Waiting for Tomatoes

Tomatoes – it runs in my Maryland family’s veins. We had not one, but three commercial tomato packing houses in my family. It’s at this time of year that the waiting begins. The plants are slipped into the ground, and … Continue reading

Potato Rolls – A Family History

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas is marked by my great grandmother Winifred’s potato rolls. For those of us who grew up in the mid-Atlantic, these are not the same as those squishy yellow Martin’s potato rolls. They are white yeast rolls, … Continue reading

Argand Lamp – A moment of pause for Barbara Carson

Barbara Carson was one of my professors in The George Washington University’s M.A. program in Museum Studies. I took her American Decorative Arts and Time and Light in the Decorative Arts courses, and was sorry I didn’t get to take … Continue reading

Thoughts on the Winter Garden

I come from a gardening family, and at this time of year, I’m biding my time until garden season. My great grandfather was listed in the 1930 Census as “Superintendent” for an “Orchard Farm.” This was Mt. Pleasant Orchard on … Continue reading

Wanderlust Wednesday: Balyeat’s Coffee Shop

Gas was 99 cents a gallon in the Midwest in May of 2005. Driving east across the Indiana state line, my friend Mrs. G and I entered Van Wert, Ohio. There, beckoning to us in hot neon: Balyeat’s Coffee Shop … Continue reading

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Welcome to The Still Room.

Barbara Fritchie Restaurant, Frederick MD, RL Fifield photo, 2009.

Conjuring the appearance of a 17th or 18th century Still Room yields a beautiful bounty of preserved foods for the grimness of winter, as well titillating sweetmeats. Here, harvests of the better months are sugared and salted, turning them into something more robust and intense. Fruits suspended in sugar, candies, a good tonic for darkening hair, and many a stringent spiced pickle issued forth from the Still Room. We might even get a little tipsy on quince brandy.

To make a fine Bitter.

Take an ounce of the finest Jesuit powder, half a quarter of an ounce of snake-root powder, half a quarter of an ounce of salt of wormwood, half a quarter of saffron, half a quarter of cochineal, put it into a quart of the best brandy, and let it stand twenty-four hours; every now and then shaking the bottle.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse, 1805 Alexandria VA, edition.

Lest you think this is a food preservation or home remedy blog, let me clarify my purpose. My Still Room is for the percolation of past thoughts, wants, and the daily coincidence in the street. I’m pulling these stories into the Still Room for preservation and sharing with my friends. So my earthenware crocks are labeled many a different thing. I’m a Museum Collections Manager in a New York area museum, so museums and collections care will be widely talked about. Some other topics dear to my heart are historic preservation, transit, food and foodways, textiles and costume, women’s history and reproductive rights, general social history, indentured and enslaved servants, road trips, living history, and genealogy. A bit of original fiction and poetry might trickle in from time to time. I live a liberal arts life.

One note: still rooms of the past served as workshops for home remedy making. While  canning, domestic history, and agricultural history are certainly my thing, homeopathy and home remedies certainly are not. Many people over the centuries have struggled to bring us the wonder that is science – if you are sick, please see a medical doctor. If you want to read about some slices of life, stick with The Still Room.

Perhaps you’ll find a little of this and that to catch your fancy in this blog. Not everyone is a fan of pickles or cares for raisin wine, but perhaps a little from this jug or that pot will suit. I hope to hear your ideas. Don’t forget a caraway comfit on your way out.