I’m developing my fourth novel, set after World War I, and as always, interested in finding out what people were eating. Here’s some of the new foods on the market and around town. In some cases, the dates are the appearance of a food in a major cookbook.
1914: Chicken fried steak, fettuccine Alfredo
1915: Hush puppies, peanut butter cookies
1916: Apple crisp
1917: Icebox cake, black cow, Moon Pies, Marshmallow Fluff, and 55 Ways to Save Eggs
1918: Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook
1919: Hostess Cup Cakes, chocolate truffles
1920’s: Comes the explosion: Egg creams, chiffon pie, Eskimo Pie, Good Humor ice creams, Yoo-hoo, cube steak, Wonderbread, zucchini (in the U.S.) Vegemite, Girl Scout cookies,Texas hot weiners, Kool-Aid, Jujyfruit, Twinkies, Jiffy, Heinz 57, Gerber’s, dry soup mix, cheese puffs, Vidalia onions, Frisbie Pies, tacos (in LA), sliced bread.
Which of these wonderful inventions are you most grateful for?
In research for my next book, I was looking for early 20th C magazines accepting fiction from unknowns. The American Magazine read submissions blind, and published many new writers along with some of the great writers of the day: Sherwood Anderson, Graham Greene, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Upton Sinclair, etc. And they neatly answered vexing questions, like “Why men drink.” But alas, I can’t see page 22. Apparently it has to do with little cannons . . .
I’m happy to share our first blurbs from advance copies of my coming-in-May third novel, Under the Same Blue Sky.
“From the smoke-filled streets of Pittsburgh to the war-ravaged landscape of Europe, Under the Same Blue Sky is the story of one woman’s wonderfully determined journey through a world at the edge of war to seek her family’s past and her own future.”—Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye
“The past returns in this story of the Great War, to tell of some who survived and some who didn’t. Hazel Renner is a hesitant healer, a young woman afraid of her gift. When the power to cure physical ailments deserts her, she tries instead to mend the human spirit. Rich in historical detail, this novel describes what it is to be gentle in a world gone terribly mad.” —Rita Legansky, author of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow
Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree
Preparing for a workshop on dialogue writing (2/28 in Knoxville), I’ve taken a wild detour into Tom Swifties, the fabulously inventive construction used by Dickens and perfected in the Tom Swift book series (1910 and onward) in which dialogue tags get subsumed into outrageous puns. There are hundreds, and hundreds more you can create with a few friends and some wine. Not that they’re recommended for high-style literary fiction, but they sure are fun. For more about the workshop (not Swifties), click here.
“I’ll have a martini,” Tom said dryly.
“That’s the last time I’ll stick my arm in a lion’s mouth,” the lion-tamer said off-handedly.
“I might as well be dead,” Tom croaked.
“They amputated at both ankles,” said Tom defeatedly.
“There’s room for one more,” he admitted.
“I gave him an haircut,” Tom said barbarously.
“I’m losing my hair,” Tom bawled.
“That is a whole lot of hay,” Tom said balefully.
“Now what did I want at the grocery store?” Tom asked listlessly.
“There must have been a power failure,” Tom said delightedly.
“I need a pencil sharpener,” Tom said bluntly.
“We have cause for a mutiny,” Tom said bountifully.
“Use your own toothbrush,” Tom bristled.
“It’s midnight,” Tom chimed.
“I find you guilty,” the judge said with conviction.
“But I didn’t go to Egypt,” said Tom, deep in denial.
“April was terrible and next month will be worse,” said Tom in dismay.
Here’s a winter chowder culled and modified from several sources that can warm you while writing or whatever.
Squash and Cod Chowder
4 strips bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 sweet pepper (whatever color you like) chopped
1/2 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 T flour
1 tsp thyme
salt & pepper
3 1/2 C vegetable broth
1 bottle (8 oz) clam juice
1 lb cod fillet, cut in pieces
handful of peeled shrimp
1/2 C half & half
1 T butter
A dash of white wine wouldn’t hurt anybody
paprika/thyme/parsley for decoration.
So . . . saute the bacon until almost crisp. Then add garlic, onion, celery, and sweet pepper. Saute until softened. Add the squash and potato. Stir. Sprinkle in flour, stir for about a minute. Add bay leaf, thyme, broth and clam juice. Simmer until squash is nearly tender.
Add cod and shrimp. Simmer, covered, for about 4 minutes. It can sit and mind its own business for a bit. When ready to serve, remove bay leaf, add the half & half, butter, wine if desired, heat to simmer, season to taste. Sprinkle on your herb of choice and serve.
Checking for the year of the song “Dixie,” I came upon the remarkable fact that the original conceit of this minstrel song was that a freed slave is pining for the land of his birth and servitude. Huh? I always assumed it was a transplanted white Southerner. Yes, nostalgia is powerful, but still . . .
Yet more discoveries in Wikipedialand: There were campfire parody versions: “Pork and cabbage in the pot, / It goes in cold and comes out hot.” And Union versions:
- On! ye patriots to the battle,
- Hear Fort Moultrie’s cannon rattle!
- Then away, then away, then away to the fight!
- Go meet those Southern traitors,
- With iron will.
- And should your courage falter, boys,
- Remember Bunker Hill.
- Hurrah! Hurrah! The Stars and Stripes forever!
- Hurrah! Hurrah! Our Union shall not sever!
Despite the hard-to-fathom sense of the original (Did buckwheat cakes and ‘Injun batter’ really make fat slaves?), one can see why the Union song never made it to the big time, and why Abraham Lincoln made a point of having the original “Dixie” sung by is army band as soon as the war was over. It’s a great song, greater than its benighted conceit.
During My research for Under the Same Blue Sky on shell shock (PTSD) in World War I uncovered constant references to generals and politicians being themselves shocked, shocked by the number of afflicted soldiers. Really? You send men into battle, enduring horrific conditions, and expect all roses and tra-la? A recent article by James Gallagher in the BBC Health News points to instances of PTSD recorded 3000 years ago. Here’s the article.
Post-traumatic shock “evident 1300 years ago
The team at Anglia Ruskin University analysed translations from ancient Iraq or Mesopotamia. Accounts of soldiers being visited by “ghosts they faced in battle” fitted with a modern diagnosis of PTSD. The condition was likely to be as old as human civilisation, the researchers concluded.
Prof Jamie Hacker Hughes, a former consultant clinical psychologist for the Ministry of Defence, said the first description of PTSD was often accredited to the Greek historian Herodotus. Referring to the warrior Epizelus during the battle of Marathon in 490BC he wrote: “He suddenly lost sight of both eyes, though nothing had touched him.” But Prof Hughes’ report – titled Nothing New Under the Sun – argues there are references in the Assyrian Dynasty in Mesopotamia between 1300BC and 609BC.
In that era men spent a year being toughened up by building roads, bridges and other projects, before spending a year at war and then returning to their families for a year before starting the cycle again.
Prof Hughes told the BBC News website: “The sorts of symptoms after battle were very clearly what we would call now post-traumatic stress symptoms. “They described hearing and seeing ghosts talking to them, who would be the ghosts of people they’d killed in battle – and that’s exactly the experience of modern-day soldiers who’ve been involved in close hand-to-hand combat.”
A diagnosis and understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder emerged after the Vietnam War. It was dismissed as shell shock in World War One. Prof Hughes said: “As long as there has been civilisation and as long as there has been warfare, there has been post-traumatic symptoms. It’s not a 21st Century thing.”