Thanksgivings past

I remember very traditional Thanksgiving dinners growing up on Mill Street in Bristol Borough.  Our immediate family, mother, father, four sisters and I were frequently joined by Nanny (mom’s mother) or Nanny’s sister Lucy.  I think Uncle Albert (Dad’s brother) Aunt Carol, Skip and Paul came down from Flushing, NY.  some years.  They eventually arrived in an RV which would be parked in the lot along the river behind our apartment.  Getting a tour was always a treat.   Their visit would prompt visits from the families of Dad’s other brothers, Tom and Frank.  Grandpop Profy would stop in and he may have eaten with us a few times, not always.

Mother with some help from my sisters prepared a turkey with bread stuffing, mashed and candied sweet potatoes, a vegetable like string beans, corn or peas, canned jellied cranberry sauce, maybe apple sauce, green salad, some bread or corn muffins, celery, olives, and probably pie for dessert.  Red wine was pretty standard.

Entertainment for the day would have been a walk to visit the Mignoni family on Radcliffe Street (Mom’s sister).  And we watched the Philadelphia and New York City Thanksgiving Day parades on TV.  Father (and later me) wasn’t a big TV sports fan.  But Uncle Albert might put on a football game.  I recall one year he doned a helmet and ran around the house with a football.  Several years we went to the annual Bristol- Morrisville High School football game.  That may have been arranged by my future brother-in-law, Louis.

I think  Diane and I cooked two Cornish hens on an indoor rotisserie in our Boston apartment our first Thanksgiving after getting married.  For years afterwards Thanksgiving would be at Smith’s in Carmel, NY.  Diane’s Aunt Louella and Uncle Mackie always came.  Her Mom cooked a traditional turkey dinner.  Turnips and parsnips, however, were new to me.  As was mincemeat pie with hard sauce. Several years Mr. Smith took us to Black Pond to skeet shoot, another new experience.    We had a white Lab, Luz who came with us.  One year we were presumably hunting, deer, birds, but we didn’t shoot or even see anything to hunt but the woods walk was fun.

After Jenny was born and we bought our Yardley house, we either cooked at home or went to my parents or later my sister Cissi’s in Bristol.  She and Louis frequently host large gatherings for family and friends.  Since Jenny’s marriage and the arrival of two grand children we have usually hosted them at home.  Since Jenny is a vegetarian for number of years our main course was salmon.  But now we have seafood and turkey.  Diane also likes her mother’s parsnips and turnips in addition to the traditional sides.

One year  I bought a Bourbon Red heritage turkey from Griggstown Farm in NJ.  I cooked it on the outside grill but unfortunately I didn’t let it on long enough.  Starting carving and  I realized it had to go back on the grill.  This didn’t make for the best turkey.  But I would like to try again.

Every other year Jenny goes to Rob’s family.  We are always welcome back in Bristol.  But two  years ago we decided to try a restaurant dinner.  Diane’s brother joined us at Hamilton’s Grill in Lambertville.  It was a nice memorable experience.

This year we decided to eat out again .  Our first choice, the Yardley Inn, was booked.  At Hamilton’s Grill there was a 3 o’clock opening.  Since  Jim Hamilton recently died, there is a new owner chef.  It’s Brian Held who owns Brian’s in Lambertville and Bistro Rouget in Stockton. We had a nice meal in Brian’s when it opened several years ago. Thanksgiving dinner is a price fixe.  Strange but they didn’t  published the menu but I expected it to be similar to previous years — traditional turkey, seafood or beef as a main course.

Thanksgiving 2018, yesterday, was cold.  A high of 28 degrees.  We took a short walk at the Thompson Neely house and then headed to Hamilton’s.  Diane opted for a traditional turkey dinner.  I had halibut and vegetables.  Quite good.  The apps were delicious — potatoes leek soup and large grilled shrimp.  The flourless chocolate cake was, well I’m hoping to make it.  We shared a bottle of white wine.

Home about 5  we built a fire and had a dark grappa nightcap from a Chestertown craft distillery.  So much to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.



Winter is coming


It’s mid November and snow (turning to sleet and rain) is in the forecast.  Although it’s not officially winter until December 21; autumn seems to have ended.   Two weeks ago on some cold days I made a wood stove fire.  I suspect this week it will be a regular afternoon routine.

Diane suggested we look for a place to rent in Florida.  As much as I don’t like the cold, it didn’t appeal to me.  I am not sure why.  So how do we survive another winter in Yardley? This afternoon we organized our winter coats, gloves and scarves.

I realize that the cold will put a strain on my heart.  I need to bundle up and move slowly.  Yesterday I was collecting some sticks for kindling and I immediately felt a bit of chest pain.  At the same time I want and need to get out walking, frequently.  I have also tried to add indoor exercise to my daily routine.  So far it’s upper body, lifting a five pound weight.  Also need some bending and stretching.


I can continue, even expand, my cooking and baking this winter.  Try some new things; read and use our cookbooks more often. This morning I saw a recipe for Parker House rolls. So I made them them this afternoon.  They evoke memories of the Parker House, Boston, and snow storms.  Our farm market and speciality store shopping can continue.  My list includes apples from Solebury Orchard for apple butter.  I just ordered more boiled apple cider from King Arthur to add to apple sauce, pies and apple  butter.  Oatmeal, pancakes and heuvos rancheros are on the breakfast menu.

I finally began the slide project.  I have thousands, Yes thousands of slides in Kodak trays and albums. My plan is the edit them into three groups — trash, save in a box, and have digital copies made.  After rereading “The Pipes are Calling,” I pulled out the two Ireland trip trays.  It’s fun looking at them but the reorganization of all my slides will be a time consuming, slow “winter” project.  I need to address the record collection in a similar way.


Diane will walk Nala every day.    And she likes to make it a trip somewhere.  Hopefully I will continue to tag along on many, no most days.  The exercise is good, we get out and then can food shop at markets and speciality stores.  We also need to do some field trips and continue our weekly restaurant lunches.

If  last winter is any guide, most afternoons will be spent in front of the wood stove with a book, maybe writing.   I’m trying to reread about two books for every new one.  I’ve also been writing about them.  I’m not sure anyone is looking for my reviews but the writing helps me process.  I also need to rewatch some of the video and DVDs that I’ve been saving.


Nice snow fall this afternoon.  Woodstove fire.  Winter is coming.


It’s Monday, it must be . . .



Belgium, Italy, Ireland, France, Scotland, maybe China or Vietnam.  My last trip abroad was Italy in 2014, the first year of retirement.  I’ve traveled on an airplane once (to Washington State) since my surgeries and ongoing medical issues.  I often wonder can I, will I, when will I travel out of the United States again.  Maybe, until then I can enjoy reading about places I would like to go.


I recently reread “The Pipes are Calling: our jaunts through Ireland” by Naill Williams and Christine Breen.  A Dublin born writer and American writer-painter, they moved to Kitumper, County Clare, Christine’s grandfather’s cottage, on the west coast in the 1980s.  They wrote several books, including “Oh Come Ye Back.”  I read “The Pipes” a few years after we traveled in Ireland.  It is a journal of their explores or “jaunts” around the country by auto, on bicycles or on foot,  with their young daughter, Deidre.  Many of the places they visit were on our five week iternary around the country.


I remember the beauty of the Dingle pensuila which they visit.  And we took a carriage ride in Killarney Park; but did we go to the medieval city of Kilkenny, part of their tour.  They also mention unforgettable places like the Cliffs of Moher, Croagh Patrick, and the  Giant’s Causeway.  It also brought back memories when they write about the tense, even frightening, atmosphere in Northern Ireland, young soldiers, machine guns, signs and graffiti documenting the struggles, the troubles.


I enjoyed reading about Donegal where my grandfather Gallagher’s family lived.  I think we went to the Abbey Theatre there.  Since I did not know the exact location or town, I visited my friend Bill Gallagher’s relative (in a pub of course).   Niall and Christine describe places I didn’t visit or don’t remember, Bunratty Folk Park, Knock Shrine, Moore Hall, Cuil Aodha, Ennis, Newry, and West Mayo to name a few.

We like them spent several days in Dublin. The University of Dublin and Guinness Brewery were destinations for us but I don’t remember other specific streets, shops or churches.  Maybe a bookstore near the University.  Throughout the trip they mention Irish poets and writers. Dublin there are traces of George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan  Swift,  and Sean O’Casey.  Christine like me graduated from Boston College with a B. A. In English.  I graduated in 1969; she in 1976.


For me “The Pipes are Calling” evoked the Irish countryside, small roads lined with hedges, wind and rain, rocky fields, peat moss, warm knit sweaters, pubs, friendly shop keepers and tidy bed and breakfasts, small villages, thatch roofed cottages, Irish music and of course step dancing.  And so many shades of green.



But it’s another day and I just finished “The Sweet Life in Paris: delicious adventures in the world’s most glorious — and perplexing City,” by David Lebovitz.  Diane spent significant time in Paris after graduating from college.  I’ve enjoyed her stories but have never been there.  I was familiar with Lebovitz through his book, “ The Perfect Scoop.”  But I was drawn to “The Sweet Life” because it was a memoir with recipes.  How delightful.  David Lebovitz got his start in Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse.  He became a well known pastry chef.

In 1999 he decided to leave San Francisco and move to Paris to live, cook and write.  Each chapter explores an aspect of living in Paris.  As much as he loves the city, Lebovitz is quick to point out how the culture is different, better sometimes, perplexing, even frustrating other times.  The French don’t like to wait in line but will jump ahead and push behind you but then they always dress correctly, no sweatshirts and flip flops in public (at least among proper, traditional Frenchmen).  Supermarkets are awful but the open air markets and speciality shops are fantastic. He describes his difficulty with language.  Life in Paris is sweet but not always easy.


To really experience the city, David works for a while in poissonnerie or seafood market.  But how to remove the every present stain, smell of fish from body and clothes.  He has his favorite boulangerie to buy his morning baguette.  Unfortunately he claims that French coffee is awful, make it yourself (or drink tea).  Lebovitz real passion is chocolate and he takes another job, volunteer, in Patrick Roger’s, one of the best chocolate shops in Paris (and there seems to be many).  But dealing with customers is more than he can handle. He is more into making and eating all forms of chocolate.


“The Sweet Life” explores to ins and outs of ordering in a French restaurant, do you want water?  Why aren’t there enough public rest rooms?  The lack of service in department stores, while clerks gossip and smoke.  And then there are what he calls “Les Bousculeurs” — people pushing on the streets — not in all France, but Paris.  At times I wonder why anyone would move to Paris.  But then there is the wine, the cheese, the chocolate, a politeness, well dressed, friendly, once you’ve been around for some time, people, the Seine, the speciality shops, cafes and restaurants.  David has stayed.


I’d like to go to Ireland again.  I need to get out my photographs and check my journals to recall more of out trip in the 80s.  It might be fun to read another one of Naill and Christine’s books.  And then Paris.  I’ve wanted to visit.  I do plan on trying some of the many recipes in “The Sweet Life.”  Many are desserts, many chocolate.  I already ordered several pounds of chocolate from King Arthur.  When I get freezer room I’ll make some Lebovitz ice cream.



And of course there are other books I can read or reread about Paris, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, India.  So many places; so many dreams.  And maybe, just maybe I can still board that plane.










My granddaughter, Vivienne, was reading “Fever 1793” by Laurie Halse Anderson.  It’s the story of the worst yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia history.  About 5,000 people died; that was 10% of the population.  Years ago I read J. H. Powell’s “Bring Out Your Dead: the great plague of yellow fever in Philadelphia in 1793” (1949).  It was a gripping story.  Many of the better off fled the City.  African Americans led by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones cared for the sick and buried the dead. It was mistakenly believed they were immune.   The cause, infected mosquitoes,  was unknown.  As were medical cures.  Several doctors offered their best theories.  One of the most active was Benjamin Rush who advocated purges and blood letting.  Some thought Rush’s blood letting was excessive and may have actually led to deaths.  I mentioned Allen, Jones and Rush to Viv.


I didn’t know much about Rush.  He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and there’s  a State Park and a high school named after him in Northeast Philadelphia.  In addition there is a Benjamin Rush elementary school in Bensalem.  I visited the park once expecting to find a Rush house but there wasn’t any.  I was curious to know more.


Stephen Fried to the rescue.  I ordered his 2018 book, “Rush: revolution, madness & the visionary doctor who became a founding father.”  Fried felt that founding father Rush had been somewhat ignored considering the attention given to Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton and Franklin.  He used many  papers in several libraries, particularly letters that had never been catalogued or read academically.  What emerges is a well written, entertaining story of an interesting character.

As a young man Benjamin decided on medicine and was sponsored at the University of Edinburgh medical school.  On his return to Philadelphia he was appointed a professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia, later the University of Pennsylvania.  Rush also became associated with Pennsylvania Hospital.  Like Franklin he was extremely active in the social, political, and medical life of Philadelphia. He was born in a house on Red Lion Road in the Northeast.  But  he lived in several homes downtown (one on the corner of Third and Walnut).  He also had a house outside the city located today in Greenwood cemetery.

At the Pennsylvania Hospital, Rush became an advocate for the mentally ill who were frequently chained in a basement level.  He lobbied for a separate building with private cells, more humane treatment.  Throughout his life he attempted to understand the reasons for madness and develop and promote treatments.

He was particularly against the use of strong spirits, not wine and beer, but hard liquor which he believed led to madness and other disorders.  This interest was reinforced when his son John became mentally ill and was hospitalized (John killed a close friend in a duel).  Rush writes about a variety of medical topics including mental illness. He designs a restraining chair.


Rush was active politically during the Revolution which he actively supported.  He wrote and encouraged Patrick Henry to publish “Common Sense.”   Fried explores Rush’s relationship with his contemporaries.  He is very friendly with Franklin.  Although he had a slave for some time he became active with Franklin in the Abolition Society and would champion the rights of blacks, writing about abolition.  He also took an interest in education which he felt was essential to a true democracy.

Despite his teaching at the medical school and his many students who respected him, he does not get along with several leading doctors — John Morgan and Edward Shippen Jr.  During the war, Rush is critical of Washington, and their relationship never recovers.  He is however good friends of both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  He corresponds extensively with them.  Although he disagrees politically with the Federalists, Hamilton and Adams, he likes to engage in discussion.

Abigail and John Adams and the Rush family become personal friends.  Rush is married to a young Julia Stockton, the daughter of Richard Stockton, Princeton, NJ, and signer of the Declaration.  The Stocktons lived on the outskirts of town at Morven.  Julia would sometimes retreat there when Rush was too engaged.  Morven is a museum today.  They had many children, several died young.

Although Rush signed the Declaration of Independence, he wasn’t there for its ratification but was appointed a PA representative later.  Although his role in the 1793 yellow fever epidemic was memorable, he contributed much more to life in Philadelphia and the new United States.


Benjamin Rush is buried in Christ Church cemetery near Benjamin Franklin.  He attended several churches, was very pious, but like Franklin may have been a Dieist at heart.  He liked discussing religion with Jefferson, who edited his own version of the Bible.


I almost feel I will need to reread “Rush” to retain a bit of the detail.  It would also be fun to visit the sites associated with Rush.  I’ll call it on the trail of Benjamin Rush.