Saturday, August 28, 2010

More Cookbooks

I went to another flea market today—a small one at a local park. I bought two cookbooks there despite the fact that I already have a large and varied assortment of cookbooks. However, I couldn’t resist. The first cookbook was the kind put together by a group of people to benefit their organization. Those types of cookbooks I’ve found to have some of the best recipes, ones that are simple but good. I’ve already decided to try one of the recipes this week—Smothered Chicken.

The other cookbook I can justify as a necessary reference book. Daughter #1 spotted it. It is The Victorian Seaside Cookbook, by Anne Bishop and Doris Simpson. It contains authentic recipes of the Victorian era served at hotels along the Jersey shore. It has lots of pictures and even a map of the railroad lines. History is a great deal of fun.

This amazing book contains menus, too. It is truly astounding to read of the quantity and variety of food served at each meal during the Victorian era.

Here I am, in 2010, counting every calorie I put into my mouth. By contrast, the Victorians seem like gluttons. Their breakfasts started with fruit, clam broth, and then a hot cereal. Next came three or four kinds of fish, grilled steaks, lamb chops, liver, and eggs. Following that, they heaped creamed codfish or beef, ham and bacon, several varieties of potatoes, hominy, and fried mush on their plates. In addition, there were griddle cakes with syrup plus hot chocolate, coffee, tea, milk or malted milk.

Reading all that made me groan. When I read about the Victorian dinner, which was far more sumptuous, my tummy started to ache.

Nevertheless, I found some of the recipes to be quite interesting. There’s stuffed tomatoes, a favorite of President Fillmore. There’s also rice pudding, said to be a favorite of President Grant.

Since we are what we eat, I do wonder about those Victorians. They spent a lot of time eating way back when along the Jersey shore.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Road Scholars

In a writer’s life, every experience can lead to an idea for a story. Every new vista can become the setting for another plot. Every person I meet has the possibility of becoming a character or at least having some facet of their personality spark the basis for a character. Going on a different adventure is the best way for me to “fill the well” in my mind in preparation for future books.

This year, hubby and I decided to try an elderhostel vacation. We signed up with Road Scholar. One couple we know had gone on a few trips with the elderhostel and recommended the company to us.

After considerable thought, we chose a tour based in White River Junction, Vermont. Our host was David Briggs of the Hotel Coolidge. We learned about Vermont railroads and small gauge railroads. The tour included a field trip to the top of Mount Washington where we rode the cog railway to the top of the mountain. We also went for a ride on an Amtrak train as well as a ride on the Green Mountain Railroad. In addition, we learned more about the region’s history, humor, and economics.

Other attendees came from as far away as California and Kentucky—though most were from other northeastern states. One woman had been on fifty elderhostel trips. Another on twenty. Hubby and I were the newbies—and I was undoubtedly the youngest in the group.

The price of the tour included all meals. The food was excellent but one of my favorite activities was being able to dine with our fellow travelers and compare life stories. I like to talk, but I am just as happy soaking up conversations and tucking them in the back of my mind. (Some small nugget of information might come in handy when I’m slogging through my plot one night.)

We found the lecturers in the program to be not only knowledgeable but passionate in their love of the subject they taught. Also funny. :^)

We had one afternoon free. Since Dartmouth wasn’t far way, hubby and I checked out the Hood Museum of Art (very nice and FREE!). We also visited Quechee Gorge.

On Thursday night, we were treated to a movie A Man With A Plan produced by a local Vermonter, John O’Brien. I would classify the film as political satire—but it was also funny, cute, and poignant. No violence, no sex, no outrageous special effects—but well worth watching. I bought the DVD.

I took a lot of notes during the lectures and I have a list of recommended books to read.

Will I write a book set in Vermont involving the railroads and White River Junction?

Maybe. I wrote down a few ideas on my Alphasmart as we journeyed home. However, I have to let everything percolate for a while in my mind.

There was one question I forgot to ask while I was in Vermont. There’s also a few details about the town of White River Junction that I need to clarify. My research is not finished yet!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

New Old Words

I've been reading The Red Rover by James Fenimore Cooper. I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg last year after I had visited J.F. Cooper's birthplace in Burlington, New Jersey. I had not known until that visit that Cooper had been in the Navy. Years ago, I read The Water Witch, because it was set in the Highlands of New Jersey. However, I did not know about The Pilot and The Red Rover, Cooper's other books with very nautical settings. I've already read The Pilot, but I am now reading The Red Rover. It's a good story (a pirate story!!!) but it goes slowly. Cooper was, like most authors of his time, verbose. He uses a lot more words to get from one point to the other.

The surprising thing is sometimes Cooper's vocabulary--ancient words that are completely out of common usage. I am an avid reader and coming across these little nuggets has had me reaching for the dictionary. The old words are still there, but it makes me sad that they are getting moldy. However, if I use any unfamiliar words in my manuscripts, I could lose readers. Odd words stand out like little red flags and take the reader out of the flow of the story.

Of course, there are always new words popping up in our language. The English language is alive and well and constantly changing. It is so rich and full of nuances that working with it is a joy.

Below are a few words from Cooper's The Red Rover that I looked up at

habiliment –noun
Usually, habiliments.
clothes or clothing.
clothes as worn in a particular profession, way of life, etc.
habiliments, accouterments or trappings.

Porteous-Porteous, John , d. 1736, British soldier. He was captain of the Edinburgh town guard at the execution (1736) of Andrew Wilson, a smuggler. When the crowd, which was sympathetic to Wilson, rioted, the guard fired into it, killing eight or nine persons. Porteous was tried and sentenced to death, but his execution was postponed. On Sept. 7, 1736, an indignant mob took him from prison and hanged him, a crime for which no one was brought to justice despite the efforts of the government. Incidents of the Porteous riot are used by Sir Walter Scott in The Heart of Midlothian.

a rogue, vagabond, thief, or brigand.
a pirate or corsair.
–verb (used without object)
to act or operate as a pirate or brigand.

mantling–noun Heraldry .
a decorative piece of cloth represented as hanging from a torse so as to cover the sides and rear of a helmet and often so as to frame the escutcheon below.

I think everyone should read lots of classic books, which anyone can get for free at Project Gutenberg. It's a great way to learn some new old words. :^)