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Sassafras Tea

“Sassafras wood boiled down to a kind of tea, and tempered with an infusion of milk and sugar hath to some a delicacy beyond the China luxury.” – Charles Lamb

In my book, Tales of a Cosmic Possum, I wrote about John’s Uncle Kyle. I had the pleasure of meeting this University of Kentucky graduate who was an entrepreneur.

After moving to Union, South Carolina and marrying Jenny Belle Ingle, Kyle went to work in the Union Mill. To make ends meet for their household, he made metal cuts  in an aluminum plate, so he could print his own ad to send to mail order magazines for his sassafras tea.

      Kyle had the inspiration to sell sassafras root for tea; there were plenty of trees in the
nearby woods. Even young Bruce could help him pull up the tubers and wash them. After
the roots were cleaned with steel wool and cut up, he cut the roots in cubes and sold it by
the square inch.

      He chose to wrap the packages in brown paper and string, and the postage was only a nickel. He soon had repeat customers. Kyle was creative and made his own printing plate and only had to run an advertisement every two months.  His side-business proved his notion that people will buy anything if it is advertised.

     The tea was flavorful; it did not need the addition of lemon or sugar.  Scores used it to treat high blood pressure or the effects of a cold and flu. Others consumed it for gastrointestinal problems. One square inch would make sixty-four cups of tea. It was a bargain remedy that contributed to people feeling young again.

Sassafras tree bark has been used in North America for centuries. According to an old Appalachian folk legend, those who carried sassafras bark in their pockets or drank sassafras root tea were protected against the evil eye, malevolence and envy.

It was also used by the Cherokee people as a blood thinner to purify blood, to treat skin diseases, rheumatism, among other ailments.

Bark of a mature sassafras with a few pieces broken off, revealing the reddish-orange beneath.

In 1512, American Indians introduced the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon to the bark and years later the same happened to pioneers, who settled on the continent.

Whether or not this is true, looking back, we can trace the word “sassafras” as to probably deriving from the 16th century Spanish term “saxifrage”.

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Once introduced to the Europeans, they used sassafras as a medicinal tonic in the 17th and 18th century to treat everything from rheumatism to gout. The marvels of this blood thinner helped to heal many ailments.

My great grandmother used sassafras tea as a spring tonic, and she gave it to her eight children. There was a sassafras tree on their property outside Hendersonville, NC. She was right when she told them it thinned the blood, so the heat wouldn’t bother them so much come summer time. Because of the aromatic smell, those eight made little fuss to this preventive medicine of hers.

Sassafras Tea

by Maary Effie Lee Newsome

“The sass’fras tea is red and clear
In my white china cup,
So pretty I keep peeping in
Before I drink it up.I stir it with a silver spoon,
And sometimes I just hold
A little tea inside the spoon,
Like it was lined with gold.

It makes me hungry just to smell
The nice hot sass’fras tea,
And that’s one thing I really like
That they say’s good for me.”

As poet Newsome declares, sassafras tea  tastes good; there is no doubt about that. It was the favored drink for the young, especially until colas came along. That does not mean you should over do it through. Sassafras tea like most herbal teas should be consumed in moderation.

Grit Magazine shared this easy recipe.

4 pieces sassafras root, 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch diameter
2 quarts water
Sugar or honey

Gather sassafras root. Wash roots and cut saplings off where green and where root stops.

Bring water to a boil and add roots. Simmer until water turns deep brownish red (the darker, the stronger).

Whether it is sassafras tea or your own favorite, there is nothing quite like a cup of tea.

“My dear, if you could give me a cup of tea to clear my muddle of a head I should better understand your affairs.” – Charles Dickens

How many of you enjoy tea? How about sassafras tea?

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Happy National Ice Cream Day!

Person Holding Vanilla Ice Cream on Cone

We can actually thank President Ronald Reagan for designating the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Day.

In July of 1984, President Reagan declared the third week of July to be National Ice Cream Month by signing proclamation 5219. In this proclamation, the president called ice cream the perfect dessert and snack food and stated that over 90 percent of Americans enjoy it on a regular basis. He also stated in the proclamation that Americans should observe this day with appropriate activities and celebrations.

It is estimated that over 90% of Americans enjoy this treat. Really can’t believe this isn’t 100%, can you?

Mug of Flavored Ice Creams in Cones

Ice cream has a long history. Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed snow and ice flavored with nectar and honey, while the Roman emperor Nero Claudius Caesar sent runners into the mountains for  snow, which was flavored with juice.

In the 1300s, Marco Polo brought a taste for ice cream— resembling a modern-day sherbet — back to Europe after his global travels.

Records show that as president, Washington bought an ice cream serving spoon and two “dble tin Ice Cream moulds.” This was followed by “2 Iceries Compleat,” twelve “ice plates,” and thirty-six “ice pots.” (An “ice pot” was a small cup used for holding the ice cream since it was more liquid in colonial times, similar to the runniness of an ice cream cone on a hot day.) Thompson speculates, “the large number of ice cream pots suggests that this was a favorite dessert at Mount Vernon, as well as in the capital.

George Washington is said to have spent $200 on ice cream ($4500 in current money) in the summer of 1790. It appears he was liked his ice cream.
Ice Cream on Ceramic Plate

 

July 3, 1776 Letter

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John Adams was born on October 30, 1735, in Quincy, Massachusetts. He was a direct descendant of Puritan colonists from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He studied at Harvard University, where he received his undergraduate degree and master’s, and in 1758 was admitted to the bar. In 1774, he served on the First Continental Congress and helped draft the Declaration of Independence. Adams became the first vice president of the United States and the second president.

Stout elderly man in his 60s with long white hair, facing partway leftward

John Adams (1735-1826) was instrumental in negotiating in favor of independence at the Continental Congresses (1774-78), signed the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams’ famous letter of July 3, 1776, in which he wrote to his wife Abigail what his thoughts were about celebrating the Fourth of July is found on various web sites but is usually incorrectly quoted. Following is the exact text from his letter with his original spellings:

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

“(The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).

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Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence – committee presents draft to Congress. Adams is depicted at center with his hand on his hip.

In 2008, HBO produced a mini series about the life and times of John Adams. I believe it is masterly told. If you have a chance to watch it, I recommend you do. Here is a clip.

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So today is July 4th, and it is time to celebrate our country’s birthday. What are we waiting for? Let the party begin!

Happy Birthday, America!

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In 1783, President George Washington remarked, “The citizens of this country are, from this period, as the actors on a most conspicuous theater, which seems to be peculiarly designed by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity.”

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And with his background of leadership in the founding of our country, he knew the men that he had worked and fought with.

We have the privilege of celebrating the anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence this week. Twelve colonies had representatives who signed this document, and New York followed suit in August. It was after the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, in fact 442 days after these events in Massachusetts.

The signers were men of conviction who, by signing their names, put themselves, their families, and their land at major risk. Here are some facts that inspire me to remember them.

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Eighteen of the signers were merchants or businessmen, 14 were farmers, and four were doctors. Forty-two signers had served in their colonial legislatures. Twenty-two were lawyers—although William Hooper of North Carolina was “disbarred” when he spoke out against the Crown–and nine were judges. Stephen Hopkins had been Governor of Rhode Island. Although two others had been clergy previously, John Witherspoon of New Jersey was the only active clergyman to attend–he wore his robes to the sessions. Almost all were Protestant Christians; Charles Carroll of Maryland was the only Roman Catholic signer.

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Seven of the signers were educated at Harvard, four each at Yale and William & Mary, and three at Princeton. John Witherspoon was the president of Princeton and George Wythe was a professor at William & Mary, where his students included the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.

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Seventeen of the signers served in the military during the American Revolution. Thomas Nelson was a colonel in the Second Virginia Regiment and then commanded Virginia military forces at the Battle of Yorktown. William Whipple served with the New Hampshire militia and was one of the commanding officers in the decisive Saratoga campaign. Oliver Wolcott led the Connecticut regiments sent for the defense of New York and commanded a brigade of militia that took part in the defeat of General Burgoyne. Caesar Rodney was a Major General in the Delaware militia  and John Hancock was the same in the Massachusetts militia.

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Five of the signers were captured by the British during the war. Captains Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton (South Carolina) were all captured at the Battle of Charleston in 1780; Colonel George Walton was wounded and captured at the Battle of Savannah. Richard Stockton of New Jersey never recovered from his incarceration at the hands of British Loyalists and died in 1781.

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Colonel Thomas McKean of Delaware wrote John Adams that he was “hunted like a fox by the enemy–compelled to remove my family five times in a few months, and at last fixed them in a little log house on the banks of the Susquehanna . . . and they were soon obliged to move again on account of the incursions of the Indians.”

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Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured by the British during the war. The son of John Witherspoon, a major in the New Jersey Brigade, was killed at the Battle of Germantown.

Eleven signers had their homes and property destroyed. Francis Lewis’s New York home was destroyed and his wife taken prisoner. John Hart’s farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Thomas Nelson (both of Virginia) lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort, but were never repaid.

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It sounds like it is time for a standing ovation of several minutes to honor these men, doesn’t it?

Dr. Peter Marshall once said, “May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” I believe those signers took the opportunity to do what was right.

With leaders like this that we call the Founding Fathers, we have the privilege to sing “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and many others.

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And it is a day to party, to celebrate the birthday of the country we call home, the United States of America!

flag floral vase

My family had a regular menu for July 4th, and mine is always similar. It was always cold watermelon, barbeque, baked beans, potato salad, deviled eggs, and peach cobbler. Sometimes a churn of homemade ice cream was added, just because.

You probably have your favorite day all planned by now, too, by spending time with family and friends.

Happy birthday, America! Happy Fourth of July to all of you!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q65

 

 

 

 

Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!

Ahhh Chocolate!  No, it is not the time of year when a cup of hot chocolate might be a comfort food. But it has been on my mind.

My grandmother Lulu had a recipe for the best chocolate meringue pie. It was truly finger-licking good. Mother learned to make it as well, but I never could get the consistency right. My version would run off the plate and take the meringue with it.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Meringue Pie

It was in June that Daddy always took  his vacation, and we spent a week in Kentucky with Lulu. Since it was a twelve-hour trip then, we always arrived in time for supper. Because she knew how much my dad loved chocolate, and her pie especially, she always had the made for our dessert.

I can see it now in its place of honor on the sideboard. And I honestly believe I can taste it, too! Just call me pitiful this morning.

Bill Watterson had a good idea about chocolate, “Blustery, cold days should be spent propped up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a pile of comic books.”

Chocolate is one of the most universally loved foods, the average American consumes roughly 11 pounds of the stuff a year!  It is hard to imagine a world without chocolate and this love of the heavenly substance stretches all the way back to our country’s colonial roots. Before the mid-1800s, if you had a craving for the world’s favorite sweet, you drank it!

Chocolate has its origins in South America where archaeological evidence indicates it was being cultivated and consumed over 3,000 years ago.  The Spanish were the first Europeans to try the spicy chili and chocolate beverage of the Aztecs.  Cortez was the explorer that brought chocolate back to Spain, rather than gold or silver. They introduced it to Europe in the 1600s where, with the addition of sugar, it became the height of fashion.

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Drinking chocolate of the 18th century was different from our modern day cup of cocoa.  It was made with either cacao nibs or blocks of compressed chocolate that were then grated or ground to a paste and dissolved in a warm liquid inside a dedicated chocolate pot.

The chocolate was added to any combination of water, milk, cream, wine, or even brandy for an extra kick.  This mixture was combined with sugar, though less than we use because it was an expensive import in colonial America.  Other common ingredients included chili pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, or allspice.  This resulted in a rich, sweet, spicy, and bitter drink that the colonists couldn’t get enough of.

We know that many early Americans were fans of chocolate, but it wasn’t available to everyone.  In the 1700s, chocolate was still a fairly expensive drink, similar to tea or coffee, making it a beverage of the upper and middle classes.  It was seen as a nutritious and filling health food, commonly had with breakfast.

Thomas Jefferson commented, “The superiority of chocolate (hot chocolate), both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.”

In 1757, George Washington ordered 20 pounds of chocolate from British merchant Thomas Knox.  While living at Kenmore Plantation, George’s sister Betty Washington Lewis ordered a gallon of chocolate. (I believe the Washingtons enjoyed chocolate!)

Actress Katherine Hepburn favored chocolate. “What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”

It may seem strange to us that there were special cups just for drinking chocolate.  However, since it was a luxury good enjoyed by the upper classes, it had a specific set of objects associated with its preparation and consumption.  A teapot or teacup could have easily functioned for drinking chocolate, but the purpose of this specialized material culture was to show off wealth and sophistication.  For this reason, a well-to-do colonial household would have separate sets of vessels for the making and consumption of tea, coffee, and chocolate.  Using the right one in the right way let your peers know you were a well-educated gentry woman or man.

Chocolate cups and pots were often made of fancy material like silver or porcelain to show off the wealth of the owner and reflect the nature of the luxury ingredient. Chocolate cups can be identified by their straight sides, unlike the gently sloping sides of a teacup.

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Similarly, 18th century chocolate pots generally are taller and have straighter sides compared to contemporary teapots. They also have a shorter spout with no strainer and often have a straight handle that juts out from the body.

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The most recognizable feature of a chocolate pot however is a hole in the lid where the chocolate mill, or molinillo, would be inserted and rubbed between the hands to briskly stir the chocolate, creating a delicious froth on the top.

Top View Photo of Ceramic Mugs Filled With Coffees

I bet you know what I have talked myself into doing. There is no cold weather here in June, but there are no rules on when to drink hot chocolate. And this is certainly for my health this morning!

As Charles M. Schulz once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

 

My Daddy and Our Home

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702 Penarth Road

702 Penarth Rd, Spartanburg, SC 29301

When I was five and my brother two, our great grandfather died. Leaving monies to his grandchildren, my dad invested in building a home on Penarth Road on the west side of Spartanburg. There are a couple of photos left of the house as it became a home. Critt and I played in the sand piles, and that was our contribution.

Our parents lived there for forty years.

Built on a one acre lot, the back yard became a playground for us and the neighborhood children. A swing set and sandbox were first. Tag, hide-and-seek, badminton, and croquet were next. Then a basketball goal. Soon it was a field for softball and football. Golf balls were lost there. We begged for a swimming pool, but it never happened.

702 Penarth Rd, Spartanburg, SC 29301

 

In those years, there were few changes. Added first was a screen porch and an extended den. Then large windows created a sun porch that quickly became the favorite gathering place for our family. Our son Scott took his first steps on the porch.

702 Penarth Rd, Spartanburg, SC 29301

 

Later my dad meticulously added a brick and sand terrace in between the driveway and the back storm door. Running string around the edges to design the space, leveling the ground with a shovel, arranging  the bricks in a simple pattern, and lastly pouring the sand to fill in the spaces were the steps.

My memories are of a banker, out of his element, dressed in shorts, collared shirt, socks and casual shoes down on his knees methodically occupied with his work. The suit and tie were out-of-sight. His glasses often slipped down his nose from the perspiration; I remember his skinned knees. His concentration showed when his tongue slipped between his lips. (This was a sign I always recognized.)

Through the years, the completed patio often brought smiles. Daddy was not dexterous, but he was determined to finish well all tasks that he started. He taught us this by example.

Whether it was washing the cars on Saturday afternoon, studying a Sunday School lesson at his desk on Saturday nights, or loving on Mother with her Alzheimer’s disease, Daddy never quit. He took his responsibilities seriously.

702 Penarth Rd, Spartanburg, SC 29301

Those azaleas harbored my reading nook. Behind them is a dogwood tree with a few low lying limbs. With a blanket in hand and perhaps a doll or two, I would head there for me-time. Bobbsy Twins, Hardy Boys, Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, Heidi, and Charlottes’s Web are a few of the titles that come to mind. I tend to agree with C.S. Lewis that “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

By the way, sixty years later that patio hugs the back entrance to our old home! Legacy does embrace countless forms.

An unknown author wrote this about a father.

What Is A Dad?

A dad is someone who
wants to catch you before you fall
but instead picks you up,
brushes you off,
and lets you try again.

A dad is someone who
wants to keep you from making mistakes
but instead lets you find your own way,
even though his heart breaks in silence
when you get hurt.

A dad is someone who
holds you when you cry,
scolds you when you break the rules,
shines with pride when you succeed,
and has faith in you even when you fail…

Thank you, Samuel Moore Collins. I was blessed to be your daughter. Often your actions spoke more loudly than your words.

As Max Lucado once said, “My father didn’t do anything unusual. He only did what dads are supposed to do—be there.”

You were always there, Daddy.

 

 

Thank You for Your Sacrifices

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On April 30, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as our first President of the United States.

He wrote in his journal, “About 10 o’clock I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity, and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York in company with Mr. Thompson, and Colonel Humphries, with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations.”

I am fascinated by quotes and wonder why they are both thought and then said. It is obvious that our first President was reluctant to leave his private life again to take up public life. His humbleness in taking over the leadership of America is apparent, as is his knowledge that this was a calling on his life.

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President Washington saw his new position as one of service and responsibility.

The British hung Nathan Hale when he was captured as a spy. The twenty-one-year-old Hale challenges us from from 1776 with “My only regret is that I have only one life to give for my country.” He counted his death a privilege.

MacMonnies, Frederick William: Nathan Hale

In the diary entry of one of the British officers made on the day of Hale’s execution, it was said: “He behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good Officer, to obey any orders given him by his Commander-in-Chief; and desired the Spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it might appear.”

“The highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country,” said General George S. Patton, Jr.

As we look at celebrating Memorial Day on Monday, how grateful we are for those who chose to serve our country by fighting for it. From the Revolutionary War forward, men and women have stepped up to the task of defending it. Knowing that their deaths were and are a possibility, they still sign their names on the dotted line.

I’ll never forget the challenge of President John F. Kennedy’s words, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Those who choose to join the armed forces lead the way for us.

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Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May in the United States. It is traditional to fly the flag of the United States at half staff from dawn until noon. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. It is set aside to remember those who fought and died for our country.

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.“ said G. K. Chesterton.

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