Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Harvest Home

"...this is what we call it, the dinner that ends our autumn holiday. The garnerings of the outing are pure air, fresh odors, pleasant site, relaxed nerves, sweetened tempers, rested bodies - and appetites.

It is an unwritten law of the party that the dinner, whether given at the home of the genial host of these pleasure trips, or at the country home of one of his guests, shall be celebrated in the open air; put in the indefinable atmosphere of this season, before the dreamy hush of autumn becomes oppressive... with an early hunter's moon sulking behind a cloud...

Across one end of the veranda where possibly the outside world might peep in, she put a close row of small evergreen trees, making an effective screen and background; while, arranged in corners, enveloping pillars, hanging from every available cornice and ornament, "October's crimson banners flew." ...

The center of the table held a loosely woven grass basket, tipped on its side and poring forth evidence of the maturity and bounty of the "fall of the year."

Clusters of purple Concord grapes, golden-green Niagara's, and tiny purple Delaware's blended the bloom and color in profusion that tumbled out among soft tufts of a tangle of feathers clematis vine, which started under the basket and ran with riotous and apparently unstudied freedom over the cloth.

The place cards were rolls of thin birch bark which curled round the extreme ends of the clematis.

When "night threw her mantle over the skies and pinned it with a star," the table was lighted by twinkling beams from many unshaded bayberry candles. These candles, by the way, are made by an old resident back in the country of Long Island and are the result of a mysterious process of extracting the wax from bayberries...

And now to the lesser attractions of the menu..."

Corn Soup, Croutons
Smelts, Sauce Tartare


Saddle venison, Jelly Sauce
Sweet potatoes
Brussels sprouts
Boiled chestnuts

Roman Punch

Broiled quail
Hominy crescents

October salad

Grandmother's pudding, Snowdrift sauce
Fig Dainty

Cheese and wafers


- The Good Housekeeping Hostess, 1904

Recently, I have been researching the subject of the Harvest Home celebration, most of which I am not going to include here because the more I dug, the more I realized this topic can be a wick to a angry flame in the wrong hands, historically. It engenders the sort of misunderstanding that burns women at stakes when left to the uninformed, consequently I am sticking to the straightforward upside of the concept. However, if you are very curious I will give you a reference later.

Now then. The Harvest Home celebration, occasionally mistaken for a Thanksgiving pre-cursor, is actually a celebration of the autumnal equinox and a farewell to the growing season and harvest. In ancient cultures, the intention was to recognize the darkness of days winning over the light and to bid the health of the plants farewell, many poetic references on the subject making mention of "sacrifices" have, in modern hands, been unfortunately misunderstood and refer in fact, to sacrificing and thrashing the wheat and/or corn harvest; The reason the symbolic sheaf's of wheat and corn appear with such frequency decoratively in this season.

What a fine reason for an final outdoor supper in the crisp air of a Sunday afternoon, I thought. In our town in Westchester, the community gathers later in the season for a The Hunters Dinner and it is not at all unlike the menu you see above; Indeed a flurry of oil coats and high field boots appears at six in the evening in the local Episcopal hall after their horse farms have been shuttered for the night and the last of the household maintenance is complete on a late fall Saturday.

It occurs to me now, we might gather outside sooner in the season on the bridle path in the open land and as the light begins to fade, champagne glasses might be charged one last time for the season that was, harvest or otherwise.

To read a bit more on the subject of Harvest Home, you can begin here. On the subject of bayberry candles; here and here.

Blushing reminder: The San Lori reader giveaway ends Tuesday night, enter here. The finestationery.com giveaway will beging Wednesday morning, do check back.

Photo credits: wikipedia, marthastewart.com, marthastewart.com, about.com, sciencephotography.com, about.com, countryliving.com, forevecrystal.co.uk


Kathy said...

Beautiful shot of the Harvest moon!!!! xoxo~Kathy @ Sweet Up-North Mornings...

EntertainingMom said...

I must host a harvest moon party next year! We had a harvest moon last night... huge and round and bright and magnificent. In fact it kept waking me up and all I could do was to think of the lyric... when a moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore! LOL

It was the moon shining into my window at 5:45 that woke me... not the sun's rays. It was lovely and peaceful. I never draw the curtains or pull down the shades as I love to look out my window during all hours, days and seasons!

Stephanie said...

What a great post! I love this idea. I won't be able to get to it this year, but I think we are a go for next! thanks for the inspiration!

little augury said...

I love the idea of this.Oh- the bales of hay seating-I am going to send you are pic- Beautiful post. G

Jo said...

What a fabulous post ~ the moon is amazing. I think I may dig a little deeper into this story as you've caught my curiosity.


{ L } said...

Wow. This is all so perfect. I want to join in!