Friday Food. July. Dessert Cups.

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I was eating a Dole fruit cup – cherry mixed fruit or something – and I was transported back to my childhood. We didn’t have the individual plastic cups like the one I was eating from. My mother would buy the cans of fruit cocktail, and we would most definitely fight over the cherries because there were never enough, and they really were the best part.

When we would have a special dinner – a holiday dinner – whether it was Thanksgiving or Rosh Hashanah or Passover, it didn’t matter which, there was always a multi-course meal with special dishes. Some meals like Rosh Hashanah would begin on the top plate with a piece of lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a scoop of chopped liver. There might also be a soup course – matzo ball – always a good choice, even on Thanksgiving. There also might be half a grapefruit with sprinkled sugar or a small dessert dish with fruit cocktail in it.

I loved those dessert dishes. They were small and squat and sat on little pedestals. They were perfect for fruit cocktail, jello, chocolate pudding (with whipped cream), and all sorts of interesting foods. The one problem I found as a kid was the texture of the dish. It wasn’t smooth so you could never scrape all the little bits of food left from the nooks and crannies, and they were annoying to wash, but I loved opening the cabinet just over the sink and seeing them, wondering what wondrous sweet treat they would next hold for us.

I still have them although they’re packed away in our basement. I wanted to find them last month for chocolate pudding, and then again to include a photo in this post, but our basement is a mess and in need of pruning. Finding them will be a goal for the next twelve months, but in the meantime I’ve included a photo I found of them from Ebay. We’ll see in the future if this photo that matches my memory will match the real ones when I find them.

Sometimes it’s not the food that’s nostalgic, but the containers we use.

Photo from Ebay. (c)2021

50-37 – Yankee Doodle

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In honor of today being Election Day, I am sharing my photos of my old elementary school lunchbox. It must have been a television show that I watched as a kid *. It was probably on during the Bicentennial in 1976. I’ve always loved history, and was really pleased to find this vintage, metal lunchbox in my parents’ garage before we sold the house.

Vintage Lunchbox. Yankee Doodles. (c)2016

*After many  minutes of googling and clicking useless links, I finally discovered that Yankee Doodles was a comic strip that ran from 1973 to 1977. Three artists were listed: DonKracke, Fred Martin, and Ben Templeton. (Information furnished from Keith Adams from an online q&a)

Gifts

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On Friday, I talked a bit about my mother-in-law and the life she led. We were lucky to see her as often as we did, with her traveling to us by bus or once in a while by train before her accident three years ago, and our traveling to see her as often as we could. She lived about two hundred-fifty miles away from us so it was a long drive, but well worth it.

We were visiting her the last week in June. We had waited for the kids to get out of school, and down we went. We had no idea that she would be gone before we left for home. There’s being sick in the hospital and there’s sick in the hospital, heading to rehab to regain mobility and since she was the latter we were already making summer plans to visit again when she passed away.

She was able to have seen her three children and three of her six grandchildren. She admired my daughter’s outfits, which I mentioned on Friday were inspired by her own free spirit and her grandmother’s. She asked us about visiting my parents’ graves and bringing rocks from her garden. (Leaving rocks on gravestones is a Jewish tradition that we followed whenever we were at the cemetery.)

My mother-in-law grew up during World War II in and around Belfast to a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. I mention this again because it influenced her lack of use for the Church. She had seen too much. Even as her kids went to catechism, her opinions on the bureaucracy remained.

When I told her of my decision to join the Catholic Church and be baptized, she was nothing but supportive. She immediately went into her dresser and gave me the prayer book pictured above. She said she wondered why she kept it all these years; now she knew why.

On another visit, she gave me the keychain/folder that is also pictured above. I don’t know that she ever carried it seriously in her purse, but it was the most perfect piece of religious kitsch that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.

She also gave me a little confirmation statue of Jesus and a girl that she happened to have, probably from one of her beloved garage sales, still in an old, dusty box.

Despite no love for the physical church that she remembered, she supported my new found faith and asked me about it whenever we were together. She enjoyed looking at my Easter Vigil photos from my baptism, confirmation and first communion.

No matter what she thought, everyone had their own path to follow and she encouraged them in it, always.

Vintage Supernatural

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One week ago, Supernatural (Episode 11.5) took the brothers to the site of the grisly 19th century murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, father and step-mother of Lizzie Borden. There is much controversy as to who murdered them in their home, the popular nursery rhyme sing-songing one theory:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
and gave her mother forty whacks,
when the job was finally done
gave her father forty one

Amazing what lurks in the childhood memories and recesses of our minds. It comes unbeckoned as if I were still jumping rope in the grassy courtyard where I grew up far, far away from the murder of her parents. Lizzie was put on trial and acquitted. She died of pneumonia in 1927. Her sister died nine days later. Despite having not seen each other in many years, they are buried side by side. There is a monument that marks Lizzie’s final resting place.

In her will, Lizzie left money to pay for the perpetual care of her father’s cemetery plot.

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Lizzie Borden

In viewing the previews for this episode, titled Thin Lizzie, they mention the family home in Fall River, Massachusetts, not all that far from where I live. I thought the Bed & Breakfast mentioned was a joke – was there really a place? One Google search and there it was. And before anyone asks, no, I have no desire or intention of visiting, no matter how close it is.

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Borden Family Home that is now a Bed & Breakfast & Tourist Attraction

Some things should be left, and this is one of them.

On the morning after the episode aired, the Washington Post had an article, Would you buy a murder house? I personally don’t know, and I hope I don’t find out. I certainly do believe that houses can have spiritual remnants of previous owners, not to mention other places where spirits dwell. I’ve had my own encounters, the most visceral being in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, both on the battlefield and in the Jennie Wade House, one of the places that is always on my to see list. I had gone as a child, and again while on vacation with my husband, and then went again while on vacation with my three children. There is something compelling about Jennie’s house and her story that calls to me. I’ve been searching for the last week to find the photos that I’ve taken at the house, both in the 70s with my family and again in 2008, I believe with my children. I have a memory in a darkened stone masoned cellar that you had to climb down into from the outside. I’m not sure why that flashed through my head as I’m writing this.

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The house where Jennie Wade was killed

The Jennie Wade House is located on a major road in Gettysburg; one that is extremely busy with traffic. It is in a tourist area, and directly across from a Rita’s Italian Ices Shop. My kids sat on the benches eating ices, and I watched the house, seemingly waiting for something to happen. Her death created the name of the landmark, although it is not actually Jennie’s house; it is her sister’s. Her sister had just had a baby, and Jennie and their mother came to help her. Jennie was baking bread, kneading the dough in the kitchen that adjoined the street. A stray bullet came through the front door, lodging in Jennie’s back, severing her spine and killing her.

She is the only civilian casualty in the city during the Battle of Gettysburg.

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Jennie Wade

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always felt a presence in this house. Despite the obvious, poor special effects in the kitchen that give the soldier mannequin his face as he narrates the story of that fateful day, there is still something powerful in the “talking walls”. His projected face scared me beyond belief as an adolescent, and I still had that creepy vibe when I went there as an adult. I know much of the sounds and creaks were theatrics, but you couldn’t help but feel something in this house and that some of those “theatrics” weren’t all faked.

In the preview and then last week’s episode, Supernatural showed some artifacts from the house. I don’t know if they were really artifacts of the Borden murders or props made to look like the actual items, but the photo of Lizzie reminded me both of Jennie Wade and Laura Ingalls; possibly because of the camera techniques of the 19th century, the black and white, head and shoulders, the pose, the lace collars and pinned hair. It led me down a rabbit hole of googling and reading various accounts from both times of both of their lives, Lizzie and Jennie. They couldn’t have been more different, and I wondered at what point childhood me decided to devote so much of my time to Jennie rather than the nursery rhyme. Maybe I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of killing my parents. For a variety of reasons, I would never, but still why was I compelled to ignore her? I almost skipped the episode because the subject matter bothered me. I still wonder why I was never interested in Lizzie’s story – did I think she was guilty? I don’t know. I was much more compelled to the story of poor Jennie, baking bread for the soldiers. Her fiance was killed hours before she was. Neither of them knew the fate of the other.

I do love a good mystery, but I think I might need to not only have compelling characters, but also ones that are easier to feel compassion for, to put myself in their shoes, and I suppose, no, as I’ve said, I know that I could much more easily do that with Jennie Wade.