I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

July 27, 2011

Remember my post last year on Ice Cream a la 1800s, where I talked a bit about the origins of ice cream and more specifically the first “ice cream” maker, called a sabottiere?

A little refresher: The sabottiere is the inner canister shown in the picture to the right. The prepared ingredients would be placed in the canister with the lid secured. The sabottiere was then placed in a bucket, and a mixture of ice and salt was packed around it. Then someone had to manually grab the handle and turn the canister clockwise and then counterclockwise for whatever length of time the recipe specified.

Labor intensive indeed!

The sabottiere was the ice cream maker of the 1700s, but by the 1800s it was on its way out as technology advanced and a new ice cream maker was introduced. This one functioned the same as the sabottiere, but had a hand crank that attached to the top. A person would turn the crank, which in turn rotated the sabottiere. It was a lot less work, and it made ice cream much faster. The design has stood the test of time. You can still find ice cream makers today (both electric and hand cranked) that are very similar to the mid-1800s ice cream maker.

There were two forms of ice cream:

  1. Frozen ice, which was basically a mix of water or lemonade and fresh fruit (raspberries, cherries, currents, strawberries…).
  2. Ice cream, made with milk, cream and eggs.

Here’s a recipe for Chocolate Ice Cream from the 1847 Lady’s Receipt Book by Eliza Leslie:

Scrape down half a pound of the best chocolate or of Baker’s prepared cocoa. Put it into a sauce-pan, and pour on it a pint of boiling milk. Stir, and mix it well, and smoothly. Then set it over the fire, and let it come to a boil. Mix together in a pan, a quarter of a pound of powdered loaf-sugar, and a pint of rich cream. In another pan beat very light the yolks of nine eggs. Afterwards gradually stir the beaten egg into the cream and sugar, and then put the mixture into a sauce-pan; stir in, by degrees, the chocolate; set it over the fire, and simmer it till it is just ready to come to a boil. Strain it through a sieve, transfer it to a freezer, and freeze it in the usual manner of ice-cream.

Did you know Fact Alert!

  • Did you know that Frederick Tudor was known as Boston’s “Ice King?” He founded the Tudor Ice Company during the early 19th century and made a fortune by harvesting ice in the winter from New England lakes and then selling it to the Caribbean and Europe.
  • Did you know that sugar was so abundant by the 1830s that an average person was consuming about 90lbs of sugar per year. Today the average person consumes over 156 lbs of sugar per year!

Winner of Phantoms in the Snow

July 25, 2011

Heidi Ruby Miller is the winner of Kathleen Benner Duble’s Phantoms in the Snow!  Heidi, please email us your snail mail address at damselsinregress [at] gmail [dot] com so I can get this out to you!

Contest: Phantoms in the Snow

July 22, 2011

You all know you want to win a signed book about skiing soldiers, right?  Because it’s one of the most original WWII stories I’ve read in a long time and just a good book on top of that.  So, to enter, please comment with the following:

In the book, Noah, a farmer’s son from Texas, has to learn to ski in Colorado and become a soldier after a lifetime of being raised a pacifist.  He spends most of the book convinced he can’t do it, only to discover he can.  Name a time in your life when you were faced with a challenge you thought for sure you could never overcome, only to discover afterward you were able to be smart, crafty, or just plain stubborn enough to get the job done.

NEW CONTEST RULE: I’ll announce a winner Monday morning, since all of our contest comments seem to come in the first couple days anyway.  So don’t put it off–you can do it!

Interview: Kathleen Benner Duble

July 20, 2011

Today the Damsels welcome Kathleen Benner Duble, author of Phantoms in the Snow.  Starting Friday, you can enter to win a signed copy of this fascinating book.  Until then, read about Kathleen’s inspiration.

1.  You said on your web site that you got the idea for Phantoms from an article on these skiing soldiers.  What about that story sparked your interest?

 In the Sports Illustrated news article, they mentioned that they called the skiing soldiers Phantoms.  The name caught my attention.  I wondered what it would be like to be in a unit that had that nickname attached to it.


2.  Were any of the characters in the book based on people you know, such as the Phantoms you met or your relatives who served in World War II?

  No, none of the characters in the book are based on people I know, but a little of everyone you come into contact always seeps into your writing.  I do know several Phantoms, one very well, Peter Binzen.  But I’ve only known him since he was older.

3.  How did Noah’s pacifism come to play a role in this story?

I grew up in a military family.  My father is a jet pilot and my sister is a tanker pilot.  I’ve always wrestled with the idea of fighting and going to war.  Noah was a nice catalyst for me to be able to explore my own feelings about the topic.  As you can tell from the story, there is no easy answer.  And the only conclusion I came to was the same one Noah did – that in war, innocents always pay a price.

4.  What sort of research did you do?  What was an interesting piece of information you had to leave out of the story?

Well, learning to ski was something I had done – at a much too old age!  Many of Noah’s failed attempts, I experienced.  As for research, I read a lot of books and newspaper articles on the  10th Mountain Division.  There are several wonderful videos on this group which I watched.  I had been to Vail, near where they trained so I knew the terrain.  I had also been to Italy, near Riva, so again, the descriptions were easy.  Also, Peter Binzen was good enough to read a draft of my book and make sure the details were accurate.

I didn’t include the attack the next morning on Mount Belvedere.  While the attack on Riva was fairly easy in terms of casualties, the attack on Mount Belvedere was not.  A lot of good Phantoms were lost in that charge.  However, without the capture of Riga the night before, the casualties would have been a lot higher.

5.  You’ve written several historical novels in different time periods.  Do you have a favorite period, or one that you find easier to research or write in?

I don’t have a favorite time period.  I find all historical periods fascinating.  And each time I choose a new one, I learn a lot of things that either I’ve forgotten from school or I just never learned.  I love finding really cool facts to relay to kids – things like how a sailor went to the bathroom on a boat or the fact that rats permeated a jail cell in 1692 Colonial America.  Obviously, the more recent the history, the easier it is to research, but it doesn’t make the time period more interesting to me.

6.  I’m always impressed with authors who seem to write comfortably inside the head of the opposite gender.  Was it easy or difficult for you to write from Noah’s point of view, as well as writing so many other male characters?

It is always a bit difficult for me to write male characters.  I don’t have any brothers and I had no sons.  So I have to rely on my daughter’s guy friends to try and imagine their perspective.  Noah is not a rough and tumble kind of kid to start with, so that made writing about him a bit easier.  Although, my girls did play ice hockey growing up so rough and tumble is something I do understand.  But there is no doubt that I am more comfortable writing from a girl’s perspective.  But then again, trying a boy’s perspective stretches my growth as a writer.

7.  Do you have any other upcoming projects you’d care to share?

I just finished a book about the French Revolution from Madame Tussaud’s apprentice’s point of view.  If you aren’t aware, Madame Tussaud lived during this period and later opened a wax museum in London.  Before the Revolution in France, she worked with the King’s sister showing her how to mold wax saints.  When the Revolution happened, she was accused of being a Royalist, arrested and slated to go to the guillotine (her hair was hacked off to be ready).  Right before her beheading, the National Assembly came to her and offered to free her if she would make wax heads of the people they beheaded (namely Marie Antoinette and the kIng).  She agreed and that is why at Madame Tussaud’s waxwork house in London, they have the head of the kIng and queen of France.

Book Review: Phantoms in the Snow

July 18, 2011

Phantoms in the Snow
Kathleen Benner Duble
Ages 12+
240 pages

After four years of research and a lifetime of interest in World War II, I thought I’d heard it all.  But that’s the great part about this period of history: you will never hear it all.  This war consumed the entire world and required creative means to fight battles and resist oppression.  One such creative move was to train soldiers to fight on skis so they would be prepared to face the enemy in the Alps.

Wait–soldiers on skis?  No, I certainly hadn’t heard it all.

Phantoms opens with the death of fifteen-year-old Noah Garrett’s parents in early 1944.  Noah is a quiet Texas farm boy with a strict religious upbringing that included a pacifist stance.  With no other family or anyone in his community able to take him in, Noah is sent to live with his mother’s brother, James Shelley, at Camp Hale in Colorado.  Shelley is an Army officer, and his unit trains in the Rocky Mountains, learning to fight a war on skis.  Noah has never skied in his life, but eventually finds himself loving the mountains and the sporting aspects of skiing and mountaineering.  He makes friends with other young men in his unit–another first for a boy whose life revolved around his farm and his parents.  Throughout the book, though, he struggles to reconcile his parents’ teaching that war is always wrong and the life he has been thrown into, and learns there are no easy answers to those questions.

Aside from learning yet another World War II tidbit, the book was enjoyable because of the depth of the characters.  Each boy or man in Noah’s unit is an individual with his own thoughts and feelings about the war.  Each one also goes through their own transformation as a result of the war, though Noah’s is probably the most profound.  His transformation happens gradually, with a lot of back and forth as he wrestles with his place in the war, and it’s satisfying to the reader to watch him go through that.  The descriptions of the mountains and the cold, especially as seen through a character who had only known a warm climate, are very effective and make the training scenes come to life.

Stay tuned for an interview Wednesday with Kathleen Benner Duble and a contest to win a signed copy of the book on Friday!

A Title by Any Other Name . . .

July 12, 2011

While at Barnes & Noble recently I overheard a conversation between two teenage girls in the Young Adult section. It went something like this:

“You know how they say you can’t judge a book by its cover?” Girl #1 said.

“Yeah?” Girl #2 said.

“That’s so not true. You totally can.”

“I know, right?”

I agree—at least as far as being able to judge whether a book is the kind you generally like to read, which is what I think these girls were talking about. The content, of course, has to be read to be judged fairly.

Today I want to talk about book covers and more specifically, book titles. Cover art is usually not something an author has any control over. And while publishers do change titles, at least there’s a chance that they might actually like your original title and stick with it. Especially if it’s catchy and attention-getting.

For example, a YA novel by Lish McBride has a title I love—Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. I have no idea if it’s her original title or not. I checked the book out from the library just because of the title. It’s paranormal, I think, or maybe just horror, and that’s definitely not the type of book I usually pick up. But with a title that good, I have to read it. I also think the title is funny because I doubt most teenagers even get the joke. (Please forgive my ageism!)

So how do you come up with a catchy title? I don’t know. Maybe that’s something for creative marketing people to do. But I figure a writer should give it her best shot. A title needs to reflect the genre and tone of the story. With my historical fantasy novels, An Inherited Evil and Magic’s Lure, the titles came relatively easily. I just played around with theme and the ideas in the stories. With my contemporary YA romance, Counting Winks, the title jumped out at me while I was writing. I wanted it to be fun and maybe whimsical, and I hope it is. But it also suggests romance.

Still, as much as I like these titles, I’m keeping an open mind. Who knows if a better idea might come along? Or if a future publisher will ask for several more options for titles?

Finding just the right title isn’t always easy. Many writers struggle with this. We work and brainstorm, yet still nothing seems to fit. But take heart! There are a lot of resources out there. Sometimes you’ll find the perfect title through a classic novel—Pride and Prejudice, anyone? (How many variations on that title are there now?) Or poetry, or the bible, or Shakespeare. The bard’s words boast an amazing number of book titles—The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck, Perchance to Dream by Robert B. Parker, The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth, and tons more.

So, writers, how do you come up with titles for your work? Where do you go when you’re stuck?

Historic Brattonsville

July 6, 2011

Located in South Carolina, Brattonsville is a historic park much like Old Sturbridge Village, just on a much smaller scale. It encompasses 775 acres of over 30 colonial and antebellum structures, two house museums, a Revolutionary War battlefield site and walking trails. In April, when I was visiting my friend in North Carolina, we took a trip out there and spent the day walking around admiring the buildings and enjoying part of the South’s history, something I’ve experienced very little of!

I don’t know what exactly I was expecting, but definitely not the many similarities I saw. They called lunch dinner and dinner supper, just like in the northeast. The pottery, dishes and house hold items were similar…so similar in fact that if I’d seen them out of context I’d have said they belonged in 1830s New England not 1840s South Carolina. Even the house designs showed similarities—though I have to say the South’s foundation systems greatly amused me. With no need for root cellars in every house, warm weather, and clay-like soil the houses were built on top of (typically) brick or stone piers.

The Scotch-Irish brothers William, Robert and Huge first settled in the area in the 1760s. William Bratton married Martha Robinson and they had eight children. Over their life they managed to make their plantation grow and thrive. [choppy] After their deaths, their son John S. Bratton inherited the plantation, which continued to expand and prosper. John and his wife had fourteen kids and in 1823, construction began on a larger house that would become known as The Homestead. Through the years additions were added to the house as the family’s wealth grew.

The biggest difference (aside from the weather :)) was the fact that this was a plantation, not a farm, and like most plantations in the south, it had slaves. Unlike farms in New England, which were typically large enough to feed the farmer’s family and maybe make a small profit on some excess harvest, the plantation was large (over 225 acres) and was meant to produce enough harvest to sell and make a profit. One family (husband and what sons he might have) couldn’t work a plantation on their own like most farms in the North. I never really thought about that difference and how it really did shape the South and its need for “workers” as opposed to the North. Or as my friend pointed out maybe the slaves were the reason for the plantation economy in the South. Either way they probably fed off each other.

I found the visit extremely interesting. Especially for this Northern girl who always thought the South was so different from the North.

Bratton House

William Bratton's house. The original house had one room downstairs and one upstairs. Over the years the house was added on to and converted into a Tavern. In 1839, John Bratton remodeled the house and added the side wing to serve as a school for his children.

The Homestead

John and Harriet Bartton built the Homestead between 1823 and 1826. The house reflected their wealth and high social class standing. The side wings and porch were later additions. The bricks used on this house were made by the Bratton's slaves.


This is the foundation of the Bratton House. Notice how the house is raised and stones have been used to support the house.

Slave House

This is an example of a slave's house. In 1843 the Brattons owned 139 slaves.