Spaghetti Au Gratin 2nd Class Dinner Menu

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Can't do it. These people actually exist, and might sue.

Christmas here at Elmerhaven is a magical time, baked pasta or none. From birth, we've made it a point to keep the German traditions of Der Krampus and Belzenickel alive amongst the kids. Believing that there are not one, but TWO evil night spirits afoot in December serves to keep the kids safely in bed.... behind barricaded doors... and lessens the chances that they'll walk in on us while gifts are being wrapped. "Uncle Harald," from Amsterdam, recently contributed another element to the December joy, as he told the young ones of Black Pete, the evil Dutch clown who appears in December, beats bad children's legs with a switch, and then stuffs them into a sack and sells them as slaves in Spain so they never see their parents again.


The gingerbread story. Well, we all gathered to watch the Little House on the Prairie Christmas special. I still recall, warmly, Necrophilia's Gene Siskel-like review of the episode in which Hester Sue recounted her childhood Christmas (as a slave) when she doubted that santa came to black children. So, her father asked De Benevolent Massuh if he could borrow his santa suit. And happiness reigned. The review was "What IS this s---?" Later that night was born the story of how great-great grandmother poisoned her owners, set the plantation on fire, and fled to the Dominican Republic. True, it scared the kids and made them reluctant to eat the gingerbread then or ever again. But, it was factually more accurate than Little House.

The children still recall the old cook, Miss Grace, with something less than affection. Grace was an ancient widow. She insisted that all of our fowl be fresh-killed on premises. She'd wring the chickens' necks in front of the kids, and then insist that they help her clean and dress the birds. "Stop that crying. A real man isn't bothered by a little blood. Keep that up and no decent woman will want to marry you, and you'll have to settle for a lesbian like your father did" she'd shriek, like clockwork. Then, one day, she didn't show up for work.
>>Believing that there are not one, but TWO evil night spirits afoot in December serves to keep the kids safely in bed...<<

These days, the evil spirits are Mastercard and Visa, but they don't come in to haunt you until about the middle of January!
They can easily be avoided. The eldest child is given a new pair of shoes at Christmas, and each of the other children hands shoes downward. Each is given an orange and a handful of walnuts. It's an authentic Victorian Christmas, and very cost effective, as the money squandered on things such as X Box can be applied elsewhere. It's a valuable lesson about GIVING: you can't go thru life expecting to be handed things. The best that outlook gets you is a used pair of shoes and some walnuts. If you want the things the adults can buy, get a job and soon you shall have them. (My illustrated booklet "How An 8 Year Old May Earn A Living" is available upon email request) That, my friends, is how I afford the number of cruises I take. And, strange to say, the children seem to ENJOY seeing me depart, almost as much as the staff does...
Pull yourselves together, guys.

Jim is talking both nonsense and sense, for pure fun. Probably, there is some atavistic memory involved, but in 2009 it's highly unlikely to be accurate. But who cares? I'd like to meet Grace and the others.

I also have strange forebears / interests. As has Bob, and Tom Pappas and Paul Rogers, and Mauro, and Mike and Jason, and MAB and Inger, and Sam, and so many others I could mention. Not to mention Phil. But never mind. It's much better to be interested in stuff than not be interested in anything at all.
>I'd like to meet Grace and the others.

No. Really, you wouldn't. Hers is the only name I HAVEN'T changed. How well I remember her at Christmas ("I hope that by this time next year I'll be dead") Fourth of July ("How do I feel? YOU find your husband dead in the bathroom, live ten years alone, and then YOU tell me how I feel.") Easter ("If I found out either of my sons was gay, I'd have shot him.") Sundays (She'd go to Gates of Heaven and curse at her husband's tombstone because he died first, while calling on god to call her home quickly) and, of course, her birthday ("Perfume? Are you trying to say I smell funny?") The lesbian quote was not made up, nor was the detail about fresh killing the poultry. She told me, at one point, that as a Protestant the best I could hope for was an eternity in purgatory, or some nonsense such as that. My most heartwarming Grace memory was of being in a Bronxville restaurant with her, and having her go on at great length and at the top of her lungs about the importance of checking your stool for blood in the morning when you get old, as my mother tried to "talk over her" for the benefit of everyone in hearing range. Lord, she was vile.

If you met her, she'd just say something insulting or disgusting. I can promise you that.

Necrophilia... in real life remarkably sweet looking, in a Louise Beavers kind of way. Her own children and grandchildren described her to me as "The most evil woman you've ever met" and "Dangerous." Which is why I bonded with her instantly, and began working her into short stories. The one time she DID come close to backing her car over me was, I am sure, an accident. Altho her granddaughter warned me that it probably hadn't been...
Oh, and yes, we really do observe der Krampus, Belzenickel, and thanks to Harald, Black Pete. The kids find it amusing. According to a ca 1900 text we found, an unmarried uncle (That would be me) should make himself available to rattle chains just beyond the circle of light thrown by the house windows, on December 10th. The parents, with fear in their voice, should announce the arrival of Belzenickel and, while reminding the kids of their misdeeds of the previous months, begin pushing them towards the door. When they are properly hysterical, the parents, of course, relent and say "Perhaps, if you promise to be good next year, he might go away."

And, no, we don't actually DO that. We all just laugh about strange customs. And then everyone hands their shoes down to the next younger kid, and we all go to bed.
>>If you want the things the adults can buy, get a job and soon you shall have them. <<

I like that idea! I can think of quite a few adults who should follow that advice!
Seriously. One of the kids set herself up in business, of the sort a 12 year old CAN set up, and banked nearly $4000 over the course of two summers (One of the jobs that, later, AOL advised out of work adults to pursue. Dog-walking. Really. It pays quite well.) She should serve as a model for the younger ones. If she wants X-Box, and thinks it worth the $, she can buy it herself. Most of the $, however, is going on piano and voice lessons. This is the rare child I can actually relate to.
This rare child - a girl - sounds rather good. I only wish I could have been so proactive at her age, but I don't think the chance then existed. Some would say now that I should have created it myself. Hmmm.

Mind you, she'll probably encounter some opposition, but she'll undoubtedly overcome that these days. I just wish that boys could, in our society, be just as successful - then we'd all benefit.

Why on earth does talent have to be defined by gender, age, religion, or ethnicity? If they're great - they're great.
HINT FOR HOUSEWIVES: aka the Horrors Lurking in Granny's Victorian Kitchen.

From the Virginia housewives lifestyles book:

"It is a great mistake to set aside rancid butter for cake making. The butter used for this purpose should be good and fresh.

Always use granulated sugar, or else powdered loar or cut sugar. Pulverized sugar is apt to have plaster of Paris or other foreign elements in it.

"If it is not in your power to keep meat in an ice house in summer, keep it in a cool dark cellar wrapped around with wet cloths,on top of which lay boughs of elderberry. The evaporation from the cloth will keep the meat cool and the elderberry will keep off the insects. If you should unfortunately be obliged to use stale meat or poultry, rub it in and out with soda before washing.

"How to Select Meat: Good and wholesome meat should be neither of a pale rosy or pink color, nor of a deep purple. The first denotes the diseased condition, the last proves the animal has died a natural death. Good meat has more of a marbled look. The fat, especially of the inner organs, is always firm and suety and never moist, while in general the fat from diseased cttle is flabby and watery and more often resembles jelly or boiled parchment. Wholesome meat will always show itself to be firm and elastic to the touch, while bad meat will appear soft and moist, so that liquid substance runs out with the blood when pressed. Good meat has very little smell. This can be distinctly proved by cutting the meat through with a knife, and smelling the blade.

"Pastry has fallen somewhat into disfavor, on account of its unwholesome properties. It is a mistake to use rancid butter and old lard for pastry. Only fresh butter and sweet lard should be used.


Should you ignore the above advise:


One teaspoon paregoric; one teaspoon Jamaican ginger; one teaspoon spirits of camphor; one half teaspoon carbonate of soda, two tablespoons water, two tablespoons whiskey. This is for one dose. If it does not relieve in an hour, repeat.

Jim's note: the idea of combining paregoric, mothballs, and whiskey, with just a hint of ginger, seems to be fraught with the potential for...uhhh... substantially worse than disordered bowels, if one heeds the repeat dose instruction.

A second scary cure for those times when wifey or Missy Necrophilia cooks with the rancid butter and decaying lard:

Equal parts laudanum, camphor, and syrup rhubarb. Dose, half a teaspoon in water, as needed.

Laudanum and mothballs. My question. How much water? A cup? A pint? If I miscalc, or if wifey or Necrophilia chooses a broad interpretation of "equal parts" ("7 cups laudanum. 7 cups camphor. That sounds about right.") the water is all that will save me from respiratory arrest and probable coma.


Chalk, powdered white sugar, gum arabic, two drachms each. Kino, paregoric, each six drachms. Lime water, one ounce, peppermint water sufficient for four ounces. Mix thoroughly and shake well before administering. Dose according to age and urgency of the case.


Which is why I love the study of Victoriana. The scary reality, as opposed to the cutesy bed and breakfast inn interpretation, makes present day living seem so... gracious... by comparison.
Kino, BTW, is an herbal astringent. Combining it with paregoric? And giving it to an infant? I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea:

Uses.–Kino is powerfully astringent, and in this country is much used for the suppression of morbid discharges. In diarrhea, not attended with febrile excitement or inflammation, it is often an excellent adjunct to opium and the absorbent medicines, and is a favorite addition to chalk mixture. It is also used in chronic dysentery when astringents are admissible; in leucorrhea and diabetes; and in passive hemorrhages, particularly those from the uterus and the intestines. The infusion may be made by pouring eight fluidounces of boiling water on two drachms of the extract, and straining when cool; aromatics may be added, if deemed advisable. The dose of this infusion is a fluidounce (30 mils). The proportion of alcohol in the tincture renders it frequently an unsuitable preparation.

Alright, here's another suggestion from The White House Cook Book (1900) just in case the camphor concoctions above make you feel faint:

~ "Ammonia is not only useful for cleaning, but as a household medicine. Half a teaspoon taken in half a tumbler of water is far better for faintness than alcoholic stimulants. In the Temperance Hospital, in London, it is used with the best results. It was used freely by Lieutenant Greely's Arctic party for keeping up circulation. It is a relief in nervousness, headache and heart disturbances." ~
Ammonia is also helfpul for those who hold the belief that women are fragrant in any phase of the moon.

Poisson! Poisson!

I seem to remember chloroform being used to clean carpets in the 1880s - a recommendation which seems rife for an easy way to acquire chloroform to kill somebody in that time (Oooh..) but I wasn't sure, but I did my internet search and found my memory was correct! (Yay)

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Spring House-Cleaning.
After a Carpet has been well beaten and the floor perfectly dry, it can be nailed down tightly, and then the soiled portions can be cleaned with two quarts of cold water with a bullock’s gall dissolved in it. Put on with a soft brush and wipe dry with a clean cloth. Potter’s clay mixed as a past (thick) with water and spread on with a knife, wet, will clean them nicely. Cover over with several thicknesses of heavy brown paper, leaving it for a day or two; then brush off. If not entirely removed, apply again. It never fails when properly used. If spots of grease are upon them, saturate the spot with spirits of turpentine and let it remain several hours; then rub it between the hands. It will crumble away without injuring the color or texture. When a color has been destroyed by acid (unless some shade of red), ammonia will neutralize the acid, and chloroform will restore the original color. A solution of oxalic acid crystals, one part by measure to eight of soft water, will entirely remove dry ink stains. The goods must be afterwards thoroughly washed, as the acid destroys the cloth. If a carpet is thick, like those of Brussels or Axminster, and is much soiled, take a clean mop and dip it into warmish water, to which one teaspoonful of ammonia has been added to each quart. Wring out the mop as dry as possible, and rub it over the carpet in breadths. When the water becomes soiled, take a fresh supply.

(That's from here:

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So not only were you taking mothballs and laudanum for your diarrhea, but you were also using cloths soaked in chloroform to bring color back to your carpets. Oh what fun it must have been to be a housewife or a maid in the 1880s...
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