Republican tea in Philadelphia and a recipe for those new small fat edible pumpkins. 

Betsy heaved a sigh of relief and smoothed her party dress. In the center of the table sat the tea, steaming in a fine English china pot her mother had given her. The surrounding fare was substantial. The guests were obviously enjoying their repast. It was a full-scale affair, a long table covered with savories as well as sweets.

Some, Betsy had made herself, some she had brought in from famous Philadelphia bake shops. From her kitchen had come apple, beef and kidney and pigeon pies, conserves of pears and plums, and loaves of bread.

She knew that to the Philadelphians as well as to the rich southerners, her tea was a simple affair. No roast pig, no pheasant, no songbirds stuffed in pigeons stuffed in ducks stuffed in turkeys. Nor any French cook backstage drowning everything in sauce, such as Mr. Jefferson employed.

Betsy didn’t have money for such luxuries on the slender salary of her public servant husband. Even if she had had, her Dutch housewife’s upbringing wouldn’t have allowed her to ever feel easy with a French cook in the kitchen.

After a little time, she overheard the judgment of Philadelphia society upon the table of Mrs. Secretary of the Treasury.

“Pumpkin custard baked in the pumpkin. How quaint!”

“Yes. Good Lord. I haven’t been intimate with the dish in years.”

“Well, try some. It’s delicious. I’d quite forgotten how good it can be.”
The story of Alexander Hamilton & Elizabeth Schuyler

Here's an 18th Century recipe for Mrs. Hamilton's Pumpkin Custard "Pie," which is made a little chancey without the intense heat of a wood-fired wall oven. My directions will probably be a little eye-ballish to some, but that's the way I learned to cook. I'm a pantser in the kitchen, too, which is why I'll never be a gourmet chef.
 Cut the lid from a small pumpkin, the 1-2 lb., such as Baby Bear, Small Sugar, Wee Be Little. Remove the seeds and strings and gently clean. You want meat to be left behind.
Place the pumpkin, a TBS of water inside, the top back on, in an oven proof pan, one with sides, like a pie pan, in case of spillage.
Roast in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
While it's roasting, make a small batch of custard by your favorite recipe, perhaps something like:
3 whole eggs
1 cup whipping cream -- or, if you want the lower calorie option, 1 cup of evaporated milk 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. molasses
dash nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon  
1/4 tsp. ginger
I'd jigger this recipe around in different ways, depending on the size of the pumpkin cavity. Use more or less spice to your taste. More Molasses would have been preferred by the 18th Century American diner.)
Beat the custard together.
After 30 minutes, check the pumpkin. (If you've got a couple of smaller pumpkins, this will cook faster, so watch it.) As the pumpkin just yields to a knife, remove the top--careful, it's hot--and gently add the custard--as much as the pumpkin/s will hold. You may place any leftover custard in small glass dishes and cook alongside the roasting pumpkin. 
Add another 10 minutes if you don't think it's sufficiently softened. Add the custard. Bake for another 45 minutes and then say a prayer to the oven goddess for the custard to set. Again, if not, just give it a few more minutes.
Serve the pumpkin whole at table, scraping some of the pulp to accompany each scoop of custard.
(Downsized from the 5-7 lb. pumpkin original and adapted from Jeff Smith's The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, William Morrow & Co., 1984)


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cave of the Red Horse

November Sale
RED MAGIC, Book 1 of the Magic Colours series: 
 $.99 at most e-book retailers:
The enigmatic, treacherous Rossmann shows Caterina a magical place, one that he has known since his childhood...

His tone was encouraging--and his light was receding--so, having no other choice, Caterina dropped to her knees and followed.  After a few twists and turns of scuffling, claustrophobic crawling after his outline, she saw him get to his feet.  When she reached the same spot, he extended a hand to help her up.             

The candle flickered. Caterina saw that they were at the bottom of a dripping, and, except for the dim candle light, utterly black, fissure.  Rossmann was turning, shining the candle on the walls, seeking and finally finding the mouth of yet another hole.    

"Inside of this one is what the old ones painted.  It's just as I told you the night Star dropped her foal.  You‑‑of all people‑‑must see."

"What?  I thought you were showing me an escape."          

"It's through here."  On hands and knees, neatly balancing the light, Rossmann disappeared again.      His enthusiasm for the tour they were making seemed high, innocent.  Cat swallowed back her fear, got down on her knees again and awkwardly followed him.   

After a blessedly short crawl, she found Rossmann and the light again.  He had already got to his feet and held the candle high.     

As soon as Cat looked up, she forgot her fear.  The walls of this tiny space were covered with paintings, paintings of animals.  The colors were bright and fresh, the execution spirited.    She recognized cattle, elk, deer and horses, but besides these more ordinary creatures, there were animals she'd never seen before.  One, very large, was bulky, furry and seemed to be sporting a trunk.  "An‑‑an‑‑elephant?"  She'd had to make a brief mental search to find the name of the creature.  "Here?  On these plains?"           

"Yes," Rossmann answered.  "So it seems.  It must have been much wetter then.  Elephants are very big, you know, eat very much."    

"Have you seen elephants, Herr Rossmann?"

  "Yes.  They are wise, perhaps the wisest of creatures, and they are very, very dangerous to their keepers."      

"Where did you see them?"   

His small bright eyes turned on her, dark and sardonic.  "In Africa," he said.      

"I thought these lands were your home place."        

"They are, but I've traveled." The mystery of Rossmann seemed never ending. 

Cat returned to studying the beauty and energy portrayed on the walls, tried to ignore the persistent unsettled feeling she'd had from the moment they'd entered the cave.        

Among, and sometimes atop, the gamboling animals were hand prints, spirals and squiggly lines.  In spite of the fresh, bright colors, Cat instinctively felt that this had been painted a very long time ago.

"This is the Cave of the Red Horse," said Rossmann.  "It's a place a woman with your gift should see."    

He raised the candle high and threw light upon a painting Cat hadn't noticed.  Almost directly overhead, a huge red  horse galloped.  A long legged foal was in full stretch, close by its mother's side.    

"Oh!  She's beautiful!" Cat exclaimed.    

After a moment, Rossmann's eyes lowered from contemplation of the ceiling. 

"Yes.  She's the guardian of the cave, the center of power.  Long ago a witch lived here.  It was said that if a man took her, he'd be a Lord with many sons, many cattle and horses.  If her magic resisted him, though, he must die..."      


Red Magic
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Friday, October 23, 2015

~Lord Goran Finds His Prey~

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Night came down upon the mountain. A cloud of stars floated around the peak.  He lifted his head and scented the air, and was able to taste it all—the people, their suppers, their horses, cattle, goats and chickens, dogs, and the pine forest beyond—so much life, going on everywhere. To learn so much with his nose was new and exhilarating, so he threw back his head. The wind, as if summoned, gusted, brisk and chill, ruffling his dark hair.
            Goran stood by the forest edge, by the tame little village, with its steep-roofed stone houses, the walls white with plaster and bright with decorative trim, all of which his night-time vision recognized. Something had urged him to come here, and hearing, he’d returned to seek it out. A dog began to bark, probably at his scent, first one and then others, in the persistent way of their kind. The noise annoyed him, but he knew that if any were loose and came to confront him, they would soon be cowering on the ground, displaying an attitude of profound, doggy submission. He sent a message into the air—SILENCE! After a few minutes, to his satisfaction, all the barking stopped.

            Houses backed onto the pasture land. Behind lay a wedge of forest. The Heldenberg lifted her stony head over it all. He understood that creatures near and far were alert, aware of his presence. From the houses, with their summer open windows, he heard snores, but there was already a faint suggestion of light to the east.

            What was it—what was it—that he needed to do?

            He went past a tidy garden, nicely cultivated, the whole plot angled toward the southern sun. There was a pile of straw at one end, and, from this pile, there came raucous snores. As he approached, he scented the rank sour smell of a drunk.

            And who should be lying there like a sleeping hog, but Thomas’ driver, wrapped up in the blanket that he’d seen the boy take for the exhausted horse earlier in the evening.

            Ah, yes! Exactly what he was looking for.

            With a leg on either side of the sleeper, he bent and seized the man by the throat with one clawed, muscular hand.
...The eyes opened, first blurred with confusion and sleep, and then, as he recognized what held him, filled with terror.


“Guess again!”

Goran hissed, then grinned widely, amused by his own joke. To speak clearly wasn’t easy, negotiating such a long tongue inside a mouthful of long, sharp teeth. He relaxed his grip just sufficiently to allow Herr Engle to get some air. He wanted to give him plenty of time to contemplate where he was, and to understand what, exactly, had seized him.

As soon as the man sucked in a breath, his large sweaty hands flew up and locked around Goran’s wrists. They were the hands of a teamster, powerful and leathery from years of driving, but defiance changed nothing.

Crouching, Goran simply squeezed the fat throat hard once again. Herr Engle’s bleary eyes bulged and his tongue began to protrude.

Inside his mind, he could hear the shrieked plea: STOP! 

But why?


Why? For you have none …

Goran sent the thought and then abruptly realized that he didn’t have to do this the way he’d killed the brigands. Such crude ripping and tearing would cause a fuss.


Besides, he still wasn’t particularly hungry. Certainly not for this beer-soaked flesh. 

Inside the man’s body, he spied the pulsing heart.
It was ever so busy, pounding, pounding, pounding in terror!

Gathering himself, Goran bowed his head against the hot, heaving chest, against the flailing arms, and pressed. He changed again, into a bull, a bull with a hated farmer trapped beneath his brow.

Down upon the ground, struggling, an enemy pinned between spreading horns…


Inside the chest, the red, fat-marbled muscle pumped like mad, keeping this worthless creature alive.

On his fore-knees, Goran pressed ever so hard. There was a harsh, pain-filled groan. Next, the sound of bones popping...

A little later, he, once more upon two legs, stood to admire his handiwork. The man no longer moved. No breath, no cries, no prayers, either aloud or within his mind. Satisfied, and feeling no further wish to remain so near to habitation, Goran turned and disappeared into the fragrant shadow of the dark mountain pines.


And for more Sunday Snippets, hop along to these talented Books We Love Writers: (Ginger Simpson)


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Rose's Curse

And for this week's Halloween snippet, here's a witchy hex from Roan Rose:

When I had time, I went into the fields, off and on for days after, searching for herbs of the season. At last, I found all that was needed to make a potion so deadly it would take down an ox. With great care I prepared, and then poured it into a brown glass bottle I’d tucked in the back of the medicine chest. Around the neck, as warning, I knotted black thread and a fragile bird’s bone.
This was for dear Hugh, if he ever came back.
Praying that I did not have to use it and end up hanged, I sat with my three-legged pot quite late during the next dark of the moon. I had carefully sewed a poppet, stuffing it with his hair from a brush and snips of cloth from a ragged sweat-stained shirt he'd left behind.

I wished him impotence. I wished the wound I'd given would fester. I wished the last of his hair from his head. I took my knife and slowly sawed away the legs at the knees, one at a time. I dug pins first into the eyes and then into the heart. Lastly, I spoke a little charm I’d made:

Black Lady freeze his soul

Black Lady eat him whole

May he burrow like a mole

May the Devil be his dole

Cold his flesh and damned his soul,

Down in Hell's nether hole.

The work, the charm, and the greasy flaming of the poppet as it burned, made me feel a great deal better...."

ROAN ROSE is available at:

And for more Sunday Snippets, hop along to these talented Books We Love Writers: (Ginger Simpson)