December 5, 1852

Cheese

Sunday Dec 5th  have been to meeting all day

as usual. Staid in the meeting house

at noon with Augustus wife. Was very

sleepy this afternoon could not possibly 

keep awake.  Have been writing John &

wife this evening & Mr Ames has written some

& sent him a check for 86 doll 39 cts and are

to pay Alson 25 doll for him, for butter & cheese

dried apples &c.

 

“[T]his was a cloudy foggy day wind north east, not cold.”* Evelina doesn’t mention her eldest son today. She went to church and “staid in the meeting house” with a niece-in-law, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, during intermission, which was unusual for her. Most other Sundays she went out and socialized; today, not. Perhaps she was avoiding friends and neighbors who, by now, would have heard about Oakes Angier’s illness, and would have wanted to extend sympathy and advice to her, which perhaps she just couldn’t handle yet. She still didn’t have her own thoughts and feelings in order and was so exhausted that she couldn’t stay awake during the afternoon sermon.

As she had done before during times of stress, Evelina turned her attention to money, in this case settling a domestic financial transaction. She spent time in the evening attempting to reconcile an account between her brother John Gilmore, who lived out of town, and her other brother, Alson, who lived on the family farm. There had been, evidently, a three-way trade of “butter & cheese dried apples &c,” a transaction that involved Oakes Ames writing a couple of sizable checks. Might Oakes Ames have helped support some of Evelina’s relatives from time to time?

 

November 23, 1852

60c3f7a52ea0d3900456a643aac3db0f

Tues Nov 23  Catharine & self have been mending

shirts &c all day  It being very stormy I

thought it a good time to mend

Frederick & Helen came home to night

Susan & self have been in to see them

Fred brought me a crumb brush cost 75 cts

Ann has done the housework and cut

squash & apple for tomorrow

 

“[T]he ground was white with snow this morning, but was a raining + took it all of[f] by noon there was a bout half an inch of water fell”* on this late November day; people in Easton had yet to see a serious snowfall.  Although the storm kept Evelina indoors, the lack of snow was actually a help to travelers like Fred and Helen Ames, who were making their way home for the holiday.

Fred Ames brought his Aunt Evelina a gift. What was better, that she received a crumb brush or that her nephew spent 75 cents on it? That amount would translate to about $17.50 in today’s (2015) market. Either way, she was pleased with the gift, which she would no doubt place with pride on her dining table.

Most of us modern readers probably don’t keep a crumb brush handy at our dinner tables, although we’ve seen modern versions in use in restaurants. But then, most of us probably no longer dine on pressed and laundered tablecloths at home, at least on a regular basis. Placemats are more common. (Readers weigh in here, please.) But in 1852, formal dining on snowy white tablecloths was aspired to as the middle class rose above their agrarian past of eating without linens. The dining room itself became more popular as families found the means to support more servants and rise to a style of living that involved a clear separation between cooking and dining. The notion of today’s open kitchen, where guests sip wine on stools and watch the hostess  – or host! – cook dinner would be absolutely foreign to Evelina. Our lack of damask would shock her and her contemporaries.

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tobias Collection

October 18, 1852

apples-easy-stewed-lrg

 

Monday Oct 18th  Ann Shinkwin commenced working

for wages this day, and she does very well

got the washing out with Catharines help

quite early not much past ten. This afternoon

she has been putting some apples to stew

I have been puttering about house and 

sewing some but my work does not amount

to much any way.

The new servant, Ann, was going right to work. She and Catharine Murphy did the laundry, of course, it being Monday. The two women then presumably cooked and served the midday meal, and did the washing up, while Evelina was “puttering about the house.” In the afternoon, Ann began to pare and slice apples to cook.

Evelina says that Ann was going to stew the apples, which sounds like a sensible way to process some of the surfeit of apples that she clearly had on hand. Sarah Josepha Hale, ever ready to advise women on sensible practices in the kitchen, offers the following recipe for stewing fruit:

The best way to stew any kind of fruit is to put the quantity you wish to cook into a wide-mouthed jar, with enough brown sugar to sweeten it; then cover the jar close, set it in a kettle of cold water, and boil it till the fruit is tender. This preserves the flavor of the fruit.

Evelina or her servant may have followed their own recipe for cooking sliced apples. But there’s no question that along with applesauce, apple butter, dried apples and apple pies, stewed apples was one more way that the nineteenth century housewife could serve fruit to her family now and over the winter and spring.

*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 91

 

 

October 8, 1852

bushel-and-peck

Friday Oct 8th  Have been making barberry sauce

to day only 1 peck but a great many more apples

Julia was here and altered the skirt of my 

Delaine dress.  She scarcely got the skirt

right  Augusta has gone to her fathers this

afternoon to pass a week or so her father came after

her  I have sewed but very little again to day

Why is it that I cannot find more time to sew?

 

Evelina was spending so much time in the kitchen lately that she had “but very little” time for sewing. So it went during harvest season. Fruits and vegetables came piling into the kitchen in all manner of measures, and Evelina and her servants had to cook and store them, or lose them. She writes today of using up a peck of barberries for sauce and even more apples, though it’s unclear if the apples went into the barberry sauce or were used in something else. A year ago at this time, Evelina was doing exactly the same thing, cooking barberries and other fruit in her kitchen, except that at the time, she was ill with nettle rash.

We get pints, quarts, pecks and bushels from our English heritage. No metric system for them, or us. A peck is a dry measure equivalent to eight quarts; four pecks make up a bushel. Modern grocery shoppers don’t often see food sold in a quantity of one peck in a regular supermarket. This time of year, one can find displays of five-pound paper bags of fresh apples in the produce department; one of those bags is equivalent to half a peck. With that in mind, think of how many pounds of apples, barberries and more Evelina had to process in the fall. She had no choice, either. Even a family as wealthy as the Ameses needed that food for the winter.

A half-bushel, by the way, was once called a kenning.

 

September 4, 1852

seal

Sat Sept 4th  Made Sponge cake & gingerbread

and about ten Started to go to Mothers

Dined there and after dinner went to 

Raynham after Mrs Stevens.  Stopt at

her brothers awhile and called at the door

at Aunt John Gilmores & Aunt Othniels

found Widow Henry Gilmore there.  Came

back to tea at Alsons. Stopt at Sam Wilbers

and got some cooking apples

After some early morning baking, Evelina traveled south to Raynham, stopping along the way to have midday dinner at the family farm with her mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore.  It was “a fair day + little cooler,”* so a pleasant day to be out for a carriage ride. Evelina rode on to the home of her friend, Mrs. Stevens, whose company she had enjoyed previously over the course of this diary, and picked her up to return to Easton for a visit.

Before driving north, Evelina and her friend visited more relatives. They went to see Mrs. Steven’s brother, then stopped off to see a few Gilmore relatives, all widows. Aunt John Gilmore and Aunt Othniel (Sally Buffington Gilmore) were the elderly, long-time widows of Evelina’s father Joshua’s brothers, while young Mrs. Henry Gilmore (Adaline Bramen Gilmore) had lost her husband unexpectedly only a few months earlier. Members of this Gilmore clan were descendants of James and Thankful Gilmore who had settled in the area in the 1700’s.

The day not through, the ladies rode back to the farm and had tea with Alson and his family. A last stop was made for cooking apples.  It was the start of apple harvest.

 

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

March 21, 1852

9291031-apples-are-stored-in-the-cellar-to-keep-fresh

1852

March 21 Sunday  Have all been to meeting except

Susan who is not very well  George carried

Amelia home at noon  I had a very pleasant

visit from her of nearly two weeks.  Orinthia

called with me into Edwins after church & we

helped ourselves to apples from the cellar.  Augusta

sent us one filled with sand and cheese.

Called at Mr Whitwells at noon & at Mrs J Howard a moment

Spring had arrived; Amelia Gilmore left the Ames’s home and hospitality and headed back to her own quarters in southeastern Easton. George Oliver Witherell, 14-year old son of Sarah Ames Witherell, obligingly carried her home in a carriage during the intermission at church. Evelina, meanwhile, visited with the Whitwells and the Howards.

After church Evelina and Orinthia went to the home of Edwin and Augusta Gilmore and helped themselves to “apples from the cellar.” That the young couple still had apples from the previous fall suggests that the harvest had been good and the storage arrangements even better. We presume that Evelina and Orinthia took the apples with the permission of the Gilmores; Augusta sending over a barrel “filled with sand and cheese,” corroborates that. But why is a barrel with cheese also filled with sand? Any thoughts, readers?

 

November 19, 1851

Barberries

Wednesday Nov 19th  Jane is not as well  I got the breakfast

this morning and have been scalding my barbaries

and put more apples to them and have been

about house all day  Painted some mustard

boxes &c  Mrs Wales & Williams called

Mr Whitwell called but I was busy up stairs

and he found no one below and he went

away without seeing any one

Evelina made breakfast as Jane McHanna, usually in the kitchen preparing coffee and the morning meal,  was ailing. Evelina stayed in the cook room for much of the day, “scalding my barbaries” to be put away.  Barberry was a common, woody, hedge shrub with a couple of domestic applications. Cultivated in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, the fruit made “an agreeable, refreshing jelly,”** and the stems could also be used to make a yellow dye.  Evelina wouldn’t have needed the dye; she bought all her textiles.  But she used the fruit for jelly and pies.

Once Evelina got out of the kitchen, she picked up a paint brush to freshen up some mustard boxes. These were small to medium-sized wooden boxes for her pantry. Spices and other kitchen ingredients would have been stored in them. Evelina seemed to be getting her kitchen in perfect order for the Thanksgiving rush.

*Image of barberries courtesy of http://www.womenfitness.net/barberries.htm

** Mrs M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal, courtesy of http://www.botannical.com