Pepper Pot Soup is also called the “soup that won the war.” That would be the Revolutionary War. On December 29, 1777, the Continental Army was freezing in camp at Valley Forge. Conditions were terrible and the army lacked sufficient warm clothing, medicines, and especially food. Fearing for both his men’s health and morale, General Washington instructed the Baker General, Christopher Ludwick, to use whatever food he could find to make a meal sufficient to feed all in the camp.
Ludwick was an interesting character, born in Germany in 1720, who ended up in Philadelphia where he started a bakery, gingerbread and confectionary business. The Continental Congress appointed him Baker General to the American army. Ludwick supplied bread for the army, baking as many as 6,000 pounds of bread in one day. Washington relied on his advice and sought him out regarding the provisioning of the army.
Perhaps Ludwick was just close at hand on the 29th of December, 1777. Or maybe he was the only person with some culinary experience in that dreadfully cold and desperate place. Washington asked Ludwick to provide sustenance that would warm the bodies and revive the spirits of a beleaguered army. The Baker General searched the area for scraps of meat, tripe, whatever else was available, and acquired some peppercorns. All the ingredients went into the pot, simmering into a thick mixture of nutrition and spice. It became known as Pepper Pot Soup – the soup that won the war, a tradition that is still observed today by those who remember the story.
You can give a gift to the National Heritage Corridor this year by reducing your carbon footprint during the holiday season. Consider these suggestions:
Purchase recycled gift wrap. You can identify it by the triangular “recycled” logo.
Reuse gift paper that was carefully unwrapped and saved. An iron set on the lowest temperature can make paper wrap look new.
Make your own paper. This is a great project for kids. Reuse brown paper bags and decorated with paintings, drawings, stamping or glue and glitter.
Use wallpaper left over from a home improvement project. A leftover quarter roll can provide sturdy coverage of items that poke through thinner papers.
Use a basket. It’s a great way to present a gift and it can be reused by the recipient.
Instead of bubble pack or Styrofoam peanuts (made from benzene – bad stuff!) recycle used paper through a document shredder to produce your own packing materials. Or fill a box with air-popped popcorn.
Recycle holiday cards you received last year into gift tags.
Use environmentally-friendly tape like Scotch Magic Greener Tape made from 65% renewable or recycled materials. It’s photo safe and non-yellowing.
Place your gifts in a reusable shopping bag that the recipient can use over and over.
Let the gift be the wrapping! Gardening supplies can be presented in a watering can or bucket, for example. A kitchen towel or napkin can become the wrap for a culinary gift.
December 21st is the winter solstice but it is also the 413th birthday of Roger Williams (1603). Known for founding what would become the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Williams was a man who believed in the separation of church and state, and in the inherent right to religious freedom.
Roger Williams spent most of his life trying to develop strong bonds with the Algonquian-speaking people of southern New England, particularly the Wampanoags and the Narragansetts. The Narragansetts deeded him the land which became Providence. Williams studied their language and those of associated tribes and published A Key into the Language of America in 1643.
After founding the new colony of Providence, Williams and his friends established a society where all religions were tolerated, where Quakers, Baptists, Jews and others were welcome to live according to their traditions. A century later, the idea of a separation of church and state would be incorporated into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Roger Williams also founded the first Baptist church in America.
Visit the Roger Williams National Memorial at 282 North Main Street in Providence and learn more about this fascinating visionary.
On night flights into Green Airport from the south and west, the contrast is amazingly clear. How the glow from urban centers, shopping plazas, industrial parks and suburban housing projects light up the landscape like uniformly placed holiday ornaments. How that glow intensifies in major metropolitan areas. And how suddenly it is gone as one looks to the north across rural landscapes and protected open spaces. That’s the dark sky country where one can do some serious star gazing.
There will be a great show in the night sky this week, weather permitting. The Geminids Meteor Shower starts slowly in early December but is expected to peak on the December 13th and 14th. After midnight, showers of shooting starts will occur until dawn in the northeastern sky at a rate of 50-80 per hour. That’s a spectacular show.
The Geminids seem to emanate from the constellation Gemini, near the stars Castor and Pollux. Trace a shooting star back to its point of origin and see if it falls in this sector to verify you are viewing the Geminids.
I always think of my Mom this time of year. She used to start writing notes to friends and addressing Christmas cards the first week in December. She had the most beautiful handwriting, having been schooled in the Palmer Method. Even her quick “scribbling” was an attractive conglomeration of swoops and flourishes.
The history of the National Heritage Corridor is captured in small details by letters written over the centuries and carefully preserved by families, historical societies and museums. I wonder how the history of our new 21st century will be preserved. The handwritten letter has become an object of art, as well a document, a rarity in this day of texts, emails, blogs, electronic postings and printer-generated communications. None of those emails or texts will be carefully bound with a ribbon and packed away for their memories.
Handwriting itself is fast becoming a thing of the past. Almost no one writes in a cursive hand any more. Whether graceful or blocky, beautiful or illegible, each person’s handwriting is so distinctive. We give up a part of our identity when we opt for the speed and immediacy of a machine.
The handwritten letter has become the dinosaur of communication. Why? It takes time and care to write a proper letter. There is a cost involved for stationery and postage. Most of all, handwritten notes lack the immediate effect of emails. That’s regrettable because emails are notoriously poorly written and not deserving of the status of historic document.
As it happens, December is Write a Friend Month, highlighted by National Letter Writing Day on December 7th. I think this provides a nice incentive to create our holiday communications manually. Think of the future historians in the National Heritage Corridor who will thank you.