A Festive Dinner at Glen Haven

“The memorable 12th was one of the loveliest of June’s lovely daughters. A fresh breeze swept caressingly over the fair bosom of the ‘Beautiful Maiden;’* the gently sloping hills, clothed from base to summit with luxuriant foliage that circle her brow like a coronet of emeralds, flashed back the rays of the sun from myriads of rain-drops left by the showers of yesterday; and the grand old forest-trees, majestic in their beauty, bent lightly to the breeze, in order that they might–with a pardonable vanity–catch a glimpse of their graceful forms in the clear depths of the Skaneateles.

“The birds–Glen Haven birds they are, and therefore like the living beings in ‘the Glen,’–more free than others of their tribe to act in perfect accordance with the laws of their beautiful natures–for here no ‘fowler spreads his net’–poured forth wild gushes of melody, which the ‘Queen of Song’ herself could hardly hope to rival. The smiling aspect of the skies above–the beauty of the green earth around–the friendly greetings of more than a hundred guests, combined to render more inviting the dinner, which needed not to send forth ‘aromatic odors’ to tempt the appetite of those who assembled in the leafy bower to partake of the feast which the incomparable skill of Mrs. Jackson had provided.

“Delicate baked meats, not floating in rich gravies–for at Glen Haven it is not the custom to oil the wheels of life, to keep them in motion–Skaneateles trout–choice tidbits for an epicure–halibut, white as the snows of the Himalaya, with sweet cream sauce–the favorite tomato–homely bean, and mealy potato–asparagus heads, green and tender, smothered in cream, formed–without the usual condiments by which perverted appetites are pampered–a ‘first course‘ fit for a king.

“Then followed pyramids of Graham pudding–that prince of puddings to a water-cure patient–and its cousin-german, nice cracked wheat–aristocratic corn-starch, and its humble relatives, boiled and baked Indian–simple baked rice, and delicate boiled custards; and for sauce to all, an abundance of sugar and cream. Then came pies of apple, pie-plant, and pumpkin, with blackberry tarts, Dutch cheese, stewed apples, quinces, and blackberries, and fresh figs; and–can you credit it dear lady?–in the preparation of the entire dinner, there was used no lard, no butter, no wine, no spices of any kind, and yet a hundred and fifty people–high authority, too–pronounced it ‘VERY good.’

“Dinner being ended, ladies and gentlemen withdrew together; and it would seem, from what followed, that the latter needed no stimulus than bright eyes and sunny smiles to enable them to furnish an intellectual feast worthy of the gods. When such men as William H. Burleigh and Charles A. Wheaton, of Syracuse; Sireno French and J.C. Hathaway, of Ontario county; H.T. Brooks, of Wyoming; T.W. Brown of Auburn; and the inimitable O.E. Dodge, of Boston, are the guests of such a host as Dr. J.C. Jackson, one can never look in vain for a ‘feast of reason and a flow of soul.’

* Lake Skaneateles–an Indian name, signifying Beautiful Maiden.”

— Excerpted from an article entitled “Glen Haven Festival,” signed ‘Undine’ (the name of a water nymph in mythology) in The Water-Cure Journal (July 1851)

* * *

Note: The author perpetuates the myth regarding the lake’s name; in the Iroquois Confederacy languages, Skaneateles meant “long lake.” To romantically inclined writers of the nineteenth century, however, the “beautiful maiden” myth was irresistible. Also, the “feast of reason and flow of soul” quote is an allusion to Alexander Pope; “pie-plant” is more commonly known as rhubarb; “cousin-german” is a term for first cousin.

Further, it strikes me that this piece really isn’t complete without the recipe for Graham pudding, “that prince of puddings.” And so, from The Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1918) by Frannie Merritt Farmer, here it is: 1/4 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups Graham flour, 1/2 cup molasses, 1/2 teaspoon soda, 1/2 cup milk, 1 teaspoon, 1 egg, 1 cup raisins, seeded and cut in pieces. Melt the butter, add molasses, milk, the egg well beaten; sift and mix the dry ingredients and stir in; add the raisins; turn into a buttered mould, cover and steam for two and one-half hours.

Graham flour is a whole wheat flour named for the Rev. Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), an advocate of dietary reform who believed white flour was the source of many ills, and bran the cure. His flour combined all of the whole wheat kernel; today, we know the Rev. Graham primarily through Graham crackers.

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