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Réveillon Revival

Réveillon Revival



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How the Brennan family, among the Crescent City’s most successful restaurateurs, breathed new life into an old French tradition.

By the time the very merry divorcée Adelaide Brennan―a glamorous redhead reputed to be the most beautiful woman in all of New Orleans―descended the winding stairway of the Greek Revival home she shared with her sister, Ella, their annual Christmas Eve bash was in full swing. Many close friends, among them celebrity pals like Raymond Burr and Rock Hudson, and most of the large Brennan clan gathered for the strictly black-tie, Uptown affair, which the sisters hosted from the mid-1960s until the ’80s.

Guests laughed and lingered among the extravagant decorations, all coordinated in Adelaide’s favorite color. Pink candles flickered around the room, and pink poinsettias, ordered from the florist a year in advance, adorned the house. Adelaide hung large pink bows “wherever she could think to put them,” says Ella, now 83. Each year everyone anticipated Adelaide’s fashionably late entrance, and year after year, she delivered her drama.

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Tradition revived

The soirees were a nod to a nearly extinct Crescent City holiday tradition, known as the Réveillon, which translates loosely to “awakening” in French. In the 1800s, the New Orleans Creoles, a multicultural group of Catholics that included French immigrants, adopted the French tradition. As in the old country, celebrants fasted before taking communion at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and then they rewarded their piety with luxurious, prolonged feasts in the wee hours after mass. “It was a celebration that also served a practical purpose,” says Gene Bourg, a longtime New Orleans food writer and friend of Ella Brennan. “If you fasted till 1 A.M., you’d be damn hungry.”

Réveillon tradition dictated that the Brennan parties include a lavish late-night buffet with game birds, rich gumbos, and seafood delicacies prepared in the sophisticated, decidedly urban Creole style. For dessert, there were elaborate cakes, like bûche de Noël, a “jelly roll” filled with chocolate cream.

Live jazz and dancing would follow in the ballroom. “In those days, the men would actually dance,” Ella says with a laugh. “It was glorious. We cocktailed and cocktailed and cocktailed.” Every year, the scene was the same. Even for a woman known for her larger-than-life style, Adelaide’s Réveillon was special. Down she’d come in some beaded floor-length gown, fur around her shoulders, long gloves above her elbows. “I can just see her up there, with a long cigarette holder in one hand and a glass of Champagne in the other,” Ella recalls of her sister, who passed away in 1983. “She was like our Auntie Mame.”

Réveillon for all

The Brennans―whose various second- and third-generation representatives own and operate beloved New Orleans institutions such as Commander’s Palace and Brennan’s―have kept the Réveillon going and made it something everyone can enjoy. Ella Brennan’s Commander’s Palace, which rambles like a happy home with ornate molding and robust chatter in all its many rooms, is among the dozens of Big Easy restaurants that began in recent years serving prix-fixe Réveillon menus throughout the holidays. It’s a way to keep alive the storied tradition, which hasn’t been celebrated widely in family homes for years and is now more of a dining-out phenomenon.

The 128-year-old Commander’s, where Chef Tory McPhail, successor to the restaurant’s previous chefs Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, continues to refine what he calls “haute Creole” cuisine, serves bold, special-occasion food inspired by the tastes of the original Creoles. Several varieties of hearty gumbo are among the appetizer options, as well as foie gras with Louisiana figs roasted in bourbon, says McPhail. Richly sauced, locally fished seafood is in the mix, along with venison, elk, and house-cured duck. “We make sure there are some good game dishes,” says Ella. “We’ve picked up some of our family traditions and brought them to the restaurant.”

As Ella says, the food is just part of what makes the Réveillon mood so lively. “We have music students come in and sing,” she says. “We tell them, ‘Not the serious church music.’ We want the happy songs about how it’s snowing outside and all. [The dinner guests] walk all around the dining room talking to their friends. It’s not structured; it’s fun. People in New Orleans just get so excited about the holidays.”

The ever-growing Brennan clan no longer gathers en masse to do it up on Christmas Eve. But Ella, her daughter Ti Martin, and other family members get together in a smaller group at the Garden District mansion where Ella now resides, next door to Commander’s, which Ti now runs. It’s one of just two days a year―the other is Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras)―when the restaurant is closed. For the contemporary gathering, guests dress sharply and dine on classics catered by McPhail’s staff, and the cocktails flow almost as easily as the laughter. “It’s still elegant,” says Martin, “but not so much that you can’t enjoy a naughty joke. Oh yes, I’m sure Aunt Adelaide would love it.”

Modern Réveillon

For New Orleans chefs, Christmas is a time to honor old customs that have migrated from homes to restaurants.

“The Réveillon has evolved,” says Chef John Besh, whose upcoming book My New Orleans will include a chapter on the tradition, and whose Restaurant August is among local eateries that prepare prix-fixe menus throughout December. “This is a chance to really showcase our culture. It gives people like me, who normally do very inventive things, a chance to return to age-old Creole staples.”

Like his counterpart Tory McPhail at Commander’s Palace, Besh looks to antique cookbooks and old restaurant menus for direction. The result is a seven-course menu of elaborate comfort food, including the likes of shellfish étouffée or daube beef stew―“slow-cooked, complex, [with] lots of love,” he says―and desserts such as a white cake layered with bananas Foster and frosted with Creole cream cheese (Louisiana’s unique clabbered cream, similar to sour cream). For his part, McPhail’s prix-fixe menu combines his zeal for locally sourced ingredients with years of tradition in a robust feast likely to feature a spicy gumbo, glazed quail, and bread pudding soufflé with whiskey sauce.


The Power of Nostalgia

"Optima dies. prima fugit ." The best days. are the first to flee. Willa Cather opened her novel My Ántonia with that Latin line from a poem by Virgil. The novel is infused with the power of sentiment and the changing world of the prairie as lived out and remembered by Jim Burden. Yet Cather isn't a sentimental writer and that can be a difficult feat when writing of the past. Usually when a book or movie is criticized as being too sentimental or nostalgic, I'm all over it. I never find too much of either to be a bad thing. Perhaps that is why the Christmas season can have such a delightful ache and longing to it. Even ad exec Don Draper in Mad Men , a television show I have watched on occasion, captures that feeling about nostalgia and its overt power in advertising: " It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. " Exactly.

I don't know if you watch CBS Sunday Morning (or tape it as we do) from 9am-10:30am each Sunday but every week I find so many relevant stories: from the folksy to the topical. It's as if, for a brief time each week, the regular news format has been suspended or even upended into that nice soft underbelly of culture and information that you'd like to see more often. Topical stories are addressed but mostly it is the kind of piece on reinventing Sundays, or some odd festival or turkey-calling, or this recent segment on nostalgia in our culture that just bring me back, week after week, for more. There are also really humorous bits and movie reviews. [And I have to admit to having a secret nerd crush on Mo Rocca . I would even consider "tweeting" just to follow his hysterical "tweets" on Twitter–and I hope he becomes a regular on The Joy Behar Show because he is the kind of snarky , funny guy I can't get enough of (or often find) in life (and his panel-sharing with Sandra Bernhard the other day just proves that they need their own show). His humor hums with contemporary cultural references, those of the wry variety that sometimes you have to really listen for–what else would you expect from a former Harvard Hasty Pudding Club president?]

Historically, nostalgia has helped a culture to sustain itself during hard times or transitions. As an architectural historian, it fascinates me that there was a huge revival in architecture and furniture styles throughout the nineteenth century, a time of great modern and industrial revolution and cultural changes in Europe and America. So we embraced the past, ancient past: Egypt, Rome, Asia and other cultures influenced the styles and tastes of growing empires. Even the Gothic style became secular. Later in that century we actually revived the Colonial, a revival that still morphs and changes from an era in our history that still resonates after two centuries. Handmade craft became big again in the late nineteenth century, a decided reaction to the industrial age of mass manufacturing. I would argue the same is happening now as a backlash to our technology and computer age: we embrace artisan crafts and breads, small-scale wineries, food grown and sold from small local farms, comfort food and comfortable homes. We crave local, vintage, primitive, retro, old, "new old" and historic. Human yearning is a powerful thing but what is it, exactly, that we are looking for? IMAGE from the book Time Wearing Out Memory– Schoharie County by Steve Gross and Susan Daley [W.W. Norton: 2007]

We've also been returning home as a culture: in our hearts, minds and lifestyles. This nesting trend has been going on since the late 20 th century and as much as we create a post-modern home, we draw on old prototypes while infusing our homes and families with new conventions. It can be hard to filter stuff out and there is a backlash with some people to modernity: whether it is anti-feminism, our school systems, the trappings of a modern world. I straddle both worlds but can understand why many women want to be home again or, if they can't because of family economics, they feather their nests as best they can and "think home" whenever possible. It is a fascinating trend. Regardless, "the good old days" were never as great as we think they were but there is tremendous power in a memory or scent or photograph. And nostalgia is good for us: look how it helped people during the Great Depression and World War Two in movies like It's A Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz , where the ideas of home and never leaving it become powerful themes. PHOTO–My mother in her pink post-war Akron, Ohio kitchen, Christmas, c. 1964.

NOTES on my Mother's Kitchen ( or where my B.A. in Art History and inherent detective skills are actually put to good use or in which Catherine takes a really long aside–if you don't want to read it, scroll down to the next set of "+ + +" ): If you click twice on the image of my mother in her kitchen (or any image in my blog entries), it should enlarge for you, because the details are of interest. We know the photo was taken at Christmastime because my Mom is wearing a Santa Claus apron (that I haven't seen since). Note the G.E. box (probably a new toaster opened that morning), with what I believe is a roll of Contact® paper right next to it. The Betty Crocker Cookbook and The Betty Crocker Cookie Cookbook , both mainstays in my mother's kitchen (and likely wedding presents–I also learned to cook and bake from these cookbooks), are in the corner. There is also the pink dishwasher front, the white Colonial Revival-style curtains with plants in the window, and the pink Pyrex® bowl (but I have no idea what my mother had in those jars!). The refrigerator, not pictured and neither is the breakfast nook in this small (probably 10x10) kitchen, was also pink as were many utilitarian features, like the soap dish. There is a trivet on the wall, to the left, which had a pink-ish design on it and was used as a decorative hot plate (trivets were big in the 60s). On the side of the cupboard is a fly swatter (if it is pink, I can not tell), alongside the folding metal towel rack.

"The things they carried. " Mom and I were just talking the other day about moving and boxes–many of ours are still in storage from our move two years ago–and how she moved several unpacked moving boxes from Akron, from our old farm in New Hampshire up the road to her new house several years ago. What is unusual about that is these boxes were from our Ohio house, packed in 1974 and kept in the barn for over 30 years , and likely full of things like trivets and pink kitchen things and seldom-used but well-packed wedding presents. Who knows? I do know that I have nightmares that the same thing will happen to me if we don't build our farmhouse soon. complete with attic, cellar and many pantries.

The linoleum floor of our pink kitchen, which I wish I could show you, was black with white and pink and gray confetti flecks thrown all over it in a random explosion. While crawling on that floor, I often pondered the vastness of space and time while looking at it. Being a highly visual child, I imagined infinity as a great wall on the other side of all of that confetti and blackness and remember asking my mother about what was beyond that wall: "Infinity goes on forever," she said. "Well, it must stop somewhere !" It was an exasperating thought but I guess it was the kind of "atomic" post-war pattern that could induce the philosophies of a three-year old. PHOTO–That's me in our pink Akron kitchen, at about two years old (c. 1964), probably trying to score some cookies.

Last summer a Norwegian historian contacted me about the image of my mother in her kitchen, that appears elsewhere in another blog entry at In the Pantry , for an exhibit called "Fiskeboller i karri" (Fish in curry) designed "to show that Norwegian culture (as any other culture) always has been affected by the rest of the world." They passed on the image, however, after permission had been given from my mother, because it was "too subjective" a relationship between the photographer (likely my father) and the subject (subjectivity must be very hard not to find in any shot of a woman in her kitchen, I should think!). I'm still scratching my head about that. PHOTO�s play food, like what I had in childhood, purchased last year on eBay for reasons and impulses I do not understand.


I remember this photo being taken, c. 1965 or 1966: my distant cousin Nancy Turner, whom I've only met a few times, and I are playing in my own pink kitchen under the basement stairs of our Akron home. The pink "appliances" were made of sturdy cardboard and the "food" in the foreground was made of hollow thin painted plastic. (I bought some just like it on eBay–that great nostalgic "attic".)

I suppose the solution to too much sentiment and nostalgic pining is living more in the present: taking each day for what it is and making memories by living in the moment. I try to do that, every day, but the pull of the past is a powerful thing. It's striking the balance in my life that is the hardest reality. I have boxes of photographs and even more digital images (and carousels of slides–oh my) to go through this year: to organize, copy, catalog and share (from my immediate family and past archives from my extended family). It is something that has to be done: for myself, our children and other family members–even for some kind of elusive posterity. I almost dread the process because I know, with each image, I will dwell in memories and recollections, some painful or bittersweet. I also know that the process could easily overcome me: " It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. " PHOTO–Ham awaits Sunday dinner preparations at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community in New Gloucester, Maine, August 2006.

So here's to a New Year: a clean slate, a time to reevaluate and remember but also to look forward and reinvent. I will really try not to let the simple glories of the daily life I lead escape from my grasp by living too much in my past (blogging helps this more immediate need to document and reflect on the day-to-day). The novelist Thomas Wolfe, who often wrote of memory and longing, said: "Is this not the true romantic feeling not to desire to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping you?" It's just the human condition to do so and we are, after all, a complex species made of mostly water, intricate strands of DNA, and an invisible and highly individualized soul energy. But our unseen chords (and cords) of memory bind us to each other and to who we are: once in a while, we just have to play them. PHOTO–A close-up of some of my green vintage collection, as styled for a photo shoot for The Pantry–Its History and Modern Uses [Gibbs Smith: 2007] at our former historic home.


Rachel wrote asking for help with a rhyme/finger game her grandfather would play from Georgia. Here’s her email… I am currently diving a bit more into my history, and I was wondering if you could help me find a certain nursery rhyme/finger game. My Grandfather was from Georgia during the Soviet Era, so he adopted [&hellip]

The release of the new Beaujolais Nouveau is a big event in the wine world each year. It always takes place on the 3rd Thursday of November. Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine that’s produced by gamay grapes. It’s from the Beaujolais region in France near Lyons. It’s one of the most popular wines around the [&hellip]


La Toussaint, All Saints Day, takes place on November 1st and is a public holiday in France. In the Catholic church it’s a day honoring all the saints. Some people go to a mass in honor of the holiday. Since people have the day off they also use it to mark le Jour des Morts, All [&hellip]

The clocks in France go back to Standard Time during the last weekend in October. It’s called l’heure d’hiver (winter time) in French. They put the clocks back one hour. The hour stays at Standard Time in France until the last Sunday in March. Image: Wall Clock in Morning Time by Garonzi Stefania, CC SA 4.0.


Maine Folklife Center

Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History: MF 136 The American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront

Number of accessions: 15
Dates when interviews were conducted: 2005-2016
Time period covered: 20th and early 21st century
Principal interviewers: Kathleen Mundell
Finding aides: some transcripts
Access restrictions: NA3598, NA3599, NA3603 (copyright was retained by interviewees)
Description: Accessions related to the American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront 2005 – current (after it ceased to be the National Folk Festival).

2005 American Folk Festival:
3850 American Folk Festival 2005. Official program: &ldquoThe American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront Official Program, August 26-28, 2005&rdquo (64 pages). Also included: 2 CDs with photographs taken at the festival and 4 positive prints of photographs. Text: official program. Photographs: P 9291 – P 9292, P 9310, P 9321.

2008 American Folk Festival:
NA3709 John Connors, interviewed by Chace Jackson and Pauleena MacDougall, July 6, 2008, Connor&rsquos garage in St. Francis, Maine. This is a pre-festival interview for the 2008 American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront. Recording: mfc_na3709_audio001- mfc_na3709_audio010 50 minutes.

NA3616 David Gordon Mott, interviewed by Rob Rosenthal, August, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Mott, age 76, gives a secondhand account of the details surrounding the 1956 rape and murder case of a 13 year old girl, Katherine De La Perelle, near his hometown Dalhousie, New Brunswick the role of the local sheriff in Canada the hiring of John Ellis (the hangman for Canada) the history of the convicted man, Joe Richard the details of the preparation for the hanging details of the hanging itself the ritual after the hanging the affects the hanging had on his father and the other witnesses the affect the hanging had on the town and his own efforts to prevent a revival of capital punishment in Maine. Text: 18 pp. transcript. Recordings: mfc_na3616_cd2067_01 71 minutes.

NA3617 Stefano Tijerina, interviewed by Rob Rosenthal, August, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Tijerina, age 38, talks about his life in Old Town, Maine his bicultural roots Colombia&rsquos urban lifestyle the magical quality of Maine Latino culture the family-like work relationships in Maine keeping his culture alive through music and food how his 7 year old son has grown up in Maine and what it&rsquos like to get him to learn and appreciate his Colombian roots Spanglish how outsiders think of Hispanics how Mainer&rsquos are less stereotypical first visits to Maine and a brief encounter his family experienced in Texas that determined their move to a safer environment like Maine. Text: 9 pp. transcript. Recordings: mfc_na3617_cd2068_01 30 minutes.

NA3619 Veronica Dodge, interviewed by Nancy H. Dewey and Rob Rosenthal, August 23, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Dodge talks about her life in Little Deer Isle, Maine experiences picking crabmeat HASCP regulations day in her business as a crab picker her employees getting crabs from fishermen in Bucks Harbor the physical hazards of the job health and safety proper cooking temperatures picking crabs for family income help from family making wreaths on Thanksgiving interactions with (clueless) customers challenges to the future of the crabmeat industry overfishing lack of interest in picking from youth tools used effect on her hands from all her jobs how 60 lbs picked is a good day how much the girls pick how much work goes into it disposing of shells. Text: 12 pp. transcript. Recordings: C 2605 / CD 2070 30 minutes.

NA3620 Adam Daniels, interviewed by Rob Rosenthal, August 23, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Daniels, age 33, talks about changing his name his current life in Orono, ME ties to East Corinth, ME differences between now and the past stories about entertainment in East Corinth in the past the importance of a sense of community Maine as an example of broader American values and work ethic the current poor economic conditions of Maine his optimism for Maine as a beautiful environment with economic potential job hunting how he sees Maine as a photographer Pat&rsquos Pizza as a community business his documentary of a Christmas tree seller as an example of Mainer&rsquos working hard and trying to survive struggle in Maine to keep businesses going description of his maternal grandfather, John &ldquoJack&rdquo Daniels. Text: 8 pp. transcript. Recordings: CD 2071 (CD 2071, Track 1-Interview with Adam Daniels (NA 3621), Track 2-Interview with Carrie Hickland (NA 3622), Track 3- Interview part 1 with Chace and Troy Jackson (NA 3620).)

NA3621 Carrie Hickling, interviewed by Rob Rosenthal, August 24, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Hickling, age 27, talks about her life in Littleton, Maine her hope to have a self-dependable farm breeding lionhead rabbits for show and pets practicing rabbitry breeding Californian rabbits for consumption communicating with other breeders COD (Certificate of Development) process ARBA (American Rabbit Breed Association) the process for getting approved by ARBA her business (McElfin Rabbitry) how rabbit shows are similar to other pet shows relationship with her first rabbit Marigold pet versus eating rabbits experimenting with cooking rabbit rabbits personalities. Text: 13 pp. transcript. Recordings: CD 2071 (CD 2071, Track 1-Interview with Adam Daniels (NA 3621), Track 2-Interview with Carrie Hickland (NA 3622), Track 3-Interview part 1 with Chace and Troy Jackson (NA 3620).)

NA3622 Troy Jackson, interviewed by Chace Jackson (his son) and Rob Rosenthal, August, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Jackson, age 47, talks about his life as a state legislator and logger in Allagash, ME memories of his father as a logger problem of low wages in logging: annual nine month work season, no health insurance, wages tough on families with responsibilities equipment costs landowners, contractors, and employees conflicts production up while wages dropped loggers working harder individually instead of standing together against corrupted business practices efforts to raise awareness of the problem Canadian labor Canadian road blockage becoming a leader at meetings working with mechanical equipment becoming a state legislator out of frustration to give a voice to loggers his approach to being a representative advice for his sons. Text: 17 pp. transcript. Recordings: mfc_na3622_audio001, mfc_na3622_audio002 40 minutes.

NA3623 Michael Corbin, interviewed by Rob Rosenthal, August 23, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Corbin, age 47, from Madawaska, Maine, talks about his ownership of Café de la Place his youth growing up in a French family in Grand Isle, ME being raised by a single mother as one of six kids close community ties and generosity being Acadian visiting France traditional Acadian food kitchen parties shopping in Canada his passion for food how watching his grandmother cook and neighborhood gatherings inspired his love of food and cooking. Text: 8 pp. transcript. Recordings: CD 2073 (CD 2073 Track 1-Chace and Troy Jackson, Track 2-Chace and Troy Jackson, Track 3-Michael Corbin.)

NA3624 Natalia Bragg, interviewed by Rob Rosenthal, August, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Bragg, age 58, talks about the her 40 years as a herbalist ownership of Knott II Bragg Farm her family&rsquos six generations of traditional healing practices how traditions are dying out from being ignored lack of interest from her children and grandchildren to learn the craft how she feels responsible to pass on the practice of herbal medicine sinus oil (making and use) collecting the history of how her family came to the town of Wade in Aroostook County, ME interactions with the public her 80 acres of farm where she collects her ingredients being in contact with her ancestors the stories behind the crafts apple pencils and gum books the ethics of being a herbalist and her training. Text: 9 pp. transcript. Recordings: CD 2074, CD 2075.

NA3625 Rodney C. Richard Sr., interviewed by Rob Rosenthal, August, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Rodney (The Mad Whittler) Richard Sr., from Rangeley, ME, talks about his life as a whittler learning to whittle from his father tools of his craft feeling naked without a jackknife and block of wood his work on display with the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service and DeCordova Dana Museum in Lincoln, MA how he was hired by Poulan to travel the country whittling mass merchandising forcing carvers out of work his work on tour the rabbit carvings he has given away (25,000+) his membership in the touring artists through the Art Commission in ME teaching hundreds of kids to whittle the satisfaction of making people happy through his carvings whittling for kids at the Children&rsquos Hospital in Boston and how he got his nickname. Text: 13 pp. transcript. Recordings: CD 2075.

NA3626 Patricia &ldquoPatty&rdquo Zavaleta (mother) and Julia Zavaleta (daughter), interviewed by Patricia Zavaleta, Rob Rosenthal, and Julia Zavaleta, August 23, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Patty and Julia interview each other Julia, age 9, talks about what it is like living in Bangor, Maine being part Irish and part Peruvian home school trips to Peru, Spain, and Ireland and how Bangor is in-between a small town and city Patty talks about growing up on a farm in Hancock, Maine what she likes about Bangor her favorite spots around town community traditions the Hispanic community giving her daughter world citizenship and the diversity of her family. Text: 10 pp. transcript. Recording: CD 2439.

3627 John Connors, interviewed by Chace Jackson and Rob Rosenthal, August, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Connors, age 75, from St. Frances, Maine, talks about his childhood memories of 1930s and 40s Depression era the lack of jobs and social programs how being in a rural area meant they had some resources how his grandparents raised him life on a homestead farm having to walk a mile to school how times have changed and the importance of conserving energy today New Deal programs like the WPA and the CCC the economic changes brought about as a result of WWII the atomic bomb how everyone contributed to the war effort (he salvaged 8 pounds of lead) what the draft was like and the importance of the current generation understanding how thing were then. Text: 10 pp. transcript. Recordings: mfc_na3627_audio001 35 minutes.

NA3628 Nancy Arlene Nelson, interviewed by Rob Rosenthal, August 24, 2008, at the Story Bank Folk Festival, Maine. Nelson, age 53, talks about life in Millinocket, Maine stories of her grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Bessie) Robinson life on Robinson Farm in the late 1800s in Dyer Brook life on the farm in Bingham, Maine later her grandparents&rsquo generosity picnics butter for burns how the mills and better economic conditions changed life in Millinocket in the 1960s how the hard way of life was more satisfying for her how people have lost something because of modernization and picking potatoes. Text: 11 pp. transcript. Recording: CD 2437.

2009 American Folk Festival:
NA3583 Bill Mackowski, interviewed by Kathleen Mundell, August 29, 2009, at the Story Bank Stage at the American Folk Festival, Bangor, Maine. Mackowski discusses snowshoes, particularly native snowshoes how he began making snowshoes, the development of modern snowshoes the importance of snowshoes to native cultures meeting with native snowshoe makers and anecdotes from those meetings decline of snowshoe making among native people connection between Attikamek and Penobscot snowshoe weaving his grandfather and materials used in traditional snowshoes: babiche, sinew and hide. Text: 25 pp. transcript (.doc). Recording: CD 2003 Track 1, 50 minutes (CD 2003 has 2 interviews: Track 1 Bill Mackowski Track 2 Carol Cottrill.), V 0312 (video of basket-making process filmed by Mackowski).

NA3585 Carol Cottrill, interviewed by Jessica Lockhart, August 29, 2009, at the Story Bank Stage at the American Folk Festival, Bangor, Maine. Cottrill discusses beekeeping the process of becoming a master beekeeper how she got involved in beekeeping the importance of mentoring caring for bees in the winter colony collapse disorder and possible causes how bees increase garden yields differences between honeybees and native bees components of a hive extracting honey and a man who used a bicycle to do so getting stung and why it usually happens understanding that honeybees are not aggressive and growing interest in beekeeping. Text: 13 pp. transcript. Recording: CD 2003 Track 2 26 minutes (CD 2003 has 2 interviews: Track 1 Bill Mackowski Track 2 Carol Cottrill.)

NA3586 David Spahr, interviewed by Jessica Lockhart, August 29, 2009, at the Story Bank Stage at the American Folk Festival, Bangor, Maine. Spahr discusses mushrooms how he became interested in mushrooms medicinal and ecological potential of mushrooms varieties of mushrooms his book, Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada and his mushroom beer. Text: 6 pp. transcript. Recording: CD 2004 (Track 1) 20 minutes.

NA3594 Ssippsis, interviewed by Kathleen Mundell, August 29, 2009, at the Story Bank Stage at the American Folk Festival, Bangor, Maine. Includes reading from story &ldquoThe Lease for Marsh Island, or, The Shaking of the War Club&rdquo and Ssippsis recounting her childhood on Indian Island etching birch bark finding suitable birch bark for her art her writing reads her poem, &ldquoPenobscot Puzzle&rdquo, and the creative arts in her family. Text: 15 pp. transcript. Recordings: CD 2007 (Track 1) 38 minutes.

NA3595 Richard Keezer, interviewed by Kathleen Mundell on August 29, 2009 at the Story Bank Stage at the American Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine. Keezer talks about his woodworking when he speaks Passamaquoddy getting roots for his woodwork animals he uses in designs how to pound ash rattles he makes and pickup hockey games in his childhood. Text: 10 pp. transcript. Recording: CD 2006 25 minutes.

NA3596 Tracey Neptune Ray and Pam Cunningham, interviewed by Kathleen Mundell, August 30, 2009, at the Story Bank Stage, Bangor, Maine. Ray and Cunningham discuss their work as Penobscot basket makers how they became involved in basket making basket making as a community effort basket making and bookmark making as healing activities demonstrating commitment and learning from elders work involved in preparing materials to make baskets balancing basket making with raising children how they got their Indian names and identifying as Penobscot. Text: 12 pp. transcript. Recording: CD 2007 (Track 2) 33 minutes.

NA3597 Doug Moore, interviewed by Kathleen Mundell, August 30, 2009, at the Story Bank Stage at the American Folk Festival, Bangor, Maine. Moore discusses his work as a basket maker learning to make baskets by watching his father finding suitable ash trees methods of peeling bark off trees switching from making utility baskets to fancy baskets average person&rsquos awareness of the work required to make baskets difficulties accessing ash trees picking sweet grass his grandmother braiding sweet grass and the increase in value of baskets since the 1960s. Text: 14 pp. transcript. Recording: CD 2004 (Track 2) 31 minutes.

NA3598 Karen Baldacci, interviewed by Kathleen Mundell, August 30th, 2009, at the Story Bank Stage at the American Folk Festival, Bangor, Maine. Baldacci, Maine&rsquos First Lady, discusses the Blaine House gardens history of the Blaine House gardens vegetable gardens her Blaine House Berry jam technique for freezing basil why she is interested in canning and preserving and her favorite recipes. Text: 5 pp. transcript. Recording: CD 2004 (Track 3) 10 minutes. Restrictions: Release not signed by Baldacci. Interview remains the property of interviewee and/or heirs.

NA3599 John Banks and Maria Girourd, interviewed by Kathleen Mundell, August 30, 2009, at the Story Bank Stage at the American Folk Festival, Bangor, Maine. Banks and Girourd talk about their work for the Penobscot Nation as Director of the Department of Natural Resources and Director of Cultural and Historic Preservation, respectively language programs connections to Penobscot heritage during their childhood the sovereignty of the Penobscot Nation and its relationship to the federal and state governments the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement how the environment and Penobscot culture are interrelated importance of the brown ash tree to Penobscot and the use of the Penobscot language among children. RESTRICTED. Text: 10 pp. transcript. Recording: CD 2005 (Track 1) 35 minutes.

NA3600 Mona &ldquoSt. Denis&rdquo Lothian, interviewed by Kathleen Mundell, August 30, 2009, at the Story Bank Stage at the American Folk Festival, Bangor, Maine. Lothian discusses her Franco-American heritage and childhood in Lewiston, Maine speaking French vacations at her maternal family farm ritual of saying the rosary impact of mill closings on the French community in Lewiston gradual loss of French language Christmas tradition of Réveillon French-Canadian food, particularly chicken stew and ployes and how her grandparents got their farm. Text: 12 pp. transcript. Recording: CD 2005 (Track 2) 35 minutes.

NA3601 Nathan Howard and Dominic Williams, interviewed by Kathleen Mundell, August 30, 2009, at the Story Bank Stage at the American Folk Festival, Bangor, Maine. Howard and Williams discuss growing up in Northport, Maine what makes someone a true Mainer, music in Belfast, Maine their band planning to leave the state for post-secondary education nearly getting shot while interrupting a neighbor&rsquos target practice and encounters with the psychic community. Recording: CD 2006 (Track 2) 25 minutes.

NA3603 Pamela Dean, interviewed by Kathleen Mundell, August 30, 2009, at the Story Bank Stage at the American Folk Festival, Bangor, Maine. Dean discusses Edward D. &ldquoSandy&rdquo Ives meeting Ives and how his fieldwork class changed her life and inspired her career Ives&rsquo relationships with his informants his writing style his clothing how Ives&rsquo work was new the establishment of the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History and his sociable personality. RESTRICTED. Text: 6 pp. transcript. Recording: CD 2006 (Track 3) 25 minutes.

2010 American Folk Festival:
NA3660 Photographs from the 2010 American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront. Photographs: P13348 – P13360.

NA3683 20th Anniversary Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program participants, recorded by Pauleena MacDougall, Dennis St.Pierre, Kathleen Mundell, Cindy Larock, August 28 and August 29, 2010, at the American Folk Festival held, Bangor, Maine. Recording of live presentation and lectures by Traditional Art Masters and their apprentices at the American Folk Festival: 20th Anniversary Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. Interviewees discuss the history of the art forms the tools the skills and methodology of the art forms demonstrations and teaching methods to the next generation of Traditional Artist. The arts covered in this program include carving snowshoe making drum making basket making music dance.

2011 American Folk Festival:
NA3867 2011 American Folk Festival. Recording of the 2011 American Folk Festival narrative stage.

2012 American Folk Festival:
NA3682 Photographs from the 2012 American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront. Photographs: P08484 – P08500.

2013 American Folk Festival:
NA3707 Photographs from the 2013 American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront. Photographs: P13361 – P13391.

2014 American Folk Festival:
NA3708 Photographs from the 2014 American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront. Photographs: P08501 – P08526.

2015 American Folk Festival:
NA3954 2015 American Folk Festival. Recording of the 2015 American Folk Festival narrative stage and photographs. Also included is the Bangor Daily News Program and a pocket schedule. Text: 7 pp. festival program and schedule. Audio: mfc_na3954_audio001 – mfc_na3954_audio011 446 minutes. Photographs: P13712 – P13752.

2016 American Folk Festival:
NA4235 American Folk Festival, August 27, 2016. Recordings from the Narrative Stage and photographs from both the Narrative Stage and the Demonstration Tent in the Folklife Area of the 2016 American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront. Katrina Wynn moderated all of the sessions except the Harlan-Haughey panel. Also included: copy of 2016 AFF pocket guide and Saturday&rsquos narrative stage schedule.

Narrative Stage lineup:
12:00-12:45 Jennifer Neptune, Old Town: Penobscot beader
12:55-1:40 Simin Khosravani, Glenburn: Kashkooli apprentice weaver
1:50-2:35 Panel: Melissa Winders (Yale), Mary Bird (UMaine), Susanne Grosjean (Susanne Grosjean handcrafted rugs), Sarah Harlan-Haughey (UMaine)
2:45-3:30 Panel: fiber communities, the local and the digital, Mary Bird (UMaine), Elisa Sance (graduate research assistant for MFC), Kavya Seshachar (Cape Elizabeth)
3:40-4:25 Kavya Seshachar, Cape Elizabeth: Indian crocheter
4:30-5:00 Fashion Show: asked the demonstrators and public to bring wearable homemade fiber art and show it off!

Text: 4 pp. schedule. Recording: mfc_na4235_audio001 – mfc_na4235_audio006 222 minutes. Photos: P14112 – P14149.

NA4236 American Folk Festival August 28, 2016. Recordings from the Narrative Stage and photographs from both the Narrative Stage and the Demonstration Tent in the Folklife Area of the 2016 American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront. Katrina Wynn moderated all of the sessions except the Harlan-Haughey panel. See NA4235 for official AFF pocket guide.

Narrative Stage lineup:
12:00- 12:45 Stephanie Crossman, Vinalhaven: netting artist
12:55- 1:40 Kavya Seshachar, Cape Elizabeth: Indian crocheter
1:45- 2:15 Fashion Show: asked the demonstrators and public to bring wearable homemade fiber art and show it off!
2:25- 3:10 Panel: Melissa Winders (Yale), Mary Bird (UMaine), Susanne Grosjean (Susanne Grosjean handcrafted rugs), Sarah Harlan-Haughey (UMaine)
3:20- 4:05 Simin Khosravani, Glenburn: Kashkooli apprentice weaver
4:15- 5:00 Jennifer Neptune, Old Town: Penobscot beader

Recording: mfc_na4236_audio001 – mfc_na4236_audio006 237 minutes. Photographs: p14150 – p14205.


In the general flurry of celebrations last week I missed out on St David&rsquos Day (the patron saint of Wales) and the opportunity to write about leeks. Leeks tend to excite a certain amount of derision but I think they&rsquore a fabulous vegetable, much milder, subtler and sweeter than onion and much more sympathetic to a fine white wine (for I think they go much better with a white wine than a red one).


It's party time and with any luck you'll be indulging in more than your fair share of luxury foods. But what to drink with them? The easy answer for most is champagne and that often works because it's as much a mood match as a food one. But if you're not content with the obvious so I've also come up with a few intriguing and stimulating alternatives:


The loveliest of blizzards

Every blizzard should be so sublime. Technically it wasn't even a blizzard, because the wind never blew too hard, at least here in Ward 3, still nicely blanketed in packed powder. The slushification hasn't yet hit the neighborhoods significantly, though downtown it's hard to get around, with slush-puddles at every intersection. Rain is coming. The next batch of photos will be of flooding. Then: earthquake.

I took the bus yesterday, and had a chat with the driver about the perils of Dupont Circle, Ward Circle, Westmoreland Circle -- traffic constructs that make more sense to the engineers than to the ordinary people who try to drive them. Yes, they're idiots, those motorists who can't follow the signs -- but that's sort of how I feel about computer technology and trying to figure out how to write URLs that will be visible to the Google spiders.

The best thing about a snowstorm is that it gets you on the street, on your block, talking to neighbors, reaffirming connections, pushing cars, digging out people who are plowed in. There is something small-d democratic about a major snowfall. We're all equally buried no man's snow shovel is appreciably better than anyone else's. Although when I see someone with that new, bent-handle type of shovel I think: Aren't we getting fancy? I just don't think people should put on airs in the snow shovel department, you know?

Quote of the day, in the very fine Phil Rucker dispatch from the Hill:

When the voting is finally over, Gilchrist, 33, plans to fly home to Minnesota and stay for a while. "I'm going to cook, hang out with my friends and family, exercise again, read novels and things that are not blogs, and be normal again."

Now, a classic shoveling tale, from 2003, by David Von Drehle:

I went out for the second round of shoveling on Sunday night, after the kids were asleep. A good 10 inches had fallen since morning, and it was still coming down hard. Night shoveling can be splendid if you get out there right after a fast-moving storm. The air gets thinner and crisper, sharp as iced gin. On a perfect night you might find yourself suddenly shoveling in moonlight, with scarves of cloud wisping past the stars. The white light of the moon lands on the whiter drifts of snow and splinters into a billion glittering facets whitest of all. It is peaceful and still as Heaven, and you plunge in with your shovel, clearing a righteous path.

I attended college not far from home, and on nights when it snowed, after I finished work on the late shift I liked to zip over to Mom's house for a brisk midnight shovel. I pictured the neighborhood awakening a few hours later and wondering how on Earth Dorothy's walks and driveway got clear. Lungs bottomless, back strong, I could do Mom's walk and the neighbors' walks on either side and then drive away, leaving my work to greet them like a sunrise miracle.

What vanity.

Sunday night was not splendid. My back was throbbing by the time I got halfway down the driveway. How could I have been so stupid as to buy a house on a corner lot? I ran out of will before I ran out of work, and found myself recalculating the property line between my lot and my neighbor's, concluding that I need not dig quite as far as usual. It took me nearly three hours to finish.

But as is my custom, I stood at the corner and studied the lines of clear sidewalk. Two plows came clanking and grumbling up the street. As they approached, warm feelings of comradeship welled up in me, and I raised a gloved hand to greet my fellow shovelers. They lightly beeped their horns as their blades buried my work in slush.

On Monday morning I stepped outside, grabbed my shovel -- a word here about my shovel. It is a short one with a straight handle and a flat, almost square, blade. It conveyed with the house. I have been shoveling snow, off and on, for more than 30 years with shovels like this, despite the fact that human ingenuity has greatly improved the design of these instruments. A shovel with a longer handle, curved according to the best ergonomic research, would make my work faster and healthier. It is silly not to buy a good shovel, just as it was silly for my father to maintain that face masks on football helmets are sissy.

Anyway, I grabbed my shovel, tucked in my muffler, and started digging. The overnight accumulation looked like three inches or so.

But just under the downy surface, my shovel bounced off a sturdy crust. My dutiful performance of the day before had been rudely punished a sheet of sleet-snow had scabbed over my nicely cleared decks. Only after much improvising did I perfect a tedious method of clearing it away: first I scraped the crust loose using a flat coal shovel, then I scooped it clear.

In other words, the third pass was like two passes. The front walk had been repeatedly plowed under with heavy slush. The job that had taken 90 minutes on Sunday morning took more than four hours on Monday, and there was so much snow I was running out of places to put it.

Snowbanks filled in under the shrubbery all the way up to the branches. In open spots, the snow rose well past waist level. I could recall only two other times in my adult life when the snowbanks got so high they impeded the shoveling. There was the Christmas Blizzard of '82 in Denver and the Washington Doozy of '96.

Shoveling gives you a lot of time to think. I found myself thinking that the Blizzard of '82 is half a lifetime ago for me. When I cover that same distance in years again, I will be just about the age my father was when he died.

I paused. Fluffy snow was meandering down in flakes so large they looked like torn tissue paper. Hundreds of birds swept in a sudden gust into our holly tree and attacked the berries with such ferocity that the branches shook. Berry seeds, bird droppings and bits of leaf fell like rain on the snow beneath the tree. Then the birds sang a chirping cantata and exploded upward and away.

The Doozy of '96 is seven years gone and I swear it was just a minute ago. There is a limit to how many seven-year minutes there are on anybody's clock.

If this were a work of art, instead of a little story about my shoveling life, and if I were still a sunrise miracle, I would picture myself writing something like this for you now:

"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

But James Joyce I am not, so I will say this bluntly: Snow may be a metaphor for the chill blanket that will one day cover us all, and pristine pavement just a futile dream.

Maybe an inch of airy stuff awaited me on Tuesday morning. It slid away in long, effortless strips at the gravel-voiced urging of the shovel. The only hard work remaining was clearing the mess between the driveway and the ruts in the middle of the street, and even that didn't take very long. Within a few minutes after the last flake fell, I was completely dug out.

I confess that I spent a long moment admiring my labor, even as I thought how strange it is to do work that the sun would do if I only let it. After all: If life is short -- and it is -- why spend it scraping the sidewalk from edge to edge?

Already, the day was warming. The snow was telltale brown where the cars had crossed it and yellow where the neighborhood dogs had visited. My last scoop, though, was pure and light and popped from my shovel with a mere flick of the wrists. And there was my answer. I shovel because it's who I am. It's what I do.

By Joel Achenbach | December 22, 2009 9:39 AM ET

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