Archive for November, 2009

>The truth about Thanksgiving

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The truth about the first “Thanksgiving” in 1621 is actually a myth conjured, as much of American history is, by white men. In truth, there was no display of interracial harmony between the Pilgrims and the Indians. Various stories about the origins of the first Thanksgiving exist ranging from August through October of 1621 and all of them involve the Pilgrims celebrating the conquering and slaughter of hundreds of Indians living in what is now Massachusetts. Most likely, the myth of Indians and Pilgrims coming together was inspired by a feast given for Squanto, an Indian who was captured, made a slave, and later negotiated treaties. He was the only Indian present at the feast. Another “day of Thanksgiving” was declared after the slaughter of four hundred Indians as well.

Americans have been brought up on the myth of Thanksgiving since the beginning but it was never an official national holiday. It evolved into a feast contained to New England celebrating the yearly harvest and each colony (eventually states) had their own days to celebrate the “day of Thanksgiving”. Each colony operated on its own government, as did each state after the American Revolution. They had their own currencies, governments and holidays, operating as tiny countries part of a collective group, rather than a united country of different states. Outside of New England, the “holiday” hardly existed, although celebrating harvests was common everywhere. The menu was similar for the harvest season throughout New England and not totally unlike our Thanksgiving menu today but as with all food in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it depended on what could be obtained locally. Seafood was on the menus in coastal areas, for example.

As the Civil War raged on in the mid-1860s, President Lincoln’s popularity was comparable to President George W. Bush today. The war was unpopular and scorn was prevalent as more soldiers were killed. Thousands of men were butchered in battles. Let me give an example. I believe approximately three thousand people were killed on 9/11. At the battle of Antietam, there were 22,000 killed, wounded and captured in one day. At the battle of Gettysburg, which was three days, there were 53,000 casualties. Between April 1861 and April 1865 — four years — approximately 662,000 of the 2 million men and women who fought in the war were killed. Take what you felt on 9/11 and multiply it by four years and over half a million lives snuffed out at the average age of 25, with approximately 100,000 under the age of 15 in the Union Army. President Lincoln began thinking of how he could improve his image and unify the country. His entire goal with the Civil War was to unite the country.

In November 1863, the first national Thanksgiving day was declared by President Lincoln in his effort to boost the morale of the people and remind them of why they went to war in the first place. He took the autumn harvest celebration from the New Englanders and turned it into a national holiday steeped in religion, family and remembering family and friends lost during the war.

The mythical story of the Pilgrims and Indians sitting down together at the same table was a subconscious effort to look toward the future of the United States and the Confederate States sitting down at the same proverbial table to become a singular nation once again. Before the Civil War, as it is known, people referred to the country as, “The United States are…” and after the reconstruction of the nation, it was referred to as, “The United States is…” So because of President Lincoln, we now celebrate Thanksgiving on the same day every November throughout the nation.

Wild fowl was the main thing on the menu for the Thanksgivings of old and that could be turkey, duck, pheasant and so on. In the earliest days of Thanksgiving, stuffing was called dressing and consisted of stale bread, cornmeal and seasonings. As the settlement of the colonies progressed into a new country and into the nineteenth century, people got more adventurous with cooking and Thanksgiving became an elaborate meal with multiple courses. It became popular to stuff turkey with chestnuts, dried cranberries, oysters, sausage or locally grown fruit (meaning it would be different depending on the part of the country).

Besides wild fowl stuffed with various things, the nineteenth century New England Thanksgiving would have also served potatoes and sweet potatoes just as we do today, along with turnips or carrots. People near the ocean almost always incorporated oyster and fish dishes into their meals as well, no matter the social or economic class. Dessert would have included pies like we eat today, such as pumpkin and mince pie, Indian pudding, fruit, nuts and berries. Since there was very little ability to refrigerate food in the nineteenth century, they ate nothing but leftovers until the food was gone. Not a morsel was wasted if it was at all possible. Cookbooks and recipes in magazines at that time showed people how to make new meals out of their Thanksgiving leftovers like Deviled Turkey, Turkey in Savory Jelly and Thanksgiving Turkey Pot Pie.

This menu is based on a Thanksgiving dinner from the 1880s.

    * Oyster Bisque
    * Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing
    * Giblet Gravy
    * Mashed Potatoes
    * Butternut Squash
    * Glazed Turnips
    * Pickled Beets
    * Whole berry cranberry sauce
    * Rolls
    * Pumpkin Pie
    * Mince Pie
    * Whipped Cream, lightly sweetened
    * Coffee, Tea, Punch

This menu came from a 1905 Thanksgiving dinner, which was technically the Edwardian period after the Victorian period.

    * Oysters on the half-shell with cocktail in pepper shells.
    * Radishes, celery, salted nuts.
    * Clear consommé with tapioca.
    * Filet of flounder with pimentos and olives; dressed cucumbers.
    * Roast turkey; cranberry jelly in small molds; creamed chestnuts; glazed sweet-potato.
    * Cider frappé in turkey sherbet-cups.
    * Quail in bread croustades; dressed lettuce.
    * Blazing mince pie.
    * Cheese with almonds; wafers.
    * Angel parfait in glasses; small cakes; coffee.

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>Dressgasm of the Day: 1860s Polonaise Visiting Gown

Posted by Jessica Jewett 2 Comments »

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Today’s dressgasm is so stunning exclusively because of the unique design of the extended points from the bodice and the flattering draping of the skirt. I found this dress in an eBay listing this morning from one of my favorite sellers of antique garments.

This dress dates to the mid-1860s from my estimate. If I had to put a year on it, I would say 1864 or 1865, possibly even 1866, based on the draping of the skirt and the cut of the bodice. The width of the skirt suggests Civil War but the cut of the dress looks like a precursor to the bustle dresses of the 1870s and 1880s. It’s a silk and wool blend in a copper color that becomes gold when the fabric is hit by different light. Bronze satin ribbon lines the drapes and ruffles on the skirt and bodice.

A woman wore a “visiting dress” when she did just that — visited her friends and family. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, wealthier women had different dresses for a myriad of different purposes not only for functionality but to put her social status on display. A certain portion of the day would have been reserved for opening the house so a woman could receive guests. The woman who wore this dress did so when she was out visiting people that she probably wanted to impress. If you made a call on someone who wasn’t home, then you could leave your calling card and that way, the friend or whomever could answer you with a note later or invite you back another day. This was such a lovely dress that the lady might have thought about having her photograph made in it. When you had a photograph made, you wore your better clothes because it was considered a special occasion.

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>Jordan Idol Atlanta

Posted by Jessica Jewett 3 Comments »

>Donnie’s party Friday night was so amazing and I got so lucky with the opportunity to see him that I thought certainly lightening wouldn’t strike twice for me by going to Jordan Idol the next night. Jordan is an elusive creature and I have found it much harder to see him than the other four. Getting out in a wheelchair that really doesn’t fit me and being out of painkillers left me feeling exhausted and in a lot of pain the morning of Idol, so I decided that I wasn’t going to put any effort into how I looked. Usually I try to wear something cute and put on some makeup if anybody important is around but I just felt too bad. I put on yoga pants and a shirt with little flowers on it that’s probably at least ten years old and put my hair up in a messy ponytail. I was there to cheer Angela on as she sang You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin. It wasn’t like Jordan was going to see me, right?

I need to stop here and say something serious for all people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities. We got in line to get in the building behind a small group of women who struck up a conversation with Angela, who was leaning on my chair right next to me, but they wouldn’t even look at me. It was like I wasn’t even there. At one point, they were talking about who had VIPs and the one girl gestured at me but looked at Angela and said, “Does she have a VIP?” I piped up and answered the question because there was absolutely no justification to a) pretend like I wasn’t there, and b) ask my friend a question that should have been directed at me. This is 2009 and my patience is wearing thin with people who continue to pretend as if people like me aren’t there. I get this at restaurants by waitresses asking people I’m with what I want to eat, people in stores asking people I’m with if I need help, and so on. I’m 27. I’ve published books. My art has been in gallery shows. I’m a historian. Being in a wheelchair does not mean I can’t think or talk for myself or it’s okay to pretend like I don’t exist. Please take this as a lesson the next time you encounter someone with a disability. Even if the disabled person can’t talk, they still want to be talked to and treated like they exist.

We left our spot in line not long after that and the security people let us into the building as one of the first people so I wouldn’t have to fight the crowds. I got a spot right behind the judges’ couches on the left corner with a good view of the stage. I was behind Aaron Pearce, basically. It was a really laid back event, very casual, to the point where Jordan walked on stage before it started to say hello and it took people a minute to realize it was him. There were some really awesome singers, some not so great singers, and the crowd was positive for everyone. Everybody got cheers and we sang along with them whether they were good or bad.

The best singer was probably Sean Couch (I hope I got that right) and the best song was jennbirdy (Twitter name) who rewrote I’ll Be Loving You Forever to be I’ll Be Tweeting You Forever and it was so cute. It was actually clever, funny, well-written and she sang the hell out of it too. Jordan was sitting like two feet in front of me at that point and I could tell that he really loved that one. He cracked up laughing and nodded a lot when she sang a line about the guys not seeing us because of all the spam and the crowd erupted. Jordan stood up and cheered. Obviously he hates spam! Take note! And Angela did so well! She was one of the better singers and really the only one that used the whole stage rather than standing still and not engaging the audience. She got us singing with her and Jordan filmed her audition. He only filmed a few of them and she didn’t know he filmed her until she was done and I told her. It takes guts to get up on stage in front of Jordan and his entourage and sing. I was so proud of my Angela.

Donnie arrived about halfway through the auditions and as he came down the steps from the stage and hugged Jordan’s guys (I don’t remember their names), he saw me and blew a kiss at me with a wave. I’m 98% sure that was for me but after he sat down, it looked like he was looking at me again and he mouthed something but I’m not sure if it was for me or the girl sort of next to me. I’m pretty sure I was next to that blind girl from the video where she interviewed Donnie. Does anybody remember that? It’s so hard to tell who Donnie is communicating with when he does it through sunglasses! But I’m pretty certain the kiss and wave were to me. The mouthed words were probably for her because I don’t quite know what he said and what would he have to say to me?

Jordan was all over the place like a kid hopped up on Pixie Stix. Seeing him without the constraints of a scripted, choreographed show was very interesting in letting me see his personality better. I don’t know a whole lot about Jordan except through knowing about Jon. He sat right in front of me for a while, like I could have kicked his couch cushion if I wanted to, and he saw me as he was sitting down. He leaned over, looked back at me and gave me a wave. Maybe he connected me to my Twitter or maybe he remembered me from my shows — who knows? After the auditions, everybody started getting lined up for their VIP stuff. We wandered around a little bit and stopped by chance on the right side. Suddenly a mass of men were coming our way and Jordan passed right in front of me on his way back to the VIP room. He stepped on Kimmy’s foot, we were that close. It was crazy that we just happened to stop in a random spot to talk and he passed right by us.

I still don’t know what happened exactly or how we got another VIP. It was hilarious though. Jess and I were talking about how she was strangely calm — she and Angela had VIP but Kimmy and I did not — and I told her that I was sort of glad not to have a VIP because Jordan is the only New Kid that gets me starstruck and I clam up around him. Donnie intimidated me too but it’s an entirely different type of intimidation. Kimmy came up to us and said that she was given an extra VIP (I think I later heard her say that it was from Jordan’s people but I’m not sure). Long story short, they couldn’t leave me alone so Kimmy went in first but the line was taking so long that we were the last ones there. It was downtown Atlanta and there was nobody to stay with me. They were going to take turns going in but it was taking forever. The security guy at the VIP door motioned for us to just go on in after most of the people were gone. We didn’t ask for it or anything. It just worked out that way.

So, me who gets so nervous around Jordan, was last in line to see the man himself after dressing like a rag and putting no effort into the way I looked because I was certain I wasn’t going to see him. From the minute Kimmy said there was another VIP until I got in there, I was on the verge of a panic attack. I had the shakes, tingly hands, dry mouth, etc. Why Jordan? Seeing Jon is no big thing to me (I mean he doesn’t intimidate me). Kimmy started joking with me that Jordan was going to give me a lap dance and then I’d forget how nervous I was. Yeah, putting that image into my head alleviated my nerves. Uh-huh! Jordan saw me when I was about eight people back in line. Is it normal for him to stare? He kinda does. He doesn’t just glance — he really looks and it’s a little unnerving when you can’t tell why. Jon is easy for me to read. Jordan is impossible.

Jess went first and Jordan was eating a Twix that he stuck in his mouth like a cigar, then took another picture with her without it. In the doorway waiting, I was shaking. I’m just glad nobody could tell. Anxiety disorders make people excellent actors and actresses. I went in next and I remember telling myself not to freeze up but I guess I did anyway. He hugged me, better than his hugs in the past have been, and the lipgloss Kimmy smeared on me in line stuck to his shirt at his shoulder. I remembered that he doesn’t talk unless I talk first so while he was hugging me, I asked how he was and he said he was doing good. He stood up again and kept his hand on me the whole time I was there. He was chewing his Twix and looking down at me like he wanted to talk but then he got this bashful smile and covered his mouth with his hand and said with a mouthful, “I don’t want to talk and spit Twix on you.” I laughed and said it was okay.

He backed out of the way and Angela (I think?) put me next to him for my picture and he put his arm around me and squished up close. I remember thinking how cold he was. His hand gripped my shoulder and his fingers were like ice and his face was freezing on mine. Both of the Knights must be prone to coldness because Jon’s been cold enough that I’ve felt his hands through my clothes too. After the picture, he still had his freezing hand on me while there was some small talk and he went to get a rose out of the box behind me. I thought, “This should be interesting.” People never know if they should hand something to me or the people with me. Jon probably would have stuck it under my hand or something because he’s fearless about my disability. Jordan hesitated for a split second and held the rose out to Jess (I think?) and said, “This is for her.” I smiled because that was exactly what I thought he was going to do. I thanked him for everything and he kept giving me shy smiles. We said goodbye and we all left.

People tell me Jordan is a really shy person in one-on-one situations. We have a long history of him coming up to me and having brief exchanges of hi how are yous and a series of shy smiles. I was starting to get a complex for a while, thinking that maybe he wasn’t sure about my disability or he didn’t know how to act or something. I’m used to Jon practically meeting me at the door at these things with his own agenda of things to talk about and accomplish but Jordan is totally opposite of that. He looks at me like he wants to talk but he doesn’t know what to say. I’m painfully shy around men unless I’m totally comfortable. Jon is the only one with whom I feel at ease enough to be myself like I’m with a friend. So if Jordan is shy and I’m shy, we are never going to get past hi how are you, smiles and dodging Twix spit! Haha. Since he was touching me so much, though, I don’t have the complex that he’s weirded out by my disability anymore. That’s a relief.

Big thank yous to Angela, Jess and Kimmy for being such great friends and not leaving me behind for a Knight brother! Big thank yous to Kerry and Lorrie for crowd control (lol). Big thank yous to Donnie and Jordan for doing such fun things for fans and for being so great to me personally! Jon better recover those “busted feet” soon or he might lose me to his baby brother or to DDub. Haha! As for Jordan, I hope one day we’ll get past hi how are you. I think we have that nailed down now. We should try the next line in a conversation next time 😉

Here’s my picture with Jordan. I should have let my messy ponytail out or something. I looked awful. Let this be a lesson to you all that if you’re in the same building with a New Kid, don’t risk schlepping around in yoga pants, outdated shirts and messy ponytails!

P.S. Angela, Jess and Kimmy took my rose! The only rose I’ll ever get from a Knight in my life and I forgot to get it back from them before I left. Damn! 😉

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