The Ladies' Tea Guild

Monday, May 28, 2012

Golden Gate National Cemetery, So. San Francisco, CA.

While the main conflicts of the Civil War occurred far away from San Jose, California did participate in the fighting, with local skirmishes between Union and Confederate sympathizers.  California was split between North and South in its sympathies, with more Confederate sympathy in southern California, and more Union sympathy in the North.  Since the gold fields were in Northern California, the Union received large donations of California gold, which greatly supported the war effort.  California’s brand-new state legislature also sent multiple companies of men to serve in the Union army, most ending up replacing more experienced soldiers stationed at army forts in the Midwest, but several seeing action on the front lines by joining up with Massachusetts and other Northern states’ militias.  The conflict split the nation in more ways than one, and the scars from those wounds are still sore in some areas of the U.S.!

Union reenactor. Bill Longshaw,
Memorial Day was introduced in the 1870s to honor all those who were lost in the Civil War, and to help re-unite the nation by honoring both Union and Confederate soldiers.  The story goes that so many Confederate and Union soldiers were buried in mass graves on the battlefields in the South, that the local women couldn't decorate the grave for the Confederates without also honoring the Union soldiers buried with them.  Many Confederate and Union soldiers never returned home for burial, and women began to place flowers on the graves of all the soldiers, in the hope that their loved ones' graves, far away from home, would be treated with the same kindness.  The custom was publicized by the media, and spread throughout the country.  It has since been expanded into a holiday for honoring all U.S. soldiers, especially those who died defending the United States. San Jose’s Oak Hill cemetery has its own collection of local Civil War heroes, but since all veterans are honored on Memorial Day, all local cemeteries will be decorated with American flags for the holiday.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons. 
Hopefully you've all been able to enjoy a parade, memorial ceremony, or cemetery visit on this solemn holiday.  Memorial Day weekend is also a popular date for Civil War reenactments; that reminds me -- I haven't been to a reenactment in years, and I need to attend one soon!  Maybe later this summer.  One thing I will be doing today is try out some post-Civil War-era recipes.  There are so many great antique cookbooks and domestic handbooks on Google Books and other similar websites, and they date from the 1700s (or even earlier!) through the 1950s.  Here are some interesting recipes from Mrs. Trowbridge's Excelsior Cook Book and Housekeeper's Aid, published in New York in 1870.

Chop up cold beef or veal; season with pepper and salt, adding a piece of butter, and gravy, if you have it, if not, pour in a little water; then put on a covering of mashed potatoes, and bake three quarters of an hour.

One tea-cup of sugar, half a cup of butter; stir to a cream, then add half a cup of milk and one cupful of flour; stir well, and add a grated lemon, and two eggs beat to a froth, then add another cup of flour, and lastly, add half a tea-spoonful of soda.

Take a piece of butter the size of a hen’s egg, one cup of sugar, one cup of sweet milk, two eggs beat to a froth, two tea-spoonfuls of cream of tartar; mix well together; then stir in two and a half tea-cupfuls of sifted flour; lastly a tea-spoonful of soda; stir well, and bake in a moderate oven, and you will have a cheap and excellent cake.  If you like, you can use a cup of sour milk instead of sweet; in that case no cream of tartar will be required.  Add spice if you like.

I can't quite figure out what makes the above recipes "Union" or "Lincoln," but they could just be existing recipes that have been re-named to commemorate the conflict.  This cookbook from New York also contained several recipes for corn bread, Johnny cakes, gumbo, okra, and other traditionally Southern foods.  I'll have to look up some Southern cookbooks and see if they have similar recipes, re-named for Confederate heroes, or using typically Northern ingredients.  It's interesting to see how cookbooks reflect the spirit of the times!

For more information:
Roaring Camp 31st Annual Civil War Reenactment
“Memorial Day San Jose 2012: fireworks, runs, walks, swims, festivals and more” 
"Take your tea into one of San Jose's gardens"
“The Elixir of the South: sweet tea”
“Memorial Day in San Jose calls for iced tea”
“5 teas for San Jose’s beer fans”
“Barbecue with tea for Labor Day”
1943 Victory Cake recipe

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)