Tag Archives: Wine tasting descriptors

Ties to the Past~Succotash and Sage

During my vast research for historicals set in early America I came across a wealth of plant lore and recipes.  An avid gardener, I love to grow herbs, heirloom flowers and vegetables. To see, smell, touch and taste the same plants known to my ancestors is a rich connection to those who’ve gone before me.  A common thread in my work, whether writing straight historical or paranormal romance is my passion for the past.

The following early American recipes are lifted from a slim volume I picked up at the nearby Museum of Frontier Culture located outside of historic Staunton Virginia in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley where my family has lived for several hundred years.  By ‘frontier’ they mean colonial.  At one time, the valley and mountains were the colonial frontier, the setting for my new release colonial Native American Romance Novel Red Bird’s Song.

From The Good Land: Native American and Early Colonial Food by Patricia B. Mitchell


“To make your own Indian style succotash, combine equal parts cooked red or kidney beans and cooked whole kernel corn. Season to taste with salt and pepper, butter or margarine (or bacon drippings)  and  heat.

Historically speaking, succotash is the forerunner of the popular Southern ‘Big-pot’ combination of vegetables and meats known as Brunswick stew. (Incidentally, boiled soup was typical Indian fare.  The Iroquois served soup at almost every meal. Each person had his own spoon and wooden bowl, and when invited to eat with a friend, he took along his own utensil and bowl.)

Sage is indigenous to the North shore of the Mediterranean, but when the Europeans brought it and other herbs here, the Indians were quick to investigate the new plants. They found sage useful as a curative for ‘a host of ills.'”

*The colonists were equally eager for the plants/herbal knowledge shared with them by the Native Americans.

Recipe for Old Sage Cornmeal Scones:

2 cups yellow cornmeal, 2 cups whole wheat flour,  Tab. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 3/4 tsp. sage, 3 Tabs. vegetable oil, 3 tsp. honey, 1 1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk

Combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl mix the liquids and then stir in the dry ingredients. Mix well. Using your hands, form two balls. On a level surface flatten these balls into discs about 3/4 inch thick. Cut each disk into eight wedges. Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 F. oven for about 10 minutes. Turn the scones over and bake another five minutes. Serve hot.

Old and New Quotes About Herbs & Gardens.

‘Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun,
and with him rise weeping.’ ~ Shakespeare, Winter’s Tale

If you set it,
the cats will eat it,
If you sow it,
the cats don’t know it.
~Philip Miller, The Gardener’s Dictionary, Referring to Catnip

Salt is a preservative. It really holds flavor. For example, if you chop up some fresh herbs, or even just garlic, the salt will extract the moisture and preserve the flavor. ~ Sally Schneider

The Herbs ought to be distilled when they are in their greatest vigor, and so ought the Flowers also. ~Nicholas Culpeper

The intense perfumes of the wild herbs as we trod them underfoot made us feel almost drunk. ~Jacqueline du Pre

I plant rosemary all over the garden, so pleasant is it to know that at every few steps one may draw the kindly branchlets through one’s hand, and have the enjoyment of their incomparable incense; and I grow it against walls, so that the sun may draw out its inexhaustible sweetness to greet me as I pass ….
–  Gertrude Jekyll

“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you: and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays. O! you must wear your rue with a difference.  There’s a daisy; I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.” ~Shakespeare, Hamlet

Thine eyes are springs in whose serene And silent waters heaven is seen. Their lashes are the herbs that look On their young figures in the brook. ~William C. Bryant

Waters are distilled out of Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, and Roots.
~Nicholas Culpeper

“We have finally started to notice that there is real curative value in local herbs and remedies. In fact, we are also becoming aware that there are little or no side effects to most natural remedies, and that they are often more effective than Western medicine.”  ~Anne Wilson Schaef

The basil tuft, that waves
Its fragrant blossom over graves.
~Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookhm, Light of the Harem

“The herb that can’t be got is the one that heals.” ~ Irish Saying

See how Aurora throws her fair Fresh-quilted colours through the air: Get up, sweet-slug-a-bed, and see The dew-bespangling herb and tree. ~ Herrick, Robert ~Corinna’s Going a Maying

As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not
only because my bees love it but because it is the herb
sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a
sprig of it hath a dumb language.
–  Sir Thomas Moore

Eat leeks in oile and ramsines in May,
And all the year after physicians may play.
(Ramsines were old-fashioned broad-leafed leeks.)

My gardens sweet, enclosed with walles strong, embarked with benches to sytt and take my rest. The Knotts so enknotted, it cannot be exprest. With arbours and alys so pleasant and so dulce, the pestylant ayers with flavours to repulse. ~Thomas Cavendish, 1532.

When daisies pied and violets blue, and lady-smocks all silver white. And Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue, do paint the meadows with delight. ~ William Shakespeare, 1595.

Women with child that eat quinces will bear wise children. ~Dodoens, 1578.

Gardening with herbs, which is becoming increasingly popular, is indulged in by those who like subtlety in their plants in preference to brilliance.
–   Helen Morgenthau Fox

And because the Breath of Flowers is farre Sweeter in the Aire (where it comes and Gose, like the Warbling of Musick) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for delight, than to know what be the Flowers and the Plants that doe best perfume the Aire. ~ Francis Bacon, 1625

Caesar….saith, that all the Britons do colour themselves with Woad, which giveth a blew colour… John Gerard, 1597

You have got to own your days and live them, each one of them, every one of them, or else the years go right by and none of them belong to you. ~Herb Gardner

Once you get people laughing, they’re listening and you can tell them almost anything. ~ Herb Gardner

Would You Marry Me?
“According to old wives’ tales, borage was sometimes
smuggled into the drink of  prospective husbands
to give them the courage to propose marriage.”
–  Mary Campbell, A Basket of Herbs

As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul.
–  Anonymous

As for the garden of mint, the very smell of it alone recovers and refreshes our spirits, as the taste stirs up our appetite for meat. ~   Pliny the Elder

How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers?
–  Andrew Marvel

How I would love to be transported into a scented
Elizabethan garden with herbs and honeysuckles,  a knot garden and roses clambering over a simple arbor …. ~Rosemary Verey

With holly and ivy,
So green and so gay,
We deck up our houses
As fresh as the day,
With bays, and rosemary,
And laurel complete;
And every one now
Is a king in conceit. ~Poor Robins Almanac, 1695

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance;
pray, love, remember; and there is pansies,
that’s for thoughts.
–    Shakespeare, Hamlet

The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby – how could anything so beautiful be mine.  And this emotion of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year.  There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.
Alice B. Toklas

Southern Spicy Gingerbread


We got hit by cold, lashing winds and rain here in the valley this week. The sun is struggling to emerge from behind a veil of gray clouds and the air still nippy this morning.  Which puts me in the mood for comfort food.  With the holidays fast approaching,  gingerbread comes to mind.  This recipe is from an old fashioned cookbook called Charleston Receipts that my mom bought eons ago on a family outing to Charleston.  I love  old Southern recipes, probably because I’m from the South, although I make some modifications to reduce the fat.

Southern Spicy Gingerbread:

2 eggs

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup dark molasses

3/4 cup shortening or 1/2 cup butter (I have used 1/2 cup oil)

2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup boiling water

2 tsps baking soda

2 tsps ginger

1 1/2 tsps cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp baking powder

Add beaten egg to sugar, molasses and melted shortening (or butter, or oil) and beat well.

Add dry ingredients which have been mixed, then the boiling water.  Stir well and pour into shallow

greased pan, (sheet cake size or a smaller depending on how tall you want the gingerbread).

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Serve with lemon sauce or whipped cream.  We use the canned lemon pie filling.

I often make this for my husband’s birthday, but was remiss this year so I owe him one. 🙂

While I’m on the subject of food, I am one of the authors with a recipe in the cookbook put together by The Wild Rose Press.  For a FREE download of the cookbook, go to The Wild Rose Press and look at the upper right hand corner of the home page.  They’re also offering a spiral bound version for sale at:


It’s entitled: 2009 Garden Gourmet

Scented Waxed Pine Cones

Contributed By Pamela Roller

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, consider making scented waxed pine cones to use with your kindling to start your fires. When burned, the cones send a delightful scent throughout the room. Create for your personal use or give as a lovely gift.

Gather together:
–Pine cones—size doesn’t matter as long as they can be totally immersed in the melted wax. The usual size is three to five inches.
–Three or four bars of paraffin wax (available at craft stores) – see the notes at the end of this article about the use of paraffin wax.
–A double boiler (or an empty metal coffee can large enough to dip the pine cones in
–Wax candle coloring agent (available at craft stores)
–Essential oil of choice. Be sure you are buying a genuine essential oil or you won’t have much scent.
–Waxed paper

1. Melt wax in the double boiler or empty metal coffee can placed in a pan of simmering water on LOW heat (the can is preferable because you can just throw it in the recycle bin when you’re done and the wax has cooled).
2. Add the wax candle coloring agent until you get the color you like.
3. Add one or more droppers of desired essential oil until the scent is to your liking.
4. Using tongs, dip each pine cone into the wax to coat. Lift the cone and allow it to drip off excess. Place upright on waxed paper and allow to dry. Drying completely will help the next coat stick to it.
5. Dip repeatedly, drying between coats, until you are satisfied with the thickness (usually three or four coats will suffice). Too many coats will make the pine cone lose its detail and it may end up looking like a waxed lump, so use your judgment on thickness.
6. When completely dry, place the cones in a basket by the hearth or give as a gift.

Notes and hints:
Wax must remain completely melted during the dipping process or it will cause a dull, lumpy finish on the cones.
Leftover wax may be reused—just cover the can with a lid or foil when cool.
Paraffin wax is flammable. Keep the heat low, check the simmering water often, and don’t allow wax to drip onto the burner. In case of fire, turn off the heat and then place a wet, wrung-out cloth over the wax container. DO NOT throw water on the burning wax.
When using the cones in the fireplace, place a screen in front of the fire.

Suggested colors and scents:
Red wax with cinnamon oil, clove, or cranberry
Green with oil of balsam
White with vanilla oil
Pink with rose oil

©Pamela Roller