Archive | July, 2013

Meals at Meduseld – Escoffier

With the passing of the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic last year, we did a lot of research about that incredible ship, searching movies, documentaries, and buying books.  One of the best books I found about the Titanic’s only voyage led me to another personal discovery, Auguste Escoffier.


The book is called Last Dinner on the Titanic, by Rick Archbold and Dane McCauley.  The book has copies of actual menus of the last meals on the Titanic and first-hand accounts of what was served and how the food was served.  It is an engaging account of that cruise, quite unlike any I have ever read, and since I enjoy cooking, it was that much more engrossing.

We dined last night in the Ritz restaurant.  It was the last word in luxury.  The tables were gay with pink roses and white daisies, the women in their beautiful shimmering gowns of satin and silk, the men immaculate and well-groomed, the stringed orchestra playing music from Puccini and Tchaikovsky.  The food was superb:  caviar, lobster, quail from Egypt, plover’s eggs, and hothouse grapes and fresh peaches.  The night was cold and clear, the sea like glass.”  First-class passenger Mrs. Walter Douglas

The authors describe the influences to the menus onboard and that is where Escoffier comes in. 

Escoffier was born in 1846 and started his culinary career working at his uncle’s restaurant in Nice, France.  During his life he was chef in the Savoy and Carlton restaurants in London, as well as in the Ritz in Paris.  He composed eight cook books including  the Guide Culinaire, which held a staggering 5000 recipes.  He streamlined recipes and laid rules for cooking and serving that persevered well into the 1900’s.  His Guide Culinaire is still in print and influences chefs all over the world.   He stood out for being kind to his staff, which seems to imply that was not very common then.   Escoffier improved sanitation in his restaurants.  He was often called the “king of chefs and the chef of kings” and is arguably the Father of “haute cuisine.”  His fame did not prevent him from having a generous heart – at the end of every day all left over food went to the poor, and he paid for its transport.

Escoffier perfected fine, rich, creamy sauces.  He could turn any vegetable into a refined soup and he emphasized the importance of pairing foods properly and using fresh ingredients.  While his recipes and rules may seem complicated, most are actually rather easy.  For example, his hors d’oeuvres Concombres a’ la Danoise has only four ingredients – cucumbers, smoked salmon, smoked herring, and hard-boiled eggs. 

Escoffier designed the kitchens for trans-Atlantic cruise ships and was still alive during  the Titanic’s trip.  Chef Proctor, the Titanic’s head chef, created his recipes and menus based on Escoffier’s menus at the Ritz.  Proctor served the meals in courses, which is a method we take for granted these days but was an innovation made by Escoffier.  Proctor’s menu for the Titanic’s first-class eleven-course dinner is included in the Last Dinner book.   The first-class diners enjoyed items directly from Escoffier’s own cookbook such as Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Chicken Lyonnaise and roasted Squab. 

The book also provides copies of the  menus for second and third class.  The second class menu  features three courses which in modern-day would equal many first class restaurants.  The third class, or steerage, menu was called a “Bill of Fare” and was hardly anything to turn down either.  For example, Saturday’s dinner included soup, roast beef with gravy,  green beans, boiled potatoes, cabin biscuits, fresh bread, and for dessert, prunes and rice.  This is more than is served in many homes these days.

That they could serve so much food was an amazing achievement.  The team of 60 chefs served 6000 meals a day.  The kitchens were modern by 1912 standards, and included electrical appliances.

For years I have been studying French cuisine and collecting cookbooks and DVDs from Julia Child and Le Cordon Bleu; I considered these sources the beginning and end of French cooking.  I have the Cordon Bleu’s  book of French Classic Cuisine which includes stunning photographs of their creations that make your mouth water.  But in my Julia Child/Cordon Bleu centered culinary universe, I did not know that their work was based on a greater genius, one to whom they actually make no mention in their Classics book!

Modern chefs emmulate Escoffier, especially his zeal for excellent ingredients and working with the growers in much the same way as the modern farm-to-table movements. 

I have placed  the book The Last Dinner on the Titantic in my Amazon store, along with two other cookbooks with recipes by Escoffier.  One is The Illustrated Escoffier with an introduction by his grandson, and the other it Escoffier’s Guide.  I am also including a link to the BBC’s brief video on Escoffier at the London Ritz.  Bon Appetit!

BBC Video on Escoffier


Who Owns Rainwater?

There are things that people can take for granted.  Sunlight, air, privacy, freedom, and water.  In the United States, water in most states is a property ownership issue that conveys with the minerals rights of a property.  If you buy a property with minerals, you are usually even taxed on this “asset.”

In some states this asset is broken down separately into water rights.  You can literally sell the water rights of a property.  In Texas, these are commonly leased for raising cattle.  Obviously, this includes the streams that exist due to rainwater.

Increasingly, states are encroaching on people’s’ rights to their own water.  In parts of the county we reside in, the local water agency is gradually forcing people to give us their wells and accept treated public water – at a price of course – establishing for the local government a tidy little monopoly and usurping people’s ability to use an asset on their own property.

In the other version of this states are claiming ownership over rainwater.   How they manage to pass this type of legislation with a straight face is beyond me, but it is very real.  Please read the following two articles that show real cases and the consequences.  As you read these, please remember that water-run off issues have become a major government battle ground.  For-example, due to the Chesapeake Bay Act, any construction with soil disturbance must have barriers to hold the water and prevent it from running too quickly and eroding creeks and water ways.  Governments claim that it is necessary to slow the water in order to prevent flash-flooding.   In the Oregon article that follows, they are playing the issue both ways.  

Oregon Rainwater Article

States with Rainwater Restrictions


If Austria adopted Oregon's extremist position, Sepp Holzers rainwater ponds for his permaculture estate would become illegal.

If Austria adopted Oregon’s extremist position, Sepp Holzers rainwater ponds for his permaculture estate would become illegal.


Meduseld’s Open House 2013

Despite the rain and gloomy forecast, Meduseld’s open house was a well-attended and fun event!

open house 010b

The rain prevented us from putting out all the displays and products, however, people were  able to tour the nearby gardens and structures.

open house 011b

People meandered through the permaculture garden where we discussed soil and pest issues and how they can be remedied without resorting to chemicals.  Attendees also viewed the conservatory, taking in the banana trees with developing clusters of fruit, the assorted citrus, papaya, and jabuticaba trees. 

open house 025b

People visited and enjoyed hot dogs and good company.

People visiting and looking at yarn in the fiber tent.

People visiting and looking at yarn in the fiber tent.

Among all the wonderful people who came to the event, we were delighted to be joined by Emily Estrada, Fibretown podcaster, and her lovely family.  Emily also brought her adorable and animated dog, Alice, who promptly took up becoming close friends with our own dog, Beowulf.  The two were so animated, though, that taking a picture of them sitting still was nearly  an impossible task. 

Emilry and her family - her son ducked out of the photo.

Emily and her family – her son ducked out of the photo.

Photo-op  with the celebrity Alice!

Photo-op with the celebrity Alice!

Some of the young men in attendance took charge of cooking the hot dogs over a camp-fire and shared stories.

Around the campfire

Around the campfire

The children enjoyed other activities, including climbing trees and playing croquet.

Tree climbing

Tree climbing – Elve or girl?

It looks like this little darling won the croquet game.

Croquette game winner!

Croquet game winner!


A cowboy also attended.

A cowboy also attended.

We also had a raffle for a pineapple lace shawl crocheted with Meduseld Romney yarn.  The raffle was won by Julie Flanagan who was delighted!  Congratulations, Julie!


Calligraphy Workshop at Fort Edwards

My daughter Lottie and I attended yesterday’s Calligraphy workshop, hosted by the Fort Edwards Foundation and given by Abby Chapple, a member of the Washington Calligraphy Guild.  Abby has lead a fascinating life and is listed in the Who’s Who in America guide.

Abby Chapple Presenting the Calligraphy Workshop

Abby Chapple Presenting the Calligraphy Workshop

Chapple gave the historical background about calligraphy, its origins and uses.  She explained that the word derives from greek and that “calli” come from the greek work for beauty.  It literally translates to “beautiful writing.”    Chapple discussed its use in historic documents,  bibles and prayer books such as the famous Book of Kells, official government documents, records, etc.  Before our modern version of paper was widely manufactured and distributed, the writing was done on “parchment” or “vellum” – sheep and goat skins.

Diverse people attended the class  – from historical docents to artists to students.  One person was interested in learning this art to contribute to his skill in interpreting the colonial period. 

Chapple described the tools used for calligraphy.  She demonstrated the commonly seen feather quill pen and its frequent need for being resharpened, hence the penknife.  Chapple explained that the metal fountain pen tip was only patented in this country in 1803.  It likely existed earlier in Europe , but in the timeline of recorded human history, its existence is relatively short!

Calligraphy Writing Instruments and Inks

Calligraphy Writing Instruments and Inks

During the class, Chapple taught the packed class of students the basic pen strokes that are the foundation for every letter of the alphabet.  Once these strokes are mastered the remaining letters can all be written.  It sounds easier than it is.  Each stroke has a varying width and must be perfected before advancing to a completed letter. 

Chapple Assisting a Student with her Penstokes

Chapple Assisting a Student with her Penstokes

Due to the popularity of the class, Abby Chapple may be offering another and if there is interest please contact the Fort Edward Foundation for more information or call (304) 874-4291.  Chappel recommnded the calligraphy book, The Universal Penman, and I have placed it in my Amazon Store to the right.

The Fort Edwards Foundation hosted this event in their museum/bookstore.  The Foundation is offering other workshops and is a real benefit to the community.  The Foundation would like to expand its building in order to have more space for displaying the 6000 artifacts that they have found on the property, as well as more room for future workshops, hosting events etc.  Please consider donating to their mission of preserving this valuable piece of George Washington’s past.   Donations to the Foundation are tax-deductible. 


Display Case of Fort Edwards Foundtion

Display Case of Fort Edwards Foundtion

Meduseld on Fibretown Podcast

Meduseld was included on Emily Estrada’s latest Fibretown Podcast!

If you are not watching her podcast yet, I urge you to watch an episode.  One episode and you’ll be hooked!  Emily is engaging and skilled, and it is always inspirational to see her latest projects.

In this episode “Gifted,” Emily shows some of Meduseld’s products including maple syrup, a beeswax candle, and a custom skein of Romney in a colorway made with Emily in mind, but that happens to also match the Meduseld logo.   It is in rich gold, deep royal purple with splashes of burgandy, and Bavarian Forest green.

Meduseld Romney emily

The Romney yarn is a fun, highly dyeable yarn.  If you would like your own custom skein please email me at  Not only can I make custom lengths so your projects will have no knots, but I can dye it in custom shades. 


Meduseld Having Open House!

We are excited to announce that Meduseld will be having an open house on July 27, 2013, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm!

We have had several calls and emails asking to visit our farm, and thought we’d go ahead and make it an official day.

You will  be able to:

  • See the conservatory,
  • See the assorted animals, sheep, horses, cows, alpaca, geese, peafowl, etc.
  • Tour the gardens and hoop houses (tunnel houses)
  • See the ponds, walk in the vineyard, deer damage and all :(
  • Bring a picnic and hang out. 
  • Pick fresh peaches.

Please make the trip to see us.  We would be delighted to show you around.  This event is invitation only.  Please RSVP!  Directions are available by emailing

See you then!



Grass Fed Lamb



Meduseld Grass-fed Lambs

Meduseld Grass-fed Lambs

  We are accepting reservations for six grass-fed lambs that will be available this fall.  The lambs were born in March or April of this year and will be ready for butchering late fall.   These sheep were just recently weaned.  They have never been grained.  They receive Thorvine Kelp as a nutritional supplement. 

Meduseld does not butcher or sell the processed meat.  We sell the sheep and will deliver it to Gore’s Custom Butcher in Stephen’s City, VA, which is conveniently located off Interstate 81.  Meduseld’s charge is $100.00 for the sheep, and Gores charges $75.00 to process it (pricing as of June 2013).  You will be able to pick up your lamb directly from Gores.

The lambs are crosses of the Romneys, Dorset Down, or Jacobs.  The weight of each lamb will be approximately 100 pounds.  Typically, approximately 50 percent of that is lost during butchering.  

If you google prices for grass-fed lamb, you will find that this is a bargain. 

The sheep are available on a first-come, first-served basis.  Please email to reserve your lamb!  We require a $25.00 deposit to hold the reservation.