Friday, February 25, 2011

A Whisk!

Yeah, I guess my riddles are too easy. It is a whisk.

I was just excited to find it in a museum. I had read the following instruction on egg beating from Eliza Leslie's Directions for Cookery (1840):

Persons who do not know the right way, complain much of the fatigue of beating eggs, and therefore leave off too soon. There will be no fatigue, if they are beaten with the proper stroke, and with wooden rods, and in a shallow, flat-bottomed earthen pan.

I imagined someone holding a handful of sticks. But there we have evidence of an early whisk, to meet Leslie's description somewhat. And I was even more amazed that someone would care to preserve such an artifact for a hundred and fifty years. I mean, its just a bunch of twigs. But some granddaughter of Ole Anderson cherished that bundle of twigs. I like that idea, a lot.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is it?

I was at the Daughters of Utah Pioneers museum the other day (where they don't allow photos) and saw this curious object. What is it? Its not the broom made of corn straw. And I'm not talking about the little rolling pin. I'm talking about the assemblege of willow sticks, made by Ole Anderson in early Pleasant Grove days. What would possess a person to preserve such an artifact made of willow sticks for more than a hundred years?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The never-ending book saga...

So I finally heard back from the publisher... again. To catch you up on the story, I first submitted a manuscript to USU Press a couple of years ago. They sat on it for a year, then submitted it to outside reviewers. The outside reviewers said "Great, overall, change this or that." So I changed this or that. Then USU Press gave it to their Committee In Charge of Approving Manuscripts for Publication (or something like that). The committee said, "In these economic times, we want to save our publishing resources for just faculty works." And with that I was back to square one.

So now I've given it to a different press, they submitted it to outside reviewers, the reviewer said, "Great, overall, change this or that." So now they say if I can make the changes in a month or so, we might be able to resubmit for another round of outside reviews, and perhaps be in production before the end of summer, publication next year, if all goes well.

They did also say they really like the manuscript, they think there's a market, they think it is an important contribution to the body of research, etc. Just needs revisions, and more revisions.

Soooo tedious.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Brigham Young, redux

I just heard back from yet another reviewer for my manuscript. It looks like we're getting closer. He enjoyed reading it, said he learned new things, etc. On the "need to fix" column, he said the first couple of chapters needed some organizational focus and editing. I have a chapter about Brigham Young as an example of non-typical pioneer diets: things exotic and unusual and indulgent. The reviewer didn't like this chapter.

In this chapter I cited original diaries that showed how Brigham Young got special treatment anywhere he went. On various trips through the settlements he was wined and dined. His personal gardener (he had a personal gardener!!!) raised strawberries for him under glass frames. His children made ice cream recreationally in the summer (before electricity and refrigeration). His daughter wrote about him eating squab for breafast (butchered by his overseer, caught fresh that morning, then prepared by kitchen help). Lots of doughnuts. Codfish gravy made from salt cod shipped from Massachusets. He died after two days of feasting on watermelon.

So after recounting all this, the reviewer thought that I had portrayed Brigham Young as a self-indulgent glutton. This might turn some readers off. I suppose my goal was to show a human side of Brigham rather than as a semi-divine being. The myth tends to overshadow many realities. In reality, the man was rather portly, and his diet contributed to this.

So... would this turn you off, as a reader? How do you imagine Brigham Young?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts

Recently I've become associated with a group of people who share many of my values for history, folk culture and traditional approaches to everyday life. Clive Romney has organized some of these interests under the umbrella called Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts. The primary purpose of the organization seems to be to create a place where people who practice "Pioneer Arts" such as storytelling, old-time dancing, wood working, lace making, etc. can be found for promotion to tourism interests. The group also has a strong educational mandate to promote pioneer arts to young people as a way of passing on the traditions. I guess the idea is that eventually the notion of a "Utah Pioneer" might have some cache similar to "Amish Country."

For me this would be helpful in promoting what I do to people who don't know that I exist. I imagine that tourism and convention people come to Salt Lake City and might want to experience a legitimate historical moment, but don't know where to find it. Clive and his crew promote my thing to that group.

Additionally, Clive Romney is working with KSL on a radio program called "Storyroad Utah." Currently four pilot episodes are in the works. I have been tasked with producing one of the four which will air to a live audience in Ephraim, Utah during the Scandinavian Festival in May. Of course the theme of that particular show will be stories about Scandinavian pioneers in the San Pete Valley. I'll probably slip a few food things in as well.

If you have a pioneer project, or if you want to be involved with pioneer arts in Utah, I recommend you get in touch with Clive and his crew. They're very nice people and they have lots of fun. If you have any pioneer stories from the Manti area, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Slow Progress...

I've been spending my efforts on building an oven for the past month. Before starting this project I had worked as a stone mason for a couple of years. I thought this wouldn't be much of a stretch. It turns out that stone masonry is very flexible, as the mason accomodates different shapes and sizes. The brick mason is much more exacting, with a demand for straight level lines, plumb and true. The resulting work is not particularly pretty, but I hope it will be functional.

Here is the blank canvas, a spot in my basement with two masonry walls and a thick foundation.

Here are some of my raw materials, which I got for free on classifieds.

A close-up of an arch to allow access to space below the oven.

Here is an overview of it all. The footprint is 8'x5'. The center wall you see there is to support the center portion of the concrete slab that I will pour next. The concrete slab will support a bed of firebricks and the chamber for the oven. More photos coming soon.

When it is all done, perhaps we can have a little baking workshop for anyone interested in trying a more traditional approach to baking. Anyone? Anyone?