Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The 2000 Year old Marshmallow

I doubt you've lost any sleep wondering where the yummy marshmallows came from that we use in summer smores to holiday jello salads, but I thought it was a an interesting history nugget you might enjoy reading about.

Marshmallows today are made from four simple ingredients, sugar, gelatin, water, and air. But over 2000 years ago in Ancient Egypt the recipe for marshmallows were much different. The ancient Egyptians discovered the mallow plant found in salty marshes near large bodies of water--thus the name--marshmallow. Mallow is a native plant to Europe and Asia and grow from 2 to 4 feet in height.  

This extraordinary treat was considered very special and reserved for gods, nobility, pharaohs, and royalty. It was illegal for anyone else to eat the sweet candied delicacy. They harvested the mallow plant and squeezed the sap from it before mixing the sap with nuts and honey. We don't know exactly what this treat actually looked like. 

Beyond the delicious candy the mallow plant was used for medicinal purposes and believed to heal sore throats and aches and pains. Moving forward to the 15th and 16th century the candy marshmallow pf the ancient times turned to a liquid that was used as a treatment for sore throats, coughs, indigestion, toothaches, and diarrhea. There is some belief that the marshmallow was used as a sort of love potion, too. 

Jump forward another 200 years to the 1800's and to France where they discovered that cooking and whipping the marshmallow sap with egg whites and corn syrup created a delicious candy treat that was easy to mold. This was a time-consuming process requiring a lot of elbow grease. 

Author Benefitu2 license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en
The demand was so high that candy makers had a hard time keeping up with the demand for this sweet treat which sent them searching for a new way to make marshmallows. The new process they came up with replaced the mallow sap with gelatin. One hundred years later in the 19th century the sweet treat became popular in the United States and was sold as a penny candy in tiny tins.

Boyer Brothers experimented with a marshmallow crème covered in chocolate, developing one of my favorite candies, the Mallo Cup. 

In the mid-1900's marshmallow manufacturing took a new and revolutionary turn creating the process that gives us the marshmallow forms we are familiar with today.

And now you know the rest of the story. Enjoy your next smore with a smile because you know its history. 

The Perfect Bride
Avice Touchet has always dreamed of marrying for love and that love would be her best friend, Philip Greslet. She’s waited five years for him to see her as the woman she’s become but when a visiting lord arrives with secrets that could put her father in prison, Avice must consider a sacrificial marriage.

Philip Greslet has worked his whole life for one thing—to be a castellan—and now it is finally in his grasp. But when Avice rebuffs his new lord’s attentions, Philip must convince his best friend to marry the lord against his heart’s inclination to have her as his own.

Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 5 horses, 3 dogs, cat and miniature donkey.
Connect with Debbie Lynne:
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Monday, January 14, 2019

St. Paul Winter Carnival

As a native Minnesotan, I'm used to people from other parts of the country misunderstanding winter in the North Star State. Yes, it gets cold (but only in the winter), and yes, we get a lot of snow (most years), but no, it's not cold year-round and it's not so cold that we can't enjoy December, January, and February.

In 1885 a New York reporter visited St. Paul and declared the city to be another Siberia. He said it was "unfit for human habitation." Offended by the attack (and rightly so!), the people of St. Paul decided to retaliate by showing the world how much fun winter in Minnesota can be.

In 1886 the St. Paul Winter Carnival was born and holds the title of being the oldest winter festival in the United States, predating the Tournament of Roses Festival by two years. That first year, it was held in the month of January and included bobsledding, ice horse racing (on frozen lakes), a royal crowning, dogsled races, snow and ice sculpting contests, a parade and much more.

One of the highlights of the first Winter Carnival was this ice castle. It was designed by Alexander Hutchinson, the man who designed ice palaces in Montreal the three years previous. It was built with over 35,000 blocks of ice taken from Minnesota lakes and cost about $5,210. It was 106 feet tall. In comparison, the castle built in 1992 (shown below) cost $1,900,000 and stood 165 feet tall (a Guiness World Record). 

The ice castle has been the centerpiece of a festival that has continued to grow for many years. 




Ice Sculptures

Snow Sculptures
The carnival was canceled in 1889 and 1890, due to extreme temperatures--and not because it was too cold. It was canceled because the temps were too high those years and it would be impossible to build the palace, skate on the lakes, or do any of the other winter activities for which the carnival had become famous.

A wonderful book to check out if you're interested in the fascinating history of the St. Paul Winter Carnival is called Fire & Ice, by Moira F. Harris.

What about you? Would you visit a winter carnival? Do you live in a cold weather climate? Have you been ice skating or sledding?

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people, places, and events.

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Moravian Town of Salem, North Carolina

1784 Salem Tavern for the hosting of "strangers"

Arrive in Old Salem, and you know from the Colonial Germanic architecture and living history museum operating alongside a fully accredited university that you’re someplace special. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll learn that the Moravian roots of Salem—part of the modern city of Winston-Salem—make it unique among North Carolina towns.

In 1753, Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg purchased just short of 99,000 acres in the forks of Muddy Creek for the Moravian Church.

Originally known as Unity of the Brethren, the church had been in existence since a Bohemian priest, John Huss, was burned at stake in 1415 for challenging the authority and ethics of the Catholic Church. The Hussite churches were scattered, persecuted, and eventually influenced by Pietism. Bishop John Amos Comenius called the faithful “the hidden seed.” Eventually these people found refuge on the Saxon estate of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, where they practiced communal living. In 1727, a revival sparked the fire of the most comprehensive Protestant mission effort to date. The Moravians established settlements in Pennsylvania, which in turn led to those in North Carolina.
Earliest timbered houses in Salem

The first settlers arrived in the stockade fort of Bethabara in 1753. Residents soon expanded from the fort and outlying farms to a new town, Bethania. In 1765, the location for Salem was chosen. Salem became the seat of church government for the North Carolina settlements and a center for trade and industry in the Southeast.

By the establishment of Salem, Moravians no longer separated all residents into choirs—communal living arranged by age, marital status, and gender—but still provided dorms for single adult men and women. The system offered independence and employment. Children attended boys’ and girls’ schools. The boarding school for girls soon drew scholars from across the Southeast, while the town’s advanced, log-bored plumbing drew George Washington for a 1791 visit. Major decisions were prayed over by the elders, then taken before the lot—a system of drawing a paper that said “yes,” “no,” or blank for “wait”—out of a bowl or tube. Members considered the lot process representative of the will of God as evidenced in Numbers 33 and Acts 1. 

Single Sisters' House
You can learn more in Old Salem: The Official Guidebook, by Penelope Niven.

Can you imagine living in Old Salem? Keep an eye out for my upcoming novel, The Witness Tree, about a marriage of convenience in that very town that leads to an adventure in the Cherokee Nation. It will be published by LPC’s Smitten imprint in September 2019.

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s the managing editor for Smitten Romance of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of The Georgia Gold Series, The Restoration Trilogy, and a number of novellas, including Across Three Autumns of Barbour’s Colonial Backcountry Brides Collection. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses! Connect with Denise here:

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Fruitcake: Ancient Creation, Polarizing Confection

a footnote from history by stephanie grace whitson (www.stephaniewhitson.com)

I decided to make a fruit cake. 
I know not why.
It seemed a good idea at the time.
I gathered up the recipe, ingredients and such,
And borrowed just the kind of pan
In which to bake the beast. 
Reviews were varied when I shared the culinary plan.
And now I'm blogging all about it ....
With a bad attempt at a poem. 

Do you like fruitcake or hate it? There doesn't seem to be a middle-of-the-road response to this ancient confection. I discovered some interesting things in my adventure which began with the beautiful candied fruit at left and ended with a cake that weighed four pounds. 

Fruitcake is ancient. The earliest known recipe is from ancient Rome and calls for pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, raisins, and barley mash.

Fruitcake in the Middle Ages contained honey, spices, and preserved fruit (dried fruits began to arrive in Britain in the 13th century). A luxury reserved for special occasions, fruitcake was prepared long before it was to be served, and alcohol provided both flavor and preservation. 

Making a fruitcake in the 18th century was labor intensive. Fruit had to be washed, de-pitted, and dried. Sugar was cut from a loaf and had to be pounded and sieved. Butter ... well. They started with a cow, right? Milk, churn, wash--one source I read mentioned washing butter in rosewater, the latter which I assume began with roses. Eggs had to be beaten by hand, and some instructions recommended beating for half an hour. It makes my arms hurt just thinking about it. And then, once the concoction was assembled, one had the issue of managing the temperature in wood-fired ovens. 

Compared to baking in "the good old days," my quest to make the perfect fruitcake was easy (albeit expensive). It was also a failure. We eventually ate it, but we didn't love it.

Housekeeping in Old Virginia, published in 1879, includes two recipes for "White Fruit Cake," one of them with the note (superior, tried recipe) and seven other recipes for Fruit Cake. Here's one:

Rich Fruit Cake

1 quart sifted flour.
1 pound fresh butter, but up in 1 pound powdered sugar
12 eggs
3 pounds bloom raisins
1 1/2 pound of Zante currants
3/4 pound of sliced citron
1 tablespoonful each of mace and cinnamon
2 nutmegs
1 large windeglassful Madeira wine  
1 large windglassful French brandy mixed with the spices.
Beat the butter and sugar together--eggs separately. Flour the fruits well, and add the flour and other ingredients, putting the fruit in last. Bake in a straight side mold, as it turns out easier. One pound of blanched almonds will improve this recipe. Bake until thoroughly done, then ice while warm.

And here (at left) is a recipe for White Fruit Cake from Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis's Cook Book first published in 1908.

How about you? Have you ever made fruit cake? To you have a favorite recipe? Here in Nebraska, we have a company in Beatrice that still follows a 1917 recipe introduced in St. Louis by immigrants from Germany.
One millions pounds of fruitcake go out across the country from Beatrice, Nebraska, every holiday. http://www.nebraskalife.com/Going-Nuts-for-Fruitcake-in-Beatrice/

How did your holiday baking go? Is there something that's labor intensive and/or expensive that's part of your holiday tradition? 

- - - - - - -- - - - - - - - 

In Messenger by Moonlight, Annie Paxton is confident
she can handle being the only cook at a remote Pony Express station and stage stop in Nebraska Territory. She's in for a surprise!

Learn more here:

I'd love to have you join the conversation about history and writing and quilts ... with the occasional comment about my perfect grandchildren LOL ... here: www.Facebook.com/stephaniegracewhitsonofficial/

Friday, January 11, 2019


Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

My grandfather worked as a typesetter for a Dallas newspaper for many years. Because of my interest in writing and taking journalism in high school and college, we shared time talking about newspapers and how they were published. One of his first jobs as a young boy was delivering newspapers in Victoria, Texas where his father was a doctor. In writing a novel loosely based on his life, I did research about newspapers which I found to be interesting.

 Even though daily newspapers are dwindling today, they were once the main source of news for those who were literate and could afford the price. Printing in colonial America was expensive with small circulations. No editor could afford to put more than one or two issues a week. Because of the expense of printing and distributing the paper, many of the common folks in town were excluded. Even though Americans tended to be literate, they simply didn’t have the money to buy newspapers. Thus, the circulation remained small.

One of the early "newspaper" sheets circa 1690.

In spite of the expense, early newspapers had a profound influence on the early years of our federal government. Articles, essays, and editorials were in abundance and the organs for political faction. Many politicians became connected to specific newspapers.

Noah Webster, before publishing the first American dictionary, started the first daily newspaper in 1783 in New York City named the American Minerva. Essentially, it was an organ of the Federalist Party. Although in operation for only a few years, it influenced and inspired the establishment of later newspapers.

Eight years later, Alexander Hamilton founded the Post, and it also had some political affiliation. At the time, the newspaper became the means for politicians to communicate with their constituents. The papers carried accounts of newsworthy events as well as letters from the people who voiced their opinions concerning political matters.

John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson all had political campaigns which played out on the pages of newspapers. This type of political action continued well into the 1820’s.

As newspapers began a transformation in the 1830’s, they turned to publishing news of current events, local happenings, and non-partisan editorials and essays. The price also went down which allowed for the working class and even new immigrants to buy them. Now everyone could afford the paper and reading the news every morning became a routine in many households across the country.

Photographic portrait of James Gordon Bennett

Some of the great names in the industry as it grew included Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune and James Gordon Bennett, pictured above, of the New York Herald. They both possessed strong personalities and controversial opinions as expressed in their respective newspapers.

Another editor, William Cullen Bryant, edited the New York Evening Post even though people knew him better as a poet. The New York Times began publishing in 1851 with Henry J. Raymond at the helm. Raymond worked under Greeley, and the newspaper was considered an upstart without any strong political connection.

Newspaper Press Circa 1865

As the nation grew, underwent wars, and invented new technologies, the newspapers grew as well. With the invention of the linotype by Ottmar Mergenthaler, the papers could publish larger editions with more pages and more news of interest to more people such as news about sporting events.

In the late 1880s Joseph Pulitzer, a successful publisher from St. Louis, bought a paper in New York City. Pulitzer transformed the business of print news by focusing on events that would appeal to common people. He focused on crime stories and other sensational subjects in New York World. The vivid headlines, produced by a staff of specialized editors, pulled in readers.
Pulitzer met with great success in New York, but in the mid 1890’s, a competitor came into the picture. William Randolph Hearst, already the publisher of a San Francisco newspaper, moved to New York City and purchased the New York Journal.
From the competition between the two men came a circulation war, the likes of which had not been seen before. There had been competitive publishers before, of course, but nothing like this. The sensationalism of the competition became known as Yellow Journalism.
In the 19th and early to late 20th Century, our nation witnessed a rise in newspaper circulation. Newspapers were delivered to the home, sold at newsstands or hawked by newsboys on city streets. 

Now, in the 21st century, we see its decline. People now depend on electronic media to give them up-to-date news about events around the world. With the news flashes available on cell phones and computers, even the news on TV may seem old.

Most Americans today are in a rush for everything, and getting the news as soon as it happens is more appealing than reading through various sections in a daily newspaper. With rising costs and smaller editions, the newspapers of today are becoming less and less a necessity of our daily lives.

How much of a part does a newspaper play in your daily life? Do you prefer a printed version or electronic?

It's getting to be rodeo time here in Houston, and my newest release features a barrel-racing heroine. 

Kylee is the youngest of the Danner clan and drops out of college to barrel race full-time and spend more time with her rodeo sweetheart, Jesse Martin. Connor Morris, known as Jesse Martin on the rodeo circuit, is in love with Kylee, but he is keeping his true identity from her for now. When her brothers discover Jesse Martin is an ex-con on parole, they jump in and decide Kylee must break off the relationship. Kylee can’t believe Jesse is what they say, but when he doesn’t show up at the rodeo where they’re both competing, she grows suspicious. When the truth of his identity as Connor Morris is revealed in a news item on television, it is even more shocking to Kylee. His retired movie queen mother has had a heart attack and is at a hospital in Denver. He is shown there with a woman claiming to be his fiancée, and she calls him Connor Morris, son of Hal Morris, who was running for U.S. Senator from Colorado. Jesse must now not only gain back Kylee’s love and trust, he must also convince her father and brothers that he loves Kylee and the TV story was a big mix-up. 

Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to four, soon to be five. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years at the college level supervising student teachers and teaching freshman English. She is the Director of the Texas Christian Writers Conference held in Houston in August each year, a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and a member of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive.
Find Martha at:  www.marthawrogers.com, Twitter:  @martharogers2                Facebook: Martha Rogers Author

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Tradition of the First Foot

Happy New Year! Have you had your 'first foot' visit yet?

First foot?

Yep. In Scotland and Northern England the First Foot is the first person to visit your home in the New Year. That person is supposed to be an omen or indicator of good luck and fortune.

In Scotland, the first-footer is hopefully male, tall, dark, and handsome. (I am fine with that! :) ) A fair-haired person, male or female is considered to be ill-luck. In other parts of the British Isles, the gender or complexion are not considered, but it's important in Scotland, the land of my forebears. Many of the Hogmany (the Scots New Year) traditions are rooted in the Viking culture and the Scots reaction to the Viking invasions. Thus the hope was that your first visitor after midnight of the New Year would be dark-haired, because seeing a large fair-haired stranger at your door in the middle of the night hadn't worked out too well for the Scots in olden days. :)

When the first-footer arrives, he is welcomed into the house with great hospitality and warmth. He brings gifts with him that are symbolic of his hopes for the household in the coming year. A coin, bread, evergreen, coal, and a wee dram of whisky all symbolize best wishes and hoped-for prosperity for his hosts. When the gifts have been given, the party begins. Dancing, feasting, singing, fireworks...the Scots are serious about their Hogmany celebrations.

In Scotland, the celebration of the New Year and first-footing is so big, that January 2nd is also a national holiday. They need a day to recover from the revelry of welcoming in their 'first footer.'

How do you celebrate the New Year? Who was your 'first-footer' this year?

Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she married her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.comwhere you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!