The Fitful Flog

Wayback Machine

¶ Sarah Hawk Wade’s Applesauce Cake

From an index card, dated in the 1920s,
in her daughter’s, Anna Wade Haglind’s handwriting.

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup shortening
2 cups Hot Apple Sauce
3½ cups Flour
3 teaspoons Soda
1 square grated chocolate
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (small) teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup nuts
1 cup raisins
3 eggs
1 cup currants
1 cup dried apricots
½ cup citron

Bake slowly 1 hour.

The great-grandson notes:

  • that she specifies “granulated” sugar testifies to the great age of this recipe.
  • the square of chocolate is unsweetened Baker’s chocolate and is sine qua non here. You can speed up the process by melting the chocolate in the applesauce. One square equals one ounce.
  • two modern eggs will approximate three 1920s eggs.
  • the apricots and citron should be sliced small; the apricots should be added to the batter and the citron should be carefully and tastefully flung out the window — it’s better that way.
  • “slowly” means 325° F.
  • “currants” mean dried currants, zante, not real red or black currants. Golden raisins, I believe, are traditional, as are black walnuts. But work with what you’ve got.

¶ The Payphone in the Hall

This sonnet came up recently during a conversation about how today’s youth don’t have a referent for the term, payphone. (Or landlines, for that matter. My niece, during a visit a few years ago, asked to use a phone to call a friend and we offered her the phone in my office. She came out a few seconds later, flustered and chagrined, asking for a phone, “with buttons on it.” She’d never seen a rotary dial before and didn’t know how to operate it.) The poem conflates at least three different women who lived upstairs from me in college. And I didn’t really care about Jane-Margaret dating older men — I was more concerned with my then girlfriend dating older men. Those jackasses had money and I didn’t.

Jane-Margaret Norris blows her saxophone
And doesn’t hear me call her name sometimes
Inside the unswept stairwell where I climb
Off glassy walls of artificial stone
Her tenor blues swing to the telephone
Receiver’s syncopation. It’s no crime
I know — she loves oolong, the dark sublime
And older men. I’d rather be alone
Than ask — it’s me she asks to shave
Her neck or rub her horny waitress feet
To tell her tales of princes, rakes and knaves
While she sips gin on fresh and coarsened sheets
And when she leaves for good and all, she’ll take
The only sixteen bars she couldn’t fake

¶ Sometime in the 1930s, I expect

A family recipe for penuche — a very odd one, too. Penuche, all over the US, means brown-sugar fudge and in New England, maple-sugar fudge. This recipe, however, uses white sugar and then caramelizes it — it’s really a Midwestern approximation of leche quemada, a Mexican burnt milk fudge. Traditionally, hickory nuts are the nuts of choice. The voice here is my father’s.

The Otwell Recipe for Penuche

I don’t know where this recipe came from originally, but it is the one that was used by my mother and my Aunt Lucy, and it tastes different from (and better than, in my opinion) any other penuche I ever had.

In fact, Sally and I consider this recipe as kind of a family heirloom. At least twice, we have lost it to our great annoyance and eventually found it again. I hope by circulating copies of it that we can insure against losing it yet again.

3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup white syrup
3/4 cup sweet milk diluted with 1/4 cup water (by sweet milk is meant unsweetened evaporated milk, such as Pet milk; pure Pet milk scorches easily)
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon soda bicarbonate
Vanilla to taste

Cook to firm ball or 242 degrees. Stir while cooking. It sticks easily in the last stage.
Cool somewhat and then beat until thick. Add nuts.

The soda keeps the mix from curdling and adds color. The slower you cook, the deeper the caramel color. (Sally and I believe the soda also contributes to this recipe’s distinctive flavor.)

¶ January, 1974

If you click here and scroll down past the nine penguins — WATPD, I ask? — you’ll find a plesiosaur I taught at Florence Temko’s house when I was a mere slip of a lad. Nice to see it again and in such august company, too. It’s from a stretched bird base.

¶ Dream Log: January 11, 2003

Ma Soeur Sourire appeared to me and sang:

Tanganyika, nyika, nyika
And the isle of Zanzibar
Became something more
In 1964, without the threat of war
They’re now Tanzania
They’re now Tanzania

It was, of course, to the tune of Dominique. And I’m having trouble getting it out of my head now. I’m rather hoping it’s something I heard somewhere else once upon a time, but it does bear all the hallmarks of how the Unconscious amuses itself when the rest of me is sleeping.

I checked the date in the World Almanac and the whole of the little ditty seems to be mostly true.

¶ 12 February 1988
Lincoln’s B-day
South Deerfield, MA

A letter not about vegetables; shall wonders never cease? Colossal storm today, foot and a half of snow out there and three in the hills and more expected. We’re all snowed in today, Mary, Nina, Mary’s swain, Joseph, and Mark, a friend of my girlfriend’s who came to stay for a week or two last October. He sleeps in my closet and shows remarkably little inclination to leave. Haven’t seen my sweaters for months now. Mr. Toad, the cat, whups his sister, French Fries (the neighbor’s cat, they having gone to Florida yesterday) and Mr. McBeavy, the house rabbit, looks frantically for the library’s copy of Old Mortality, published in Leipzig in the 1840s. He (or she, we ain’t the least bit sure) has literary tastes, and the ancient binding is apparently quite delicious. Mary tells him he’s moving to Albany with her, come fall, and he chases her around the couch and bites her on the hand; honestly, the fiercest bunny in three counties. All I wanted to do was wash the dishes, undone for several days, so I could experiment with my rasam recipe. I wanted to listen to a Pete Townshend album on my head phones and just scrub away, but no, everyone wants to help all of a sudden, and suggests this and decides that and I had to keep taking off my ‘phones and listening to all this instead of Pete and I lost it. Dishes are simply something that can not be done by committee. I went upstairs, upsetting all and sundry, and folded my laundry instead. I have too many shirts, I decided. They all think I’m mad at them, but I ain’t. My back is sore from shoveling out the cars and I was trying to exert a Nietzchean will to wash. And how does one even attempt to express all this in Celsius?

¶ Emma — this version is also 1992 — was about a walk Stephen Daedalus takes across the sands from the tower to Dublin, wondering about time and contingency. The line you’re wondering about reads, “that I cannot recall your face or that I cannot lay your ghost.” Music so wishes to be heard that it sometimes calls on unlikely characters to give it voice.

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¶ I think this dates to 1992. It was from when we were working on a demo tape called, “One and One-Sixth Takes on Sticky Tape and Rust.” The ideas in the song come from Moses Maimonides and this very unpleasant woman my friend, Richard, was seeing. (This is probably still under copyright, hunh? Well, I reckon I own a chunk of it, anyhow.)

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¶ The MS says June 11, 1991, though internal evidence suggests an earlier date, when I was apparently very much concerned with lost meaning, French verse forms and weatherstripping.

Rondeau

Under the threshold, north wind blowing
Across floorboards, its frost-motes sowing
The ghosts glide in to have their wail
Tearing shrouds on rough ends and nails
To prophesy what needs no knowing

After our tea, the lamps still glowing
Your empty chair long shadows throwing
Sound eddies out on dust-clogged trails
Under the threshold

Something’s gone lost and something owing
Where more’s been said than what was showing
This time, fine words would not prevail
Their worth, just chaff before Time’s flail
To some Fools’ Limbo slowly flowing
Under the threshold

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