Christmas in Antebellum Virginia: Part I

What is now the state of Virginia boasted the first permanent English settlement in North America. Despite its rocky beginnings in 1607, the settlement eventually flourished. The first Africans arrived in 1619 and the tobacco industry began in earnest. Along with the need for cheap labor, provided by slavery, the colonialists desired nothing more than…

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Christmas Cheer, or, Fire Up the Reindeer

Black Friday marks the first "official" day of Christmas, er, shopping, that is. (You know it's almost Christmas when the day after Halloween, the grocery stores start hauling out the red ribbon and fake mistletoe.) A bit premature, but that's cultural change for you. Used to be that you couldn't find a bit of tinsel…

George Washington’s Christmas Brunch, 1769

Happy/Merry Christmas/Hannukah/Holiday Season/Winter Solstice and a wonderful, hope-filled New Year. A big "Thank You" to each and every one of you for reading "Gherkins & Tomatoes." Seven years before the sonorous words of the American Declaration of Independence rang out in Philadelphia, George Washington ate the following Christmas brunch. Betty, the only sister of his…

Feast of the Seven Fishes (La Festa dei Sette Pesci)

If you like comic books, graphic novels, and cartoons, you'll love Feast of the Seven Fishes: The Collected Comic Strip & Italian Holiday Cookbook. Let the author himself tell you what the book's all about: "All I wanted to do was write a little romantic comedy about my family cooking fish on Christmas Eve. Little…

A Symbol of the Season

Many years ago, I read A Precocious Autobiography, by Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. One passage moved me to tears and I am sharing it with you this year, during this season symbolic of hope. In the darkness of winter, at least now in the Northern Hemisphere, we face the longest night, lighting candles and Christmas…

Christmas Menu 1890 from Godey’s Lady’s Book

Lately, I've been "getting it" that the Victorian era played a tremendously important role in Western history. Think of Beatrix Potter and Peter, Victoria and Albert, the Crimea and the Czars, colonels and colonies. And there's nowhere better to start looking at the Victorians and their impact than in the kitchen, whether those kitchens were…

Stocking Stuffers: A Wee Bit of History

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. ~~ Clement C. Moore, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" As the Christmas countdown begins in earnest and you must (must you?) still buy more gifts for more people (and with less time and less money to do…