Calves Feet Jelly

Scald, take off the hair, and wash very clean four feet ; put them into a saucepan with two quarts of cold water, and when it comes to a boil let them simmer for six or seven hours; take out the feet, and strain the liquor into a deep dish. The following day remove the fat carefully from the top, and give it another boil, which will reduce it to one quart of stiff stock or jelly.—This may be flavored as you like ; it must be dissolved and boiled again when seasoned. It is very delicate and nourishing for an invalid.”

You may remember Pollyanna delivering Calves’ foot jelly to Mrs. Snow.

1869, The Kitchen companion, containing valuable recipes for ice creams, puddings, pies, cakes, blanc mange, custards, &c., &c., being an excellent guide to the housewife

Wizard in the Tree by Lloyd Alexander also has a reference:

“Ah, yes, it would be better to save our business for a happier moment. These distressful events have put a strain on all of us. I can see you’re not quite yourself. A good night’s sleep will work wonders. Tomorrow, I’ll bring you a pot of my calves’foot jelly, that has always been very curative.” Mrs. Parsel would have made her way to the door. but Scrupnor stepped in front of her. “‘That’s thoughtful of you, Mrs. P., but unnecessary. Calves’-foot jelly. Ah, if only our cares and concerns could be lightened with a little calves’-foot jelly, the world would be a happier place.”

This is immediately prior to Scrupnor imprisoning Mrs. Parsel in his counting room for safe keeping while he works out the details of his plan dastardly play of untimely deaths  for Mrs. P, Arbican the wizard, and Mallory.

It’s recommended in most 19th century cookbooks as nourishing for invalids and delightful to children when sweetened with dried fruits, lemon juice and sugar.

There is a version popular in Jewish cookery which has boiled eggs and meat suspended in the gelatin, rather than being a clear gelatin. Those don’t look appetizing to me at all, but I think I’d be willing to taste any of them. I don’t think I could bring myself to prepare a batch, though.

Posted in cookery | 1 Response

Cherry Layer Cake, vintage receipt

From Miss A Nichols Allegan, Mich

Cherry Layer Cake

2 cups of flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon butter

pinch of salt

1 cup canned cherries without the juice [reserve juice for frosting]

2 eggs

2/3 cup water

Bake in layers

Icing: 1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water cup

1/2 cup cherry juice

boil until it strings and then stir until it grains fine

Put between the cakes.


I think I will try this recipe with mango instead of cherries. I’ll just frost it with a dusting of powdered sugar or whipped cream.


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The Trouble With the Irish Help

I am aware that it is the fashion with many ladies to disparage Irish domestics, to call them stupid, ignorant, imprudent, ungrateful, the plagues of housekeeping.

That they are ignorant is true enough ; it does require skill, patience, and judgment, to teach a raw Irish girl how to perform the work in a gentleman’s family ; but they are neither stupid nor ungrateful, and if they are taught in the right manner, they prove very capable, and are most faithful and affectionate domestics.

A friend of mine, who is just what a woman ought to be, capable of directing—even doing if necessary, in the kitchen as well as shining in the drawing room, hired one of these poor despised Irish girls, new from the land of the Shamrock, who only understood the way of doing work in a hovel, yet, like all her class, she told the lady ” sure she could do any thing she wanted.” The lady, however, did not trust the girl to make any experiments, but went to the kitchen with her and taught her, or rather did the work herself, and allowed the help to look on and learn by example, which for such is much more effectual than lectures.

When the dinner was nearly ready, the lady retired to dress, telling Julia to watch the roast, and she would return soon and show her how to prepare it for the table. We may imagine with what utter bewilderment the poor girl had been overwhelmed during this, he first lesson in civilized life. The names of the articles of furniture used in the kitchen as well as their uses, were entirely unknown to her ; and she had seen so many new things done, which she was expected to remember, that it must have made her heart-sick to reflect how much she had to learn.

But there was one thing she thought she understood, that was to cook potatoes. These were done, and she would show the lady she knew how to prepare them for the table. When the lady returned, she found the girl seated in the middle of the floor, the potatoes in her lap, while she, with a very satisfied look, was peeling them with her fingers ! Are there not ladies who would have exclaimed—” Oh, the stupid, ignorant, dirty creature ! She cannot be taught to do my work. I must send her away !” And away she would have been sent, irritated if not discouraged, and perhaps without knowing a place where to lay down her head in this strange country. My friend did not act in this manner—she expressed no surprise at the attitude of the girl, only quietly said—” That is not the best way to peel your potatoes, Julia—just lay them on this plate, and I will show you how I like to have them done.”

That Irish girl remained a servant in the same family for five years, proved herself not only capable of learning to work, but willing and most devoted in the service of her mistress, whom she regarded with a reverence little short of what a Catholic feels for his patron saint.

And thus, if with patience and kindness these poor Irish girls are treated and taught, may good and faithful help be obtained. But unless ladies know how the work should be done and and are willing to teach their domestics, they should not employ the Irish when they first arrive. Those who do employ and carefully instruct this class of persons, perform a most benevolent act to the usually destitute exiles, and also a good service to the community, by rendering those who would, if ignorant, become a burden and a nuisance, useful and often respectable members of society. To educate a good domestic is one of the surest proofs that a lady is a good housekeeper.


The Good Housekeeper, Or the Way to Live Well, and to be Well While We Live …
By Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

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Reading, Bibles, and The Philippines


Davao City has no public libraries. I don’t know if the public schools have libraries or not.  I have been told by more than one Filipino that Filipinos do not typically like to read. While I do know several for whom that is not true, they are among those telling me that it’s not that common.

All the malls I have been to have a National Bookstore, and most of them also have a secondhand bookstore where the prices are generally shockingly low- under a dollar, often under.50.  My favourite of the used bookstores in our area is not the lowest prices. I like it because it is better organized than the others, has better airconditioning and more space between the shelves, which is probably why the prices are higher.

The climate is quite hard on books.     Without regular air conditioning, the books are going to get moldy, and before that the pages will feel soft, and they will tear easily.  If one is among the class who like to write in the margins, one may find one’s pencil easily pokes holes in the soft, slightly damp pages.  The cheaper glue in some books loosens and pages start to fall out.

Flooding is an issue in many homes as well- it’s a regular occurrence, so common that some families just plan for it and arrange house accordingly. One American family I knew who lived here a few decades had a two story house that flooded two or three times a year.  They kept only wooden  and plastic furniture in the ground floor, no beds or any upholstery they cared to keep around.  When the house flooded, they simply moved things out to the patio, hosed down the inside, swept it out, sprayed the furniture clean again and returned it.

The flooding is so much a way of life for some people it’s hard to imagine. We have a Bible study here once a week that begins at 5:30 in the morning. Several of the young men from our congregation come, riding bicycles and maybe two or three on motorcycles.  One morning one of the teens looked particularly tired, and they told me that at three o’clock his house flooded- only about 4 inches deep but his bed is a mattress on the floor so he was done sleeping for the night.  They were teasing him about it, nobody seemed very concerned about it- four inches would go back down in a just a few more hours, and that’s just how it is. You don’t rearrange your schedule over something like that.

But you also don’t keep a home library.  One of the ministries I work with in a very indirect fashion began by providing free Bibles translated into local dialects. A Korean missionary who was part of that effort- he’s not a translator, but works on the technical side, noticed that lack of reading in his  community, so he developed a program for putting a dramatized version of the NT on little solar powered MP3 players.  The dramatization is light- occasional background music, a few different voices when different people are speaking, reading quoted words with some inflection and so on.  They have been working to get native speakers of as many different dialects as possible to make the recordings so every indigenous group here can have an audio Bible in their own dialect.

The project requires many different specialties, from linguists to the sound people making the recordings, to people finding the native speakers and coordinating the recordings, and more.  People involved are from multiple nationalities, and the common working language they use is English, and that’s where my small, tiny contribution falls.  A couple of the Korean families working with the project here need help with English, so I volunteer to meet with them as often as they are free and just have English conversation together.  Their levels are different so we don’t meet at the same time- I meet with one couple once or twice a week when they are free, and in between times I work on transcribing an English television show so they can watch with English subtitles (one of them has the expertise to put those on the film itself).  Another family, new to the area, I was meeting with daily (all this up to the point I got sick, but we should begin again soon).  IT’s truly one of my favourite things about living here.  I get a few lessons on Korean language and culture in exchange, and they often feed me delicious Korean food, and they are truly just delightful, interesting, lovely people so that’s enjoyable as well.

We bought one of the devices for me for language practice- I listen to it while trying to follow along in an English Bible.  I get lost quite a bit, but I can understand enough to figure out where I should be eventually. We wanted to buy several for members of our congregation and to share with those in the mountain communities that are not as accessible (our church sends preachers out nearly ever week, by motorcycle, up in to the mountains to teach).   Currently, that is out of our budget.

We have been able to buy print Bibles for just a dollar or two each, printed in a dialect the mountain Christians can read.  The guys from our congregation deliver them by motorcycle, and in some places, on foot after they have motorcycled as far as they can go.  Those Bibles may be the only book in some of the little homes, hardly more than shanties and huts, where they are going, places without electricity or running water.


Posted in Davao Diary | 2 Responses

The Story of the Sword of Damocles

How the story goes: In Ancient Greece the tyrant Dionysius reigned. He was wealthy and powerful beyond imagining. Once one of his courtiers, Damocles, was flattering the king about his wealth and power, and Damocles said if he could live like Dionysius for even one day, he would be happy. So Dionysius made arrangements for all the best and pleasant parts of a king’s life to be made available to Damocles for a day. Damocles enjoyed himself immensely, until, in the middle of a banquet, he happened to look up and see a sword suspended in the air directly over his head, point down, hanging by a single horse hair. According to Baldwin’s retelling:
“The smile faded from the lips of Damocles. His face became ashy pale. His hands trembled. He wanted no more food; he could drink no more wine; he took no more delight in the music. He longed to be out of the palace, and away, he cared not where.

“What is the matter?” said the tyrant.

“That sword! that sword!” cried Damocles. He was so badly frightened that he dared not move.

“Yes,” said Dionysius, “I know there is a sword above your head, and that it may fall at any moment. But why should that trouble you? I have a sword over my head all the time. I am every moment in dread lest something may cause me to lose my life.”

“Let me go,” said Damocles. “I now see that I was mistaken, and that the rich and powerful are not so happy as they seem. Let me go back to my old home in the poor little cottage among the mountains.”

And so long as he lived, he never again wanted to be rich, or to change places, even for a moment, with the king.”

In some retellings, the moral is that being a fearful person is like living with a sword over your head, in others, the point is that Dionysius is a tyrant and tyrants rightfully must fear assassination. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, said… Shakespeare, I think.

Where it comes from: “The Roman politician and philosopher Cicero tells the famous story about the tyrant Dionysius II of Syracuse and his courtier Damocles, which he had read in the History of Timaeus of Tauromenium.”( Here)

About Timaeus of Tauromedium- we cannot compare the original with Cicero’s retelling because Timaeus’s histories are lost, except for a few fragments and references. “Timaeus of Tauromenium’s Italian and Sicilian History (Italika kai Sicelika, FGrHist 566 T 1) was widely known, praised, and despised in antiquity, and to this very day its loss may be seen as the most acute of all of western Greek historiography.” (more here)

Cicero retold it in his ‘Tusculan Disputations,’ and countless authors and educators have retold it themselves over the years. It was particularly popular as a children’s morality tale in the Victorian era.

About the Tusculan Disputations:
“The sword of Damocles is from Book V of Cicero’s Tusuclan Disputations, a set of rhetorical exercises on philosophical topics and one of the several works of moral philosophy that Cicero wrote in the years 44-45 BC after he had been forced out of the Senate.

The five volumes of the Tusuclan Disputations are each devoted to the things that Cicero argued were essential to a happy life: indifference to death, enduring pain, alleviating sorrow, resisting other spiritual disturbances, and choosing virtue. The books were part of a vibrant period of Cicero’s intellectual life, written six months after the death of his daughter Tullia, and, say, modern philosophers, they were how he found his own path to happiness: the blissful life of a sage.

Book V: A Virtuous Life
The Sword of Damocles story appears in the fifth book, which argues that virtue is sufficient for living a happy life… ”


Is it true?
I have always assumed it was along the lines of a parable or one of Aesop’s fables, but a while back, just out of curiosity I looked it up, and I was surprised.  No honest historian can state with authority that it never happened. Cicero is our oldest surviving, full reference to it, but he was retelling the story he had read in an older history book and that book is gone.   Cicero seems to have believed it was true, although I don’t know that for the purposes he was using it, fact or fiction were relevant at all. He was making a point.  Cicero and Timaeus both sometimes got things wrong, but they also both often got things right. It might just be a story, but it might also be something that really happened.  There doesn’t seem to be any reasons to be dogmatically doubtful about its pedigree as a historical tale, although there’s also enough reason to be cautious about claiming it as an absolutely known fact. It could easily have been true, and Dionysius was certainly a real person.

Should we tell it to our kids?

Why-ever not?

But what if they think it’s true?  So what?

Miss Pennethorne, of Charlotte Mason’s training college, asks what we can expect of secular history:


“What do we ask of it that it should do for our children?
Surely, that it shall give them heroic ideas, hearts full of fraternity, patriotism, and the desire to do and be for the good of others!
That the past shall for them be peopled with noble examples, dear friends, and awful warnings–not for nothing did “Boney” take the place of “bogey” in the nursery. [Note: for those who don’t know, this is Napoleon Bonaparte, would be world emperor, dictactor, accomplished general, failed in his ambitions, became scourge of the nursery used to frighten naughty children into being quiet little mice].
“We want the children to learn their history lessons, not “William the Conqueror, 1066,” but God’s dealings with humanity, the sequence of cause and effect; we want to train their moral judgment, that they may put the motive before the deed, nor dub all men with neat little labels of good or bad.”

I am in favor of children’s first history tales being full of heroic ideas, notions of patriotism, the desire to do and be for the good of others, noble examples and dear friends.   The Story of Damocles works as one such tale.

Posted in Books, history | Leave a comment

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