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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Saturday night

"Plastichrome" postcard P324407 Arts & Cards, 374 Boylston St., Brookline, MA 02146

I decided that Sunday posted blogs are not going very well. So on this Saturday night, I post a food related piece written this week for our writer’s group; besides, I need Sunday to be a day of rest.

Every Saturday night, as long as I can remember, growing up in a north Boston suburb, we sat down to supper with a sense of history, homemade rolls, hot dogs with piccalili and Boston baked beans in a pot. Our mother baked the beans in an ancient glazed crock called a bean pot. It was two toned, brown on top, tan on bottom with a handle and tight fitting lid. Because I preferred the pea beans, small, round and white somewhat like navy, over the kidney beans, she would bake two pots one kidney and one pea or weekly alternate beans. On Friday evening before bedtime she soaked the beans in water overnight. On Saturday morning she parboiled them for an hour or so, draining the beans, according to Fanny Farmer’s original Boston Cooking School Cook Book 1896,”throwing bean-water out of doors, not in sink.” Then she put them in the bean pot with dry mustard, brown sugar, molasses, salt, pepper, salt pork and sometimes an onion, with just enough boiling water to cover. She then placed the lid on top and slow cooked it for 8 hours, adding boiling water as needed. The anticipated Saturday smell transformed the house for one day a week.

One of our ancestors on my mother’s side, Stephen Hopkins, an adventurer pilgrim from the Mayflower, 1620, was the first to become friendly with the Native Americans. .He had been to Jamestown around 1610 and in Plymouth colony he spent time at native camps, Pokanokets, Narragansetts including visiting Massasoit, namesake for Massachusetts. Many natives also stayed in his family house in Plymouth.. I believe it was he who learned from the Narragansetts how to make baked beans using maple syrup and bear fat. Since the Pilgrims strictly followed the commandments of God, to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, no work including cooking could be done on Sunday, just worship and prayers, the meal needed to be prepared the night before and beans were a perfect choice, according to some sources, the start of the Saturday night Baked beans tradition for most of New England.

During colonial times, Massachusetts became part of the triangular trade, Boston to West Indies to West Africa. Originally some Native American slaves from Phillip’s war 1674, were sent to West Indies to work in the sugar cane fields. The byproduct, molasses was sent back to New England to be made into rum. The first distillery in Boston was in 1667. Rum was then sent to West Africa to buy slaves which were sent to West Indies to increase the labor force, production and continue the sequence. It is interesting that we have sponsored an orphan through Rafiki Foundation in Nigeria, West Africa. It is also interesting that our great grandmother whose house we live in and whose bean pots and roll pans we used, lived most of her later life in Barbados, West Indies. I even have a glass rum jug of hers with basketry wound around it. I often wondered about why she would go to the West Indies from Boston area. Perhaps it was the baked bean/molasses/rum connection. By 1783 there were 63 rum distilleries around Boston area. With often a surplus of molasses, the baked beans became a way in every household, a substitute for the maple syrup.

In the 1920’s Friend’s Brothers established a baked bean factory in our town Melrose placing them in cans to sell along with cans of steamed brown bread. Even with the factory in Melrose, my mother still made the beans and rolls from scratch. The piccalilli, green tomato relish, however, was locally made and eaten.

The franks when she could get them, were Maple Leaf a Canadian brand from Nova Scotia, grilled in a black cast iron frying pan. Even though both parents were immigrants from Nova Scotia, my mother especially needed the continual connection in any way she could get it. The rolls were from a recipe passed down from generations on her mother’s side. She began making rolls on Saturday morning as well, putting bowl of covered dough on the hot water radiator under the kitchen window to rise. When puffed she punched them down and when risen again she turned them into light balls of dough, stuffing them in rows into my great grandmother’s metal baking pan, placing them in the oven to bake to a soft light brown.

I can still smell Saturday night’s meal and wonder why I have not continued tradition. But you know, I found the old pot, the recipe, some beans, even salt pork, and am making some today for history’s and Mom's sake. Besides, I too will try not working on Sunday, for the blog and God’s sake.
Exodus 20:8-11

Sunday, August 19, 2007

County Fair

Mother Hildegard and 4-H Lama’s heading to the fair

“You’re always busy,” said my husband. It’s true. I am busy most of the time. There are so many things I want to get done. But a week like this, when I go around in circles or backwards with constant distractions and interruptions and the computer loses all that I worked on for a day, shows me that life is very much more than just getting things done. So we took off a day and went to the San Juan County Fair.

Two days before, I headed down to the ferry dock on fair entry day see the entries and wish them well. A long line of cars and trucks waited with excited, dressed up 4-H’ers and their projects and animals. In the overflow lane were Mother Hildegard’s lama mobile filled with lamas, and more trucks and trailer with alpacas and Cotswold sheep. Mother Hildegard, with a doctorate in child an adolescent psychology using animals in therapy runs the 4-H Lama club.

I was excited to get there myself to see how they fared with ribbons galore. We watched the animal trials as each 4-H islander showed their animals with much patience and connection. It was fun to visit the live stock tents and talk to our island children
We sampled the fair food, listened to the music and performers, checked out the vendor stalls and visited booths of vegetables, flowers, arts and crafts and fiber arts, sheep to shawl. But the most fun was the daily 3:30 pm chicken and rabbit races. They were started many years ago by a former WSU extension agent Burrell Osburn. People just show up with their rabbit or chicken, a race or two for each, huddle in the inner circle and when the race starts, let go. The object of the race is a prize for the first, second third bird or animal to go over white chalked line of the outer concentric circle. The chickens or rabbits did not know about any prize. They had no goal except what rabbits and chickens always do, obedience to God's call to be fruitful and multiply. It was very funny to watch.

I think the chicken and rabbit race was much like my week, from the human prospective not fruitful. I would just get an inch away from the goal and give up or get shut down. I would end up going backwards and starting over again from where I began. I would wander around, get distracted and again never get to the goal or sometimes just sit there stuck, frustrated, not going anywhere. But then, perhaps this is just what I needed to see this week, to look at myself from a broader perspective, rabbits, chickens and crowd. I ask God to change my goals and instead to trust His rule over my life especially when frustrated. I ask him to help me be His idea of fruitful (in dependence on Him receiving the fruit of the spirit, patience and joy being two of them), and to continue to enjoy life, the perspective that going to the fair provided.
Galatians 5:22-23

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Shaw Island Classic in the haze

When you wake from sleep to a long muffled ferry horn blast, raise your head up off the pillow to look out the window and can’t see beyond the patio stone, it is fog.
Fog lay out over the land and sea as we packed our car to take our guests to the early morning ferry. The field came into sight before we left, and as we passed the bay to the ferry, the grey dissipated to reveal hazy boat shapes silently sitting it out. The skies cleared in time for the ferry to arrive, load and take off and in time for the two annual races around Shaw, the Round Shaw Row and the Shaw Island Classic.

Our guests came to conduct an important Friday night meeting and I cooked up some of the salmon caught last week for dinner. The meeting was a gathering of our community of believers to call a pastor and begin a church. Many, including myself, have been praying for this for over 25 years.

Sometimes the fog comes without warning of a ferry boat blast. It is then that years of fog become such a way of life you don’t realize it could be different. In a book I have been reading, Heaven1, there is a reference to Florence Chadwick in 1952 who tried to swim between Catalina Island and the California mainland. It was a cold and foggy day and she swam for fifteen hours before giving up, just a half mile from her destination. “All I could see was the fog…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.” Fog is like waiting on the Lord. You pray, and it seems nothing happens. Only when the fog lifts do you see what clouded eyes obstruct.

The fog lifted enough to see the Lord had indeed brought a pastor in our midst. But the fog covered once again when we realized the impossibility of calling a pastor without a church structure and with such a diversity of opinions and desires in our group. But God is a God of the impossible, always working behind the scenes, desiring this more than us. The meeting was clouded, with everyone having a say, and at the very end many had given up hope, amongst confusion and frustration. Several, however, in faith, were quietly praying and claiming God’s faithfulness and Christ’s desire to build the church, believing “we would see the glory of God.”2 The cloud lifted and by a miracle of God, His Holy Spirit unity prevailed, the sun came out and we called a pastor for this new church on our island.

I hope that in this new beginning, as we awake each day, we recognize the fog covering, keep our eyes on the shore, and trust God. Learning from Shaw race participants, and Florence Chadwick, we will to continue to press on.. “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”3

Heaven, Randy Alcorn, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 2004, page xx
John 11:40
Hebrews 12:1,2

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Some of you waited for my blog this week. My computer lost my password (continuing the theme last week). I depend on it to remember and place the password on the line when I try to log onto my angelambryant account with my user ID. Because I can’t depend on myself to remember, I stow the password in a little black box in the islands and I won’t be able to dig it out until I get back there. So I wait.

Waiting seems to be the theme this week, starting with two days at Seattle airports. I volunteered to help gather high school friends at SEATAC, dine with them, and head them on the ferry to Bainbridge for their annual gathering. I did it for the fun of catching up while waiting for five separate friends to appear from across the country at the baggage terminal. The five hours waiting went quickly.

The next day we sat in the waiting room of the other “airport”, Kenmore Air, to take a floatplane to fish in British Columbia. The socked in Seattle cloud cover delayed take off for an hour and a half, so I read the book I brought, Full Moon Flood Tides, about the history of the places and people of the Inside Passage where we headed to fish. We had a beautiful ride once out of Seattle, flying over the islands heading north to Nanaimo, stopping at customs, waiting for fuel and slow passengers taking potty breaks and getting a snack and drink. We headed over Johnstone Straight to our destination, Berry Island and Farewell Harbour resort. The pilot made a “hot dog” landing confirmed by everyone waiting for us at the resort, bumping in at tree height.

There was no waiting to go out fishing upon landing, as the 2:00 fishing time was in a few minutes. Neil and I quickly went to the resort store, filled out our three day fishing license, put it around our neck, donned our borrowed yellow rubber overalls and orange float jackets and headed for the boat with guide waiting. The windy beauty of the afternoon, watching whales and the tip of the rod, and waiting for the fish to bite anchovy bait landed us two pinks or humpies the first day fishing.

While sitting, watching and waiting, I thought about the history of these islands here off the coast of Northern Vancouver Island. The book I finished talked about how many of the first settlers were loggers or fisherman, same as today. They built their homes on a float and waited for the Full Moon Flood Tide to come in order to plant their home on the high beach until the next summer when they could move on again if the lumber or fish were better elsewhere. They say the salmon come in from the ocean on the full moon tide. You catch the springs on the slack tide stated the book. Just days past full moon, with hope we fished for pinks and springs. You could see the plentiful resident “pinks” or humpies jump as the tide brought them up against the “wall” side of Parsons Island. In the early morning of the last day, wanting to sleep in and work on my blog, but thankfully being persuaded to go, I caught the 18 pound spring, (chinook or king) by Flower Island. What fun but hard work. My arms and legs were sore and weak and shaky afterwards as it took about 15 minutes bringing it in with periods of letting go and letting it run and starting all over again to pull it in as it fought all the way. The cheering team kept me going. My mom always said, “The best comes for those who wait.” That “best” salmon was worth the wait and a sucessful trip.

After everyone else left on their boats and planes to go home, we had an hour before Kenmore arrived, so we decided to counteract the sitting and waiting around, with exercise, a walk on the wooded marked trail in back of the cabins. I forgot a cell phone and a map. What we thought was a one mile circular trail was really 4+ miles and a lot uphill and down. My legs and arms were still weak and burning from bracing myself while pulling in the spring and I was getting tired. After 45 minutes walking we came to a red ribbon with no more ribbon in view anywhere around. We spent about 10 minutes trying to find the trail to no avail thinking it was a circular trail not a dead end. I had been singing “You are Lord of creation and Lord of my life, Lord of the land and the sea,” off and on all the way, remembering the fish I caught. When we realized we were lost and tired and would miss our plane we started to pray for wisdom and direction. We “waited on the Lord” so He would “renew our strength” to get back. Since we would miss our plane no matter what with another 45 minutes back, and knowing that only by God’s grace and a late plane would we get off this island for a while, we hastened back the way we came. This time I sang “Great is Thy faithfulness” along the way as much to ward off the bears as to convince myself of God’s faithfulness to the lost, to those who ask, to those who reach out to him for help and direction. We got back an hour late for the plane and found that not only had it not shown up, no one had heard from it or cared. We praised God for His grace while waiting another hour for it to come and pick us up and bring us back to Seattle, extremely thankful for the delay.

1. Isaiah 40:31