Phillips Library Advent Calendar, December 18

Cover, Christmas In The Olden Time by Sir Walter Scott, 1887

Cover, Christmas In The Olden Time by Sir Walter Scott, 1887

Christmas in The Olden Time, by Sir Walter Scott, was extracted from the introduction to the sixth canto of Scott’s epic poem, Marmion, about the Battle of Flodden Field (1513), during which the Scottish army fought the English.  Such introductions did not follow the subject of a canto, but provided respite for Scott and the option to write additional poetry reflecting his thoughts while composing the longer poem; this introduction reflects on times spent at Mertoun House, home to Scott’s kinsmen in Scotland. Read more

Phillips Library Advent Calendar, December 17

Bill of Fare, Christmas Dinner, December 25, 1859 Aboard the Ship Reliance

Bill of Fare, Christmas Dinner, December 25, 1859 Aboard the Ship Reliance

The life of a sailor did not always provide for the option of spending Christmas Day with his family.  Many times, sailors were away from home for several years and celebrated the holiday aboard ship.  Depending on who kept the ship’s log, Christmas Day was discussed in detail or not mentioned at all.  The Bill of Fare shown above, was penned by Freeman Pulsifer, the keeper of the log for the Ship Reliance, on its voyage from Boston to Hong Kong, via Manilla.  Christmas was celebrated on a Sunday in 1859.  The entry before the Bill of Fare reads as shown below:

Sunday Dec. 25
Christmas Day
Got up this morning at 4 oclock just about daylight.  Drew a pail of water from over the side and took a rub-down.  Notice the water a trifle cooler than a week ago.  Went to bed again and got up at 7.  did not hear any bells ring for Christmas.
Beautiful day, wish I were on shore as we do not distinguish this day here, not even We had a crushing dinner tho’ and the bill of fare annexed, will make the mouth water.

The remainder of the entry for this day consists of notes transcribed by Pulsifer from his reading of the East India Directory; he includes notes on Trade Winds, Monsoons, and Ty-foongs.

I searched several other log books to learn more about the celebration of Christmas aboard ship.  James E. Cook kept a diary aboard the bark, Houqua, as a passenger and while living in China.  His entry for Christmas, 1859, reads:

December 24:
Johnny hung up his stocking for the benefit of ‘Santa Claus.’  All the folks are well.

December 25:
Christmas Day at home.  I suppose everybody is enjoying themselves and having a good time generally.  killed a pig yesterday and had Roast Pork and Plum Pudding today for dinner.  The sailors enjoyed themselves and had something a little extra.

The entry for Christmas Day 1788 aboard the schooner Ruby, traveling between Cape Anne, Massachusetts and Martinuque reads:

At 7 caught a Dolphin and him him for Cristmest Dinner.

The British ship, Island Home, traveling from Philadelphia to France, the West Indies and Florida, included an entry for Christmas 1878.

Morning just such aw one as I hoped to see on Christmas Day, clear, fine bracing air & good 6-7 K Breese . . . Just such a day as I would have asked for the anniversary of the Nativity of our Blessed Lord.  We can forgive the calm that delays us for such a perfect sky, air and surrounding as we now enjoy . . . All hands had holiday mates champagne, stewand ale, boy port & men a mixed punch made by my own hands.  Roast Pork Chicken-soup & all the fixins filled out the bill of fare, & the steward sat up about all last night to get it ready.

To learn more about these logbooks and read the PHILCAT record for the item, click on the link attached to the name of the ship.  My thanks to Kathy Flynn, Head of Reference, for sharing the Bill of Fare illustrated above as well as for the image of the sailor attempting to attach a Christmas tree to a ship’s mast, depicted in the December 2nd posting.

Phillips Library Advent Calendar, December 16

Title page, The Complete Practical Cook. . .1730

Title Page: The Complete Practical Cook: or, A New System of the Whole Art and Mystery of Cookery, Being a Select Collection of Above Five Hundred Recipes...

This time of year, many of us spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking special recipes we revisit each holiday season.  This cookbook, one of my favorite from our collection, was printed in 1730.  The text is divided into two parts – recipes in the first half and table layouts displayed in the second half.  The title page indicates that the text is for all occasions, But more especially for the moft Grand and Sumptuous Entertainments.  Approximately 500 recipes are included and the book is Adorned with Sixty Curious Copper Plates, some of which are folded because of their large size.  The layouts provide several suggestions for specific times of the year or for special occasions, such as the coronation of the King George, the 2nd.

Suggested Table Layouts for November and December

Suggested Table Layouts for November and December

One of the dishes depicted in the December layout above is A Pistacho Tort, printed on page 123 of the text.  The recipe reads as shown below.  Please note that the drawing and the recipe use different spellings for the main ingredient and that the recipe uses the letter f known as the long s or the medial s, which is interpreted as the letter s when reading the word.

Take half a Pound of Piftachoe Nut Kernels, and blanch them; then beat the beft Part of them very fine in a Mortar; beat with them three or four Musk Comfects, and put in a little Orange Flower-water, fome Cinnamon and ginger beat; then beat it up together with the Yolks of ten Eggs, boil up a Quart of Cream, and thicken it with this and a little grated Bisket, and bake it in Puff-pafts, ftick over fome blanch’d Piftachoes and Citron, and ferve it.


See PHILCAT for more information about this title and the option to further explore our cookbook collection.