31 October 2010


From "Teddybones"
and everyone at Doe Run Farm

30 October 2010

Cocktails at the Burn Pit

First off, I am not a big fan of Halloween. I was the kid crying in the corner and NOT trick-or-treating. Fortunately, I grew up. Instead of candy I can drink -- which makes Halloween much nicer.

Today's Halloween Cocktail at the Burn Pit is just right for a nice evening in with the lights way down low, so no one comes a-knockin'.

One of my favorite candy treats (which I never got on Halloween) is a box of Crows. Crows are the liquorish equivalent of Dots. For Halloween, they make Blood Orange Dots. When I was at the beach a while back, we went to the Dogfish Head Brewery for lunch and I picked up some Blue Hen Vodka that had been flavored with Blood Orange. Add to that a large bottle of Italian Blood Orange soda and I feel a drink coming on.

Bloody Orange Shooter

4 dashes orange bitters
1 ounce blood orange vodka
1 ounce blood orange soda
blood orange Dots for garnish

Take a small glass and add 4 dashes of orange bitter and swirl to coat the glass. Mix 1 ounce blood orange vodka and 1 ounce blood orange soda. Garnish with blood orange Dots.

A couple of these and I might just enjoy Halloween.

29 October 2010

Halloween = Nothing Dies

I was talking to my BFF Beverly the other day and she said she had to run because Lawrence Welk was on.

Odd -- as it is 2010 not 1958.

I remember looking after my great aunt and uncle and every Saturday, we watched Lawrence Welk.

Again -- this was 1999 and not 1958. Yes, we partied like it was 1999... to the accordion stylings of Myron Floren (not what Prince had in mind).

I did some checking and it seems The Lawrence Weld Show started in 1951 as a local show, moved to ABC in 1955 and moved to syndication in 1971 ending its run in 1982. Ten years later, Lawrence Welk died.

The marvel of technology, however, ensures that nothing dies. (And you thought only vampires could provide eternal life.) Today, The Lawrence Welk Show is alive and kicking on PBS Stations around the country.

Enjoy the Lennon Sisters...and be very careful what you put on YouTube... as you might just never die...

27 October 2010

Etiquette Wednesday

Elisabeth Marbury

I have collected old etiquette books for some time, but one has been very elusive. I was interested in the book because of the author, who was not listed. The book, Manners: A Handbook of Social Customs was written in 1888 by Elisabeth Marbury. Marbury was a literary agent who handled big names such as Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. She was a theatrical producer who created the notion of a Broadway musical having a "book" to wrap the songs around. For thirty years, Elisabeth Marbury lived with Elsie de Wolfe.

Bessy and Elise

Recently, after years and years of searching, I found a copy of Manners.

I am the first to admit it is in lousy shape, but it is intact. As often happens with book hounds, we take what we can get in the hope of eventually finding a pristine copy. But now, here are some things you might not know:

In this country (America) it is considered extremely vulgar for coachmen or
grooms to wear cockades on their hats.

A gentleman should never ask to call upon a lady,
but wait for her to signify that his presence in house will be agreeable.

It is the duty of a chaperon to see unmarried ladies safely home.

My personal favorites are Marbury's notes on a simple dinner party with the courses laid out so there will be no confusion. Pay heed for your next soirée.

Courses: For an ordinary dinner the following are enough:

First.- Oysters on the deep half shell, five or six for each person;...

Second.- A soup.

Third.- fish, with which, if in season, cucumber salad should be served.

Fourth.- An entree of some kind.

Fifth.- Meat and vegetables. Two kinds of the latter always sufficient.

Sixth.- A vegetable, such as asparagus, cauliflower, baked tomatoes, artichokes, or small dish of some kind.

Seventh.- Game and salad, or crackers, or cheeses and salad.

Eighth.- A sweet and cake.

Ninth.- Fruit.

Tenth.- Candies, etc.

Now we have a better idea of why Bessy was such a big-boned girl!

And finally, I leave you wanting more... info, not food! There is a wonderful joint bio of Marbury, de Wolfe, Anne Morgan and Anne Vanderbilt entitled, Ladies And Not-So-Gentle Women, by Alfred Allan Lewis. If you love Edith Wharton, Stanford White and New York City, I think this book is a must read.

I have to run as have to check the coachman for cockades. If I catch them with those vulgar hats again, there will be hell to pay!

25 October 2010

Headed For Oz

We were out mowing and mulching before the rains came. It was sunny and bright and then the mower turned around. We barely got to the barn before it up and landed on the Wicked Witch!

23 October 2010

Cocktails at the Burn Pit -- The Teddy "Bear"

This cool weather and numerous leaves have made this prime Burn Pit weather. Add to that Alabama football and Saturday's have a nice, warm buzz. In honor of playing Tennessee we pulled out our favorite thing from Tennessee and whipped up our cocktail. It seems that The Bear's favorite drink was Jack Daniels and Coke, but we decided to make it our own.

The Teddy "Bear"

2 ounces Jack Daniels
12 ounces Root Beer

Stir and serve in a tall glass.

You know where we will be at 7.

22 October 2010

Blow by Blow

You might have thought that the escapades of Happy Valley stayed in Happy Valley, but you would be wrong.

You might ask yourself how one of the great fashion icons of the last 20 years could be impacted by Happy Valley.

Well, lets see.

You may remember The Temptress, Alice de Janzé, may have killed Lord Erroll who had been married to The Bolter, Idina Sackville. What we failed to tell you was who actually went on trial for the murder of Lord Erroll.

Jock & Diana

It was Jock Broughton. Broughton brought his new wife, Diana, to Happy Valley. Diana began an affair with none other than Lord Erroll, making Jock the main suspect in the murder. He went on trial and was acquitted. There were no witnesses and some confusion about the spiralling on the bullets. Oh yes, and his barber was the jury foreman and well... he probably didn't do it. Still, he was ostracised from Happy Valley, so he returned to England. Depressed and lonely, Broughton killed himself.

Depression often runs in families and the Delves Broughton's are no different. So Jock's suicide impacted the life and death of his granddaughter...

Isabella Blow.

Isabella Blow was one of those people who could see through the dross and find the shiny surface. Finding people was her supreme talent.

Isabella in Philip Treacy hat

She found Philip Treacy, who found a muse in Isabella. She found Sophie Dahl crying on her steps and turned the buxom Sophie into a sought-after model.

Lee McQueen and Isabella in Vanity Fair

She found Alexander McQueen, who treated her quite badly and eventually took his own life.

Isabella was one of those rare individuals who was s just that -- individual. In today's climate, women seem to all be striving to look alike. Isabella's unique looks plagued her own identity. Frankly, I wouldn't trade one Isabella Blow for the hundreds of clipped, spray tanned, botoxed Barbies out there.

Her husband, Detmar Blow, has written a bio/memoir about Isabella. It is a sad read. Those around her tried valiantly to provide a safe place for Isabella to be Isabella, but in the end, no one could save her. Isabella Blow was one of those women you wanted to see haunting the runways and back alleys of fashion well into her 90's. We will never get that experience and that make me sad.

There are several book about Isabella Blow surfacing now. I am most interested in Lauren Goldstein Crowe biography coming out later this year. When I read it, you will be the first to know!

20 October 2010


When last we spoke of Vita Sackville-West, she had lost Knole for her failure to be born male. With no home of her own, she set out to make one. And a fine job she did. Together with her husband, Harold Nicholson, they purchased Sissinghurst and set out to make it their own. Now, as we know, most British families do not have the wherewithal to keep these big, elaborate, estates operating in the twenty-first century. The days of master gardeners working for $300 a year are gone. The solution to preservation is often a crass commercialization. Like Knole, Sissinghurst's only avenue of preservation was the National Trust.

Vita's grandson, Adam Nicholson, still has living privileges at Sissinghurst, a place he lived as a child. Nicholson is married to cook and gardening expert, Sarah Raven. Together, they pitched an idea to the National Trust to rebuild the working farm at Sissinghurst to provide income (not to mention it would make a great series for television and a fine book).

I have a very romantic relationship with Sissinghurst. It bears my favorite room, Vita's writing room in the tower. I love the idea of living at Sissinghurst, though for Adam it was no big box of chocolates. Vita died before he could remember her and she was a bit of a pill when she was young, so I am sure as a "woman of a certain age" she was even pillier. As lovely as these old houses look with their vaulted ceilings and grand rooms, you know they are freezing cold most of the year. I believe the writing room in the tower must have been cozy, but the though of actually living in one of these big estates leaves me cold... literally cold!

As someone who has an old farm, I was very interested in Adam Nicholson's efforts to bring back the working farm. An endeavor such as that always seems so romantic, but the reality is far more work and money than one could ever imagine.

Mostly, I just like to see pictures of Sissinghurst.

At Cookbook Of The Day, we are featuring Sarah Raven's In Season, so you can find out what might be on the table when you visit Sissinghurst.

15 October 2010


Knole in 1709

The Bolter had caused such a scandal that it is no wonder her great-granddaughter had never heard of her. In fact in Sackville family lore, she is rarely mentioned. What the Sackville's inevitably talk about in every generation is their family estate, Knole.

The Venitian Room

In fact, the current custodian of the Knole legend, Robert Sackville-West, has written a history of the house entitled, Inheritance: The Story of Knole and the Sackville's.

Knole got it's start in 1456 at the hands of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, and was passed and leased and rented for 100 years until finally in 1605 the Crown sold it to Roland White for approximately 221 pounds. Two days later he sold it to Thomas Sackville for 2,500 pounds. For the next thirteen generations, Knole would remain in the hands of a single family, though not without some excitement.

Knole is probably best known for the one Sackville who did not receive Knole as an inheritance, Vita Sackville-West. Vita would write one of the best books on English country houses about Knole.

Vita was completely enamored of her stately home but, at the time, the laws of primogeniture prevented her from inheriting the house. When her father Lionel died in 1930, the estate passed to her uncle, Charles. If there was to be any solace from her loss, Vita was immortalized in Virginia Woolf's Orlando, as the title character who was able to transcend gender.

Knole in the 1920's

Here is a brief "tangled family tree" interlude...

Charles (1870-1962)
Vita (1892-19620
Idina (1893-1955)

...were all contemporaries.

Knole in the 1920's

Charles, in an attempt to keep Knole viable, turned most of the property over to the National Trust.

His title would go to his son Eddy. (At this point I will tell you that there is a wonderful bio of Eddy by Michael De-la Noy, because he is such a lively character. In fact, Nancy Mitford made him into Uncle Davey in The Pursuit of Love. Which makes one wonder, if the Sackville's hadn't been around, would Nancy Mitford have become a writer?... but I digress.)

Childless, Eddy passed the title to his nephew Lionel who fathered five daughters, and you don't have to ask Vita what that meant, so Lionel's nephew, Robert, became the current 7th Lord Sackville and the author of Inheritance.

Knole today

In an age when most large family estates in England have long since been sold to rock stars and sheiks, it is somewhat comforting to see Knole in the hands of the public.

13 October 2010

The Bolter

When we were last in Happy Valley, we learned that Alice de Janzé most probably killed her lover, Joss Erroll (Josslyn Victor Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll). But what about Joss' wife or ex-wife? Yes, she too, has a bio out (we will talk about it later). In the above photo you will find, starting at the far left, none other than today's featured bio subject Idina Sackville (looking a bit frumpy in that housedress). Next to her you will find Raymond de Trafford (who, we know from yesterday, was shot because he wouldn't marry Alice de Janzé). Next to de Trafford is the shooter, Alice de Janzé (who eventually became de Trafford's wife and ex-wife). Next to Alice is Joss Erroll who was married to Idina and probably killed by Alice. This may finally prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Happy Valley was just a big old trailer park.

In fact, no one in the family ever even mentioned Idina, so when her great-granddaughter, Frances Osborne, started sifting through family info, one can only imagine her surprise. Idina Sackville was according to her great-granddaughter, the inspiration for Nancy Mitford's character the Bolter, the heroine Michael Arlen's The Green Hat, a William Orpen subject, and Molyneux's muse. Idina was always bolting, leaving her two sons and numerous husbands (four or five depending upon who's counting). Even the papers couldn't keep the story straight judging from this newspaper clipping featuring three of her husbands.

Again, if you like the 1920's and the debauched colonialism of the Happy Valley, here's another one to add to the list.

While her great-grandmother, The Bolter, was scandalizing Edwardian society, Frances Osbourne's other great-grandmother, Lilla Eckford, fought China. At age of 100, she won. Want to know more? Check out Lilla's Feast at Cookbook Of The Day.

12 October 2010

Alice Did It!

Once upon a time in Africa, there was an enclave of druggie, over-indulged, ne'er-do-well Brits who made up Happy Valley. One of the women at Happy Valley was a socialite from middle America with the very European name of Alice de Janzé. More recently, she has become known as merely, The Temptress, thanks to a book of the same title by Paul Spicer.

If ever there is such a thing as a "poor little rich girl" Alice Silverthorne might have been one. There is much conflicting information about her, which is why she is such a fascinating subject and why The Temptress is such a good read. Here is just a partial list of highlights:

Consumptive as a child.

Lost mother at age 8 leaving young Alice loaded. (It is possible that her Mother died after being locked out of he house in the freezing cold, but that's a totally different bio!)

May or may not have been molested by her Father. ( One way or the other, Daddy lost custody.)

Married Comte de Janzé, who was sad that Alice would lose the name "Silverthorne" upon their marriage.

Fell in love with Raymond de Trafford in 1926.

Shot de Trafford who refused to marry her and turned the gun on herself. (F. Scott Fitzgerald used the incident in Tender Is The Night.)

Both lived and eventually married each other... then divorced.

Had an affair with Joss Erroll and then killed him. (According to Spicer.)

Killed herself.

I'm tired just thinking about it. If you read White Mischief or saw the exceptionally melodramatic movie of the same name ( Sarah Miles was cast as Alice), or if you are fond of beautiful train wrecks, do give this a read.

As the influx of expats hit Nairobi, the St. Andrew's Church Woman's Guild, Nairobi compiled the Kenya Settlers' Cookery Book and Household Guide to help the wives adjust. Check out a recipe at Cookbook Of The Day.

09 October 2010

Cocktails at the Burn Pit --Stars Fell On Alabama

November 12-13 in 1833 was the date of the Leonid meteor shower. The best vantage point to see the shower seemed to be in Alabama. Over the course of two nights, luminous stars streaked the skies over Alabama at a rate of 30,000 meteors an hour. It is known as the night the stars fell on Alabama. Many people were convinced it was the end of the world.

Needless to say the event left its mark in story and song... and alcoholic beverages.

In 1934, New Yorker Carl Carmer published a collection of stories entitled Stars Fell On Alabama. It was a best seller. (Let me just say that many of his stories came from Ruby Pickens Tartt who doesn't get nearly the recognition she deserves as a folklorist...but I digress.)

Later the same year, Mitchell Parish and Frank Perkins wrote a song of the same name. Stars Fell on Alabama was recorded by Guy Lombardo's Orchestra. Subsequent recordings have proliferated with everyone from Billie Holiday to Jimmy Buffett recording their versions.

The next year, Sterling North and Carl Kroch collected a book cocktails into a little tome called So Red The Nose or Breath In The Afternoon. They asked writers to share their favorite cocktail. Carl Carmer's cocktail was Stars Fell on Alabama

Stars Fell On Alabama

2 oz. corn whiskey
1 dash Peychaud's bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange flower water
1 dash simple syrup
A few drops of absinthe
Cracked ice

Stir briskly and strain into a chilled coupe.

A couple of these and stars won't be the only thing falling!

Those of you who live in Alabama, or West Virginia for that matter might have a reliable source for authentic corn whiskey, but some may have to find a more commercial source like Pioneer Spirits. Do refrain from buying anything in a Mason jar with "cute" spellings.

As always, be very careful around the burn pit when toting corn liquor and absinthe! And since vintage cocktail books are so terribly EXPENSIVE, if you have a copy of So Red The Nose you want to add to my library, I'll be happy to take it off your hands.

Now get out there and burn those leaves...

08 October 2010

Famous Food Friday -- Michael Caine

In 1992, Michael Caine enlisted celebrity chef Marco Pierre White to open a restaurant with him near his home in Chelsea Harbor, London. Marco jumped at the chance. It was not Caine's first foray into the restaurant business and he was well connected... oh yeah, and he had big bucks. The restaurant lasted about a year, decidedly longer than most of Marco Pierre White's marriages.

Around the time The Canteen was opened, White's career was taking off and Caine's was waning. I am happy to report they are both doing quite well.

After the restaurant closed Caine went on to win a Golden Globe and a second Oscar and he was knighted.

White would become, at 33, the youngest chef to win three Michelin stars (a title he lost to 28 year-old Massimiliano Alajmo). He also mentored (read: yelled at and belittled) numerous culinary stars including: Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal, Bryn Williams, and Mario Batali to name perhaps the most famous.

Even though the restaurant didn't survive, the cookbook did. Canteen Cuisine came out several years after the restaurant closed, but it is filled with many fine recipes, including this lovey pud, as they say in England.

Chocolate Tart

500 g (18 oz) Valharona Equatorial chocolate, broken into pieces
3 eggs
200ml (7 fl oz) milk
350ml (12 fl oz) double cream
1 X 20 cm (8 in) Sweet Pastry Case

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/ Gas 4.

2. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a bain-maire; this should not be too warm.

3. Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl.

4. Bring the milk and cream to the boil in a pan, then pour on to the eggs, and whisk together.

5. Pass through a sieve on to the chocolate and mix well. Pour this into the blind-baked tart case.

6. Put the tart into the oven, and immediately turn off the oven off. Leave the tart in the oven 40-45 minutes.

7. When cool, trim the edges of the pastry, and cut the tart into 10 portions. Serve with chocolate shavings on the top, and sprinkled with icing sugar.

The chocolate is a dark 70%, so pick one of your own choosing. I trust you can use your own pâte sucrée recipe. So now you are good to go.

Here are a couple of extra pictures of the boys with their guns. In the end I would rather see them with their guns than with those nasty cigarettes, besides, before long showing images of folks smoking will earn us an "X" rating.

Marco Pierre White hunting rabbits.

Michael Caine hunting bad guys.

07 October 2010

Levi's Pioneer Sessions

I am kind of a cover geek. I really love old(ish) or should I say familiar songs covered by different people. Some people find covers to be a bit tedious. In fact, The A. V. Club published a very popular list of 23 songs that should never be covered again. The list included Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah(of which I possess at least 40 different covers).

Seeing the trend for cool covers, Levi's put together a web site featuring a group of artists who were asked to record a cover and explain why. The Levi's Pioneer Sessions features the music as free downloads.

Some are quite cool.

My favorites are:

The Dirty Projectors covering a less than famous Bob Dylan song, I Dreamed I saw St. Augustine (I only have 3 covers).

Colbie Caillat covering the Blondies, Maria.

But my favorite is Jason Mraz covering that one-hit-wonder Spirit In The Sky from Norman Greenbaum.

Click on the link and download some of your favorites.

05 October 2010

The Last of My Beaton Diaries

The Wandering Years

Several weeks ago, I spent a whirlwind weekend visiting my friend Sandra, who was visiting the Delaware shore from England. It was one of those trips that included more time in the car than in an actual local, still it is always a joy to see Sandra. We share a passion for books and we are always finding things for each other that one cannot easily find across the pond --- in either direction.

This visit Sandra was carrying the final instalment of my collection of Cecil Beaton diaries. I know, they have been unexpurgated and reissued (yes, I have those, too) but there is something wonderful for a big old Beaton fan such as myself to have in my possession all six volumes of the diaries.

The Years Between

The Happy Years

The Strenuous Years

The Restless Years

The Parting Years

Say what you want about the kindle, it will never replace the printed page.

04 October 2010

Greenhouse Window

Friday we got the big window installed at the end of the old chicken house. The greenhouse begins!

By this time next year, I should be able to plant.

I'm slow, but I'm motivated.
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