Stirring the Cauldron




Anticipating the 200th Anniversary of William Ellery Channing’s Baltimore Sermon

By John Marsh, Interim Minister, Lansing, MI

First Blog:  Stirring the Cauldron!

We are coming up to the 200th anniversary of William Ellery Channing’s Baltimore sermon—May 5, 2019.  In 1819 the sermon was given on a Wednesday morning, but this year’s anniversary will fall on a Sunday—just one of the many ways in which Channing continues to provide good things for us!

The sermon explores a number of ideas that not only defined the fault lines between the liberal and conservative wings of what was left of the Church of the New England Puritans—the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; it brought forth a new kind of human-centered spirituality that excited the imaginations of Congregations that worshiped in Norwegian in Minnesota, Icelandic on the Canadian prairies, and Khasi in a remote area of India.

The sermon speaks for itself. Conrad Wright brilliantly explored the context in his Three Prophets.  Charles Lyttle explored the sermon’s impact on our faith in his Pentecost of American Unitarianism.  I am interested in exploring another question:  What did they have for lunch afterward?

We know that a coterie of New England luminaries either accompanied Channing or rendezvoused with him in Baltimore for the event.  We know that some of them, presumably accompanied by local organizers, went to a restaurant together after the event.  Sadly, the menu has been lost in the mists of history.

My question about that lunch is just an appetizer.  I want to explore Channing’s thoughts and feelings about food?  How were they shaped and how were they later informed?  How did they fit with the prevailing attitudes of his contemporaries?  I will be blogging about this for the next year, and YES!  There will be recipes!  Some of those recipes will be suitable for an anniversary lunch or dinner–it’s not too early to start planning.

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are, declared Channing’s elder contemporary—Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.  Unfortunately, he said it in French, so Channing did not hear the comment.  Had he heard it, he would have disagreed, but other underlying questions would have caught his attention.

Those questions being—as were so nimbly put forward by the little red hen—who baked the bread?  And before that who milled the flour? Who threshed the wheat? Who planted and harvested the wheat?  Who put the bread on plates and served it?  Who cleaned up afterward and scrubbed the pots and pans? What did those people eat and what did their children eat?  Did they enjoy their meals? Was there enough food to satisfy everyone at their tables? Was there enough leisure for conversation?

In his essay On The Elevation of the Laboring Classes, Channing took up such questions and argued for what we would call the essential worth and dignity of every person.  His writings anticipate those of Karl Marx.  Sadly, when it came to the desires and pleasures of the body–there is nothing in Channing that anticipates Sigmund Freud or that would allow him to appreciate the wisdom of Brillat-Savarin’s comment that “The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star.”  Channing declined to dine at some of the most exciting meals in American culinary history.  (More about that later.)


Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble.   – Shakespeare (Macbeth)

When we see a cauldron today we tend to think of our Wiccan friends.  Channing would have seen a lot more cauldrons than we ever will—they would have reminded him of people cooking food.

Metal Cauldrons first appeared in the Bronze age (circa 3000 BCE onward).  At the time when Shakespeare lived, they were the cooking utensil—there would have been few other pots even in the wealthiest of castles.  That had changed by the time Channing came of age—by then the wealthy homes would have had cooks who would have insisted on a batterie de cusine (large range of pots and saucepans).  For the not so rich, however, the cauldron was still the one essential utensil.

In western culture, from the middle ages onward, cauldron ownership was a sign that one had escaped from abject poverty—one was not one of those who did not “have a pot to piss in.”  Those were a different kind of pot, less expensive, but you get the idea.

For those near the financial edge, however, there is always anxiety–hence the presence in any number of folktales of magic cauldrons who were able to replenish themselves.  An empty cauldron was a sign of diminished wealth, bad management, bad luck, or all three.

Channing spent his life in and among the wealthy.  His father is remembered as having kept two large gardens and took an interest in new plant varieties. Channing and his nine siblings were expected to work in the gardens as part of daily chores.  This was overseen by their mother.  Anyone who failed to show up for work in the garden would be excluded from supper that evening.  How often this punishment was administered is unknown.

When Channing was ten years old, George Washington (the man himself!) came to dinner.  Channing’s father had pushed for Rhode Island to ratify the U.S. Constitution.  In 1790 it was the last of the thirteen colonies to do so (shades of Roger Williams! –the crank who founded Rhode Island because he could not get along with anyone anywhere else).  Washington made the trip to celebrate Rhode Island’s joining the United States—he had avoided any previous visits to Rhode Island during his Presidency, as it would have involved traveling to foreign territory.

A few years later, Channing’s father died suddenly–with no money in the bank.  Channing was the second eldest of ten children.  There was anxiety about the empty cauldron.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, with so many children she did not know what to do.  She fed them some broth, without any bread, kissed them all soundly, and sent them to bed.

At age 14 Channing lived with an uncle and was enrolled as an undergraduate at Harvard College.  He was still living among the wealthy, but his status was uncertain—in some ways he was a guest at the table.  In a future blog, I will talk about Channing having an outsider’s perspective.

His mother did not take in and feed boarders, as many widows of that period did. She opened a shop.

Two Recipes to Stir in a Cauldron (or any large pot)!

Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.

Peas porridge is basically split pea soup.  After making a pot, I now think of it as what people made soup out of before they had lentils.



It is a winter recipe.  You take dried peas, soak them, and boil them up with anything you have leftover.  It is hearty and nourishing and as the poem attests—some liked it in the pot nine days old.  Perhaps after nine days of adding scraps to it, the pea flavor was not so prevalent.



This recipe by Nancy Harmon Jenkins from the New York Times does have one item that makes the endeavor worthwhile—THE BACON.  Basically, you boil the heck out of the bacon with the porridge.  Then you remove the bacon from the porridge, dry it a little—and sauté it in butter — YES.


The recipe calls for then crumbling the bacon and using it as a topping for the porridge.  What a waste!  A good Caesar salad might be a worthier recipient—or you could just sit down and enjoy it sans fioritures (without other distracting flavors).


As a kid, I got three meals a day.  Oatmeal.  Miss-a-meal, and no meal.”   – Mr. T.

We know there was a meal after Channing’s Baltimore Sermon.   We do not know the restaurant menu, nor do we know for sure if Channing joined the group.  In my imagination, Channing declined to join the group, went back to his hotel and enjoyed a good bowl of oatmeal.

Channing never cared much for spicy foods, rich foods, or the sauces that were all the rage among the fine diners of his day.  He was a child of the Scottish enlightenment.  I am not an expert on the Scottish Enlightenment, but I believe it was led by the folks who figured out that in order to cook oatmeal you did not need to stuff it into sheep’s guts and roast yourself while turning it on a spit over an open fire.  Instead you could put the oatmeal into a cauldron, add water, and step away from the fire for an hour or so and read theological treatises while the stuff cooked.  Something like that.

In any case, Channing stood for that which is good, enjoyable, simple.  Things like oatmeal.

Some recipes:

Chilled oatmeal parfait:


Bottom layer, cooked oatmeal: next layer: your favorite yogurt or kefir: next a bit of granola or cold cereal or anything healthy and crunchy: final layer, (add before serving) fresh fruit.  Keep in the fridge—perfect snack for hot summer days.

Hot Oatmeal

One of my favorite breakfasts is an adaptation of Mr. Breakfast’s Peach Cobbler Oatmeal: https://www.mrbreakfast.com/superdisplay.asp?recipeid=236

Which is an adaptation of a recipe from the Quaker Oats people: quakeroatmeal.com

Here’s my take:


  •  1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  •  2 tablespoons brown sugar
  •  1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  1-1/2 cups whole milk
  •  1-1/2 cup water
  •  1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  •  2 cups uncooked Oatmeal (quick, old fashioned, or steel cut)
  •  1-1/4 cups sour cherries (can be purchased in jars at Trader Joes)
  •  1 container (8 oz.) vanilla yogurt
  •               For topping, combine wheat germ, brown sugar, and cinnamon in small bowl; set aside.


  •               For oatmeal, bring milk, water, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg to a boil in medium saucepan; stir in oats. Return to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Cook 1 minute for quick oats, 5 minutes for old fashioned oats, 30 minutes for the steel cut oats, stirring occasionally. Stir in cherries. Continue cooking and keep stirring until cherries are heated through and most of the liquid is absorbed about 1 minute.
  •               Spoon oatmeal into four cereal bowls. Top with wheat germ mixture and yogurt


Next Time, we’ll talk Hasty Pudding.


Channing Quiz

Channing Quiz

by John Marsh

The 200th anniversary of the Baltimore Sermon is almost upon us. The following quiz is meant to used to promote discussion and interest.  However, if you really want to impress us with your knowledge of trivia:  100 extra points to anyone who can find a factual error in the quiz!  Almost all of the facts are from books, but as Conrad Wright used to say:  “Some of those books contain many errors.”



  1. William Ellery Channing’s 1819 Baltimore Sermon was delivered in:

A.      Baltimore, Ontario

B.        Baltimore, Maryland

C.         New York City (it had been planned for Baltimore, MD, but due to Channing’s ill health, he felt he could go no further than Manhattan.

D.          Channing’s sermon, a response to the 1819 landmark court case regarding federal authority to charter banks (McCulloch vs Maryland), was delivered in Boston in January of 1820.


  1. After Channing graduated from Harvard, he served for two years as tutor to the children of David and Mary Randolph in Richmond, Virginia. Mary Randolph later authored one of the first cookbooks to be published in the United States (“The Virginia Housewife”, 1824). She was “judged to be the finest cook in Virginia.”  During his stay with the Randolphs, Channing:

A.       Asked to be excused from dining with the Randolphs on the grounds that he did not have proper clothes to wear.

B.         Introduced Mrs. Randolph to the Harvard College method for making Hasty Pudding.

C.          Was teased by the Randolph children because he frequently asked for third helpings at meals.


  1. Which of the following statements about Mrs. Randolph’s cookbook is NOT true:

A.         It was the first cookbook in the U.S. with an international flavor, the first U.S. cookbook to include tomatoes and okra among ingredients used and the first to have a recipe for gazpacho.

B.        It included a recipe for Oyster flavored ice cream that started a craze that lasted until the Civil War.

C.        Was referenced in one of the first cookbooks to be published by an African American: Malinda Russells’ 1866, “Domestic Cook Book”


4.      Up until the time of the Baltimore Sermon (whose real title was:  Unitarian Christianity), many of the liberal Christians in New England tried to avoid the label Unitarian because:

A.       They were worried that people would start confusing them with Unity Church.

B.       It connoted a variety of anti-trinitarianism which most of them rejected.

C.       Their fundamental disagreement with the conservatives was over human nature and the doctrine of grace.

D.       They worried that the label had too many syllables


  1. Which if these quotes are from the Baltimore Sermon

A.      “…many gaudy decorations, which a false taste has hung around Christianity, must be swept away.”

B.      The Bible’s “meaning is to be sought in the same manner as that of other books.”

C       “The doctrine of the Trinity” is “irrational” and “unscriptural”.

D.       To convert a man by miracles is a profanation of the soul.

E.        “We believe that God is infinitely good, kind benevolent… …good to every individual, as well as to the general system.”

F.       Acquaint thyself firsthand with Divinity.


6. In a letter that Samuel A. Eliot wrote about the service where the Baltimore Sermon was delivered, he said that he had “never attended an ordination in which the services were more interesting.”He further expressed the wish that the Charge given by Rev. Porter, might be published soon because:

A.       That joke about Porter’s Charge being $8.75 for his Stagecoach fare and $4.00 for his lodging just got funnier and funnier every time it was retold.

B.       Eliot had heard Porter give an almost identical Charge at previous ordination and reasoned that if Porter published it—then he might be spared having to listen to it a third time at some future ordination.

C        Eliot was much moved by the words:

The ministry is armed with great powers for great effects….  (We are intended) to work deeply and widely, … to break the stony heart, to set free the guilt-burdened and earth-bound spirit, …. to change the face of society.    … to make all things new.

 …no human aid can lift every burden from your mind; nor would the truest kindness desire for you exemption from the universal lot. 

 …may the discipline which awaits you give purity and loftiness to your motives; give energy and tenderness to your character, and prepare you to minister to the wants of a tempted and afflicted world, with that sympathy and wisdom which fellowship in suffering can alone bestow.


7. Which of the following quotes about food are Channing’s?

A. “Rich cake has been the ruin of Newport” (R.I.).

B.  “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.”

C.  Wholesome meals (are) …no small aid to intellectual and moral progress.

D.  The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star.

E.  I think the simple pleasures of taste and smell not unworthy of a place in heaven.

F.  The Protestant Minister …depending on opinion for bread, has strong inducements to make a compromise with the world. …Better earn your bread by the sweat of your brow, than part with moral freedom.

G.  I call that mind free which passes life, not in asking what it shall eat or drink, but in hungering, thirsting and seeking after righteousness.

H.  Dear Sir, I am driven abroad for a dinner today by the mason who is working on my chimney, and wish not to be far from my house – If convenient, I will come and take a family dinner with you at what hour?






  1. B
  2. A I am in the process of writing a blog that elaborates on this story, but here’s a few teasers:  Mary does not seem to have taken umbrage over Channing’s odd behavior.  One of the Randolph children returned to Boston with Channing to continue studies under Channing’s tutelage and presumably enroll at one of Boston’s institutions of learning.  Mary wrote letters to Channing in which she expressed her frustration of living with the system of slavery—expressing empathy with the organizers of the planned, but never executed slave revolt of 1800, Richmond, VA—also known as Gabriel’s Rebellion.  She also expressed “a great desire to quit the land of slavery.”  She taught slaves to be excellent cooks and also had recipes that used okra and other foods imported from Africa.
  3. B there is a recipe for Oyster flavored ice cream in the book, but as far as we know, it never caught on in a big way.
  4. B and C are both true
  5. D and F. are from Emerson’s Divinity School Address, all others are from the Baltimore Sermon.
  6. Rev. Porter’s charge was the one element in the service which left Eliot uninspired. He wrote: Mr. Palfrey’s right hand of fellowship was  …excellent.  …Dr. Ware’s ordaining prayer …exceedingly good.  …Dr. Porter delivered the same charge which he gave to Mr. Pierpont, with some trifling alterations.  I am in hopes that it will be published, that we may not hear it again.

The extended quote (choice C.) is from Channing’s sermon at the ordination of Ezra Styles Gannett.

7.  B. and D. are the words of Channing’s contemporary, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Everything else is Channing’s.

A.  This remark was recorded by Elizabeth Palmer Peabody in her book, “Reminiscences of Dr. Channing”.  She tells how they were visiting a friend of Channing’s in Newport, his home town when their host insisted on them sampling some of her cake.

B.  From Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

C.  From Channing’s essay on “Self-Culture”.

D.  From Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

E.  Recorded in Elizabeth Peabody’s Book

F.  This is a quote from the Charge at the Ordination of J.S. Dwight, delivered on May 20th, 1840, just a few months after the death of Charles Follen and Channing’s great disappointment when his Board refused permission for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society to hold a memorial service in honor of his friend in their sanctuary.

G.  OK,  Jesus said this first, at least according to the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 5, verse 6. However, Channing did repeat it with his own twist in his sermon on “Spiritual Freedom”.

H.  This was a letter to Channing’s neighbor, one Mr. Guild (date unknown). Channing was notorious for disliking small talk.  Still, one hopes he was a little more gracious in his conversation at the table.  Channing’s neighbors seem to have thought enough of him to have kept the note.  Guild’s daughter Harriet later passed it on to the historian Samuel Eliot Morison.


Turtle Soup, let’s mock this baby!

If only he could have moved a little faster

John Marsh, Dining with Bill


Turtle Soup comes to us laden with innocence, arrogance, presumptions, embarrassments and a little bit of the joyous spirit that demands “Let’s get this party started!”

It was one of the first American fads that became a craze in Europe, right up there with Ben Franklin’s coonskin cap.  In America, turtle dishes were enjoyed by all classes of people, even the least ambitious of farmers could catch a turtle.

Box Turtle that lived under my bird feeder in New Jersey


The craze started with a bang and ended with a whimper, in terms of availability.  People were slow to connect the lack of availability with human activity. Today, the world’s sea turtle population is endangered—and the outlook for many inland turtle species is also pretty bleak.  We know that the problem is caused by human activities: overhunting, habitat loss, pollution, climate change.

Almost all cookbooks published in the United States between 1800 and 1850, not only had a recipe for turtle soup, but also instructions on how to prepare a turtle.  The books seldom included instructions on how to prepare deer, wildfowl, or any farm animals.  It was assumed that people would know how to dress those.  But turtles were special.  They take more time and effort for less meat than most other animals.  Like our artichoke hearts, jalapeno and parmesan cheese in a rich creamy sauce, turtle was a party food.

Towards the end of the American Revolution George Washington celebrated the British being driven out of Manhattan by having a turtle frolic prepared for himself and his officers.  A frolic was a meal in which turtle was in not only the soup but in several other dishes as well.  George also served the soup at the dinner after his first inauguration, as did Abraham Lincoln.  The French general Lafayette, who helped Americans win the Revolutionary War, is said to have joked that the real reason for his return tour in 1825 was so that he might enjoy the soup again.

General Lafayette

It makes sense that the Bostonians who traveled to Baltimore in 1819 to celebrate the installation of Jared Sparks would have been offered turtle soup.  Baltimore was a seaport eager to show off its seafood cuisine.  In the 1890s some residents of Baltimore’s hoity toity Mount Vernon neighborhood had special pools installed in their basements.  There they’d keep and grow turtles for months, even years before serving them up. The first professional baseball team in Baltimore was the Terrapins. Some years after that team disbanded, Terrapins were adopted as the mascot for the University of Maryland.

Boston, of course, is a seaport city as well.  It was known for its cod, its chowders, finnan haddie (smoked haddock), baked beans: in other words, survival food.  Later Boston became known for its lobstahs, clam bakes and more recently, Sam Adams beer. It is doubtful that the Unitarian worthies who made the 1819 pilgrimage to Baltimore ever ate a lobster in their lives. Lobsters did not make it to the dining room tables of proper Bostonians until the1880’s.  Before that, they were served to servants and prisoners.

Part of the embarrassment turtle soup represents for us is the reminder of how clueless our forebears were about some things.  For them, the ocean was the definition of unending bounty.  They could not conceive that the oceans might run out of turtle or fish or whales, let alone places that were not invaded by plastic refuse.

In 1851 the Unitarian writer Herman Melville published what many consider to be the greatest American novel, Moby Dick.  It contains insights into human nature, racism, sexism, capitalism, religion, and a host of subjects with which we are still grappling.  However, Chapter 105 stands out as an example of the obstinate naiveite that threatens all life on our planet.  By 1851 the American buffalo had already suffered near extinction and some were concerned that a similar fate might await some whale species. In Chapter 105 Melville explains why this could never come to pass.  His final argument is the existence of the polar ice caps, where whales might freely go, but human beings never.

Dear Herman,

 It’s hard to tell you this, but I think you need to know.  In this year of 2019 we are now contemplating, not only a world without whales, but also one without polar ice caps.  Very few people were paying attention when the melting started.  It wasn’t really anybody’s fault. More like an accident. Things happened.  Thanks for the book though.


One of your many literary grandchildren.


Should we ever eat turtle?

You can order cans of snapping turtle on the internet.  There are also some parts of our country where the terrapin is considered an invasive species: pushing out and further endangering local native turtle species.

For me the answer is still “No”.  My “No” is informed by good reasons.  All seven species of sea turtles are now endangered.  These beasts do not begin to breed until after they are twenty years old. They live to be around eighty. Their shape and form come to us unchanged since a time when dinosaurs walked the earth and the only mammals were rat-like creatures.  The turtle is sacred to many different peoples.

I also freely admit that my “No” goes beyond reason.  It feels like Firenze’s warning, in the first Harry Potter Book, against drinking unicorn blood:

“It is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn. Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.”

Besides, there is a joyous alternative tradition: the Mock Turtle.  Mock, in this case, means substitute ingredients. But in 1865 Lewis Carroll gave these ingredients a life of their own in his book “Alice in Wonderland”.

There the mock turtle tells how he began life as a real turtle and then went to school. How schooling turned him into a mock turtle and what effect this might have had on his corporeal form is never explained in the text.  Most illustrators choose to portray him as having the body of a turtle and the head of a calf.  When Alice first meets the mock turtle he is sobbing with grief, but as he tells his story he warms to the occasion and sings a song in which everyone is invited to join in a dance.  Once again, we are not just invited to enjoy a bowl of soup, we are invited to a party. Who can resist?  Not me.



Disappointingly, there was some resistance from the producers of “Lords and Ladles”. This television show follows three Irish cooks as they visit different old castles around the Green Isle and recreate historical meals.  I love this show.  They frequently make alternations to the ingredients in different recipes, updating them while still respecting the essence of the dish.  When they announced “Turtle Soup” on one of their  shows, my taste buds were all atingle.


They gave up on turtle soup altogether and substituted Oyster Stew.


Say what?


I still love the show, but this was cowardly.  Tasty, but cowardly.


I was a little consoled when I picked up Emily Ansara Baines recent “Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook”.  Her Mock Turtle Soup is not for the Crawleys but for the staff who take their meals downstairs.  Her list of ingredients begins with “1 calf’s head.”  This is brave.  Unwieldy, but brave.  The sad truth is that many of us would rather waste parts of animals that have died so that we might eat, rather look those animals in the eye sockets.


Emily also provides us with an aside Etiquette Lesson:  If served at a house of repute, mock turtle soup would be served, if possible, in a turtle shell, so as to give the semblance of being actual turtle soup.  However those who were serving actual turtle soup could be lax on appearances and would plate their soup in a tureen, since they possessed the real deal.


OK, we are skirting around issues of class.  Let me name the elephant that is either in or not in the soup.


There are reasons that the turtle soup craze started in America and the mock turtle craze started in England.  America was an agrarian country right up until World War I.  Even poor folks who lived in American cities might still visit relatives who lived on farms in a way that was not accomplished as easily in England.  What’s more, there was a long tradition in England of the land, and all its wild life, belonging to the lord of the manor.  Think of the old English folk songs in which the hero is executed for poaching a deer on the lord’s estate.


So was the decision of the Irish chefs not to make a mock turtle soup for their present day lords an effort to avoid offending them by serving a food traditionally eaten by those who were considered less than their equals? Possibly.


But here in the land of the free and the brave, let us serve mock turtle soup to everyone regardless of their station!  Let us do so proudly and often.   Let us go the distance (I was tempted to say whole hawg here, but that would be wrong).  Let us make our Mock Turtle Soup vegan!


Here is the recipe:


Mock Turtle Soup



  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1t salt
  • 1t paprika
  • 1t cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your preferences
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1C carrots, diced
  • 2-3C water
  • 1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans
  • 3T fresh lemon juice (juice from half of a (juicy) lemon)
  • 1 or 2 12g packages of Beyond Meat, Beefy Crumbles


  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour (can use regular, but chickpea flour gives a deeper flavor)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter


Next, for the soup:

  1.  Add your onion and olive oil to a large stock pot, over medium high heat. Sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Add your garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add your spices and bay leaves, and stir for another minute.
  4. Add your tomatoes. Refill your tomato can about halfway with water and pour that in too.
  5. Add your kidney beans and carrots.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil, and let cook at a low boil while you make the roux.

For the roux:

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chickpea flour together, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat. Stir and cook for about 10 minutes, making sure not to let it burn (if you suspect burning, turn your heat down a bit).


  1. Add the roux to the soup and stir through. It should thicken the soup quite a bit.
  2. Let cook for another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and add your lemon juice.


I have been making this soup in large quantities and freezing some without the lemon juice, and then adding the lemon juice on the day of serving.


It is based on a recipe provided by Randi Milgram:  https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/food-drink/lorelai-trix-gilmores-mock-mock-turtle-soup/


I have substituted the Beyond Meat crumbles for their use of Tempeh (tastier and less work), and also halved the amount of cayenne pepper.  When I made my first batch I wondered if they were using the pepper to deflect attention away from the lack of turtle.  I found that some, but not all, of the early recipes for turtle soup do contain cayenne pepper and that halving the amount recommended for this soup did not take away from its tastiness.  As Laurie Colwin once said about one of her staples: “when your friends tell you they are tired of this dish, it’s time to get some new friends.”


Another easy variation would be to add a half a cup of dry sherry.  I leave you with this final bit of literature as either warning or enticement:


I am not drunk,” I said indignantly. “You can’t get drunk on turtle soup!

…“You can if ye’ve been drinking turtle soup as made by Aloysius O’Shaughnessy Murphy,” he said. “By the smell of it, he’s put at least a full bottle o’ sherry in it.”

Voyager, by Diana Galbaldon, Ch. 56, “Turtle Soup”














Pound Cake

Dining with Bill, blog 5 by John Marsh   January 2019

“Its rich cake has been the ruin of Newport.”  – William Ellery Channing

(“Reminiscences of Dr. Channing” by Elizabeth P. Peabody, p. 329)

Channing said the above words to a friend in Newport, Channing’s home town, whom he and Elizabeth Peabody were visiting.  Their host was insisting that they “must have” a piece of a rich cake such as could only be found in Newport.  Peabody does not reveal whether either she or Channing ended up sampling the cake.   She does report that after leaving the home Channing confided to her that he thought the culinary arts were important and should be devoted to the health of the body and not “an excess of physical pleasure.”  However, he also believed that the “simple pleasures of taste and smell” were “worthy of a place in heaven.” (p. 330).

If you are going to plan a meal to celebrate Channing’s Baltimore sermon—a good pound cake would be an excellent choice for dessert.  If Channing was not eating his share of them, other people certainly were.  They were, by far, the most popular cake during his lifetime.  They taste wholesome and good, even if they might tempt a person to overindulge.

Variations on pound cake are endless.  The basic recipe is in its name: a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of butter, and a pound of eggs (Fannie Farmer puts the number at around 10).  The pound cake comes to us from old England—where currency was also measured in pounds.

Part of the reason for the large number of eggs was because, prior to the use of baking soda,  those eggs played an important role in getting the cake to rise.

One of the most intriguing pound cakes in literature is Miss Ellen Pringle’s—well remembered for the large number of eggs involved. We learn of it in the novel Anne of Windy Poplars, published in 1936 by L.M. Montgomery.  This is the same Anne first introduced to readers as Anne of Greene Gables.

“I wish I could get Miss Ellen’s recipe for pound cake,“ sighed Aunt Chatty.  “She’s promised it to me time and again but it never comes.  It’s an old English family recipe.  They’re so exclusive about their recipes.”  (p. 26) 

“Well, we’ve got the recipe for the pound cake anyway.  Thirty-six eggs!  If you’d dispose of That Cat, and let me keep hens we might be able to afford it once a year.” (pp. 57-58)

Other information offered about the making of this cake is that after baking it is wrapped in several layers of brown paper, then a layer of towels.  Then allowed to sweat for three days before eating.

Aunt Chatty, with help, does eventually make the cake and Anne declares it “good.”

My friend Martin Aller Stead, a teaching chef in Toronto, muses that it’s possible the old English Family in question may have used quail eggs.  However, there is no reference to quail eggs in the cakes produced on Prince Edward Island. It would be safe to say that chicken eggs, even as late as the 1930s would have been smaller than the regular size eggs we enjoy today.  As this is a work of fiction, it’s also possible that this recipe came straight out of L.M. Montgomery’s imagination, but somehow it has the feel of authenticity—a piece of information a writer would store away as having the making of a good story.  Stories and recipes are also sometimes improved with embellishments.  Who knows?

Fortunately, two librarians have recently experimented in making this cake—using the smallest chicken eggs they could find, and even then only 18 whole eggs, and another 18 egg yolks.  Like Anne, they found the creation to be “good.”  Adding that it “tastes a bit like solid eggnog.”

Since they have accomplished this feat, they have saved me (and you) from the necessity of repeating the experiment.  You can read more about their experience at:  https://36eggs.com/2015/03/22/miss-ellen-pringles-pound-cake/.

Baking soda and baking powder were introduced in the 1850s.  Prior to that, there were leavens called pearlash and saleratus, but it seems they were not very effective.  Whenever anything new is introduced there is almost always a group that insists the old way was better.  As far as I can make out, pearlash and saleratus are exceptions to this rule and never had any such defenders.  In any case, baking soda and baking powder are now in plentiful supply.  Eggs are larger, and it is rare to see a recipe calling for more than six of them.

Prior to the American Revolution, one of the most popular pound cakes in the North American colonies was a “Queen’s Cake”. After the Revolution, “George Washington Cake” came into vogue.   In a parallel move, many of the major roads formerly known as the King’s Highways became Washington Streets.  I grew up on one of them in Norwell, MA.

The George Washington Cake itself has many variations.  They were popular throughout the 19thcentury, gradually giving way to layered cakes.

If you want to include another Unitarian luminary in your menu planning, you could go with Fannie Farmer’s pound cake which includes mace and brandy.  Fannie Farmer was born into a Unitarian family in Boston in 1857.  In 1891 she became principal at the Boston Cooking School. She published her first cookbook in 1896 and it has been in print ever since.

Another excellent choice comes from one of the first African Americans to publish a cookbook: Malinda Russell.  Russell published her “A Domestic Cook Book” in 1866. In the introduction, she tells us that she cooks “after the manner of Mary Randolph” (a woman in whose household Channing served as a private tutor—see my blog about Channing going all Francis of Assisi).  Russell also tells us her grandmother was a slave who gained her freedom and that she, herself,  was born a free woman in Tennessee in 1820.  She was the proprietor of at least two bakeries.  She was living in Paw Paw, Michigan at the end of the Civil War, and one of the reasons she gives for publishing was to raise money to enable her to move back to Tennessee and be reunited with relatives.

The entirety of Russell’s cookbook can be found online: https://www.lib.umich.edu/blogs/beyond-reading-room/now-online-oldest-known-cookbook-authored-african-american

A modern adaptation of Russell’s George Washington cake can be found at https://historysjustdesserts.com/2013/08/07/malinda-russells-washington-cake-recipe-this-ones-a-keeper/

Another modern adaptation of this same recipe, the one I use, comes from Anne Byrn’s recent book: “American Cake.”  This book is a wonderful resource and is available from many public libraries, both in print and in digital.

Sticking with the early African American influence I am topping slices of my pound cake with a healthy dollop of coffee-flavored whipped cream, a recipe from Rufus Estes’ “Good Things to Eat.”

Recipe: Whip one cup of heavy cream, add two tablespoons of powdered sugar and ¼ cup of a cup of cold coffee.  Helpful hints—put your bowl in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before using it as the container in which to whip the cream. Also, you can get a higher concentration of coffee by using either a French press or one of the new aero coffee presses and adding less water than you would if you were going to drink it. Or if you have an espresso machine, use that.

Rufus Estes was born into slavery in 1857.  He began working as a porter for the Pullman railroad when he was still young.  He spent the last decades of his career as a chef for their most exclusive luxury cars—for people or families who would rent a car, or two or three, for themselves.  His dinner guests included two U.S. Presidents and a Spanish Princess.  Some of his recipes indicate that he had a few staff working under his direction.  Other recipes seem more the kind of food he might prepare for himself and his family.  His cookbook, published in 1911, was advertised as “the first cookbook authored by an African American chef”.   This was not intentional false advertising.  Russell’s cookbook and a few others were lost in the mists of history for decades.  Russell’s cookbook was rediscovered in 1985.  (see my blog about first cookbooks)

Of course, you could make a pound cake with Russell’s recommended lemon and buttermilk, Fannie Farmer’s recommended brandy and Rufus Estes’s coffee flavored whipped cream.  Channing might have considered this an “excess of pleasure”, but hey, it’s a free country.


On Sacred Starches, Dudes, Hasty Pudding, and William Ellery Channing

William Ellery Channing gave no sign that he was aware of it, but he lived through the transformation of North America’s sacred starch.


Every culture has a starch that is essential to its development.  It provides the nutrition that  allows people to live in close proximity. The starch is celebrated by the culture and inevitably takes on a sacred aspect. For much of Asia, it is rice. In most of West Africa, it is the yam. In parts of North Africa: couscous. And in parts of the Middle East and most of Europe, it is wheat. Throughout Europe beginning in the early Middle Ages, this starch was transformed into the literal body of Jesus Christ in the established state churches. For a native people who lived (and still live) near my current home in Lansing, Michigan, the sacred starch is a kind of wild rice known as Manoomin in the Anishinaabek language. For the indigenous people in California, it was acorns.  And for most of the Americas prior to European colonization, it was corn.


“Lazybones, lyin in the shade, how you ‘spect to get your cornmeal made.”   – Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer

“Plough deep, while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and keep.”  – Benjamin Franklin, “Poor Richard’s Almanac”


In the Mayan creation story, the Corn God is decapitated and buried in the earth, where the God is hung on a dead tree and immediately becomes fruitful.  Some of the North American First Nations plant corn, squash, and beans, called Three Sisters Gardens, that can only flourish by cooperating with each other.


Mayan Corn God


Corn remained the primary starch during the first 200 years of European colonization in North America. The early English settlers might have wanted more wheat to make into flour, but what they had was corn to make into corn meal.  It is easier to turn corn into cornmeal than it is to turn wheat into flour. Corn also supplies an ampler harvest per acre. The early New England farms were relatively small—often operated by a single family. In contrast, the plantations in the south were large, but wheat does not grow easily in the south.

The regional cuisine in the southeastern states is still infused with corn: cornbread, grits (made from corn), corn mash (whiskey or moonshine), and hoecakes (a cornmeal pancake that got its name from those who, lacking a proper griddle, would clean off their hoe, and use it as a skillet).

In the first colonial settlements cornmeal was known as Indian meal, and boiled puddings made from Indian meal were known as Indian puddings. These were basically traditional English boiled puddings, using cornmeal in place of wheat flour. Think of it as polenta, but instead of savory ingredients you have eggs, molasses, maple syrup, and raisins and sugar if you had them, and then served with heavy cream. It was cooked in a piece of crockery with a lid, or a cloth bag, or animal intestines and then boiled in a cauldron for 10 to 14 hours. Say what? Ten to fourteen hours? Amelia Simmons ( “American Cookery”, 1796) and Harriet Whiting (“Cookbook”, 1819) both recommend twelve hours. Mary Randolph (“The Virginia Housewife”, 1824) tells us that “it must be put on at sunrise, to eat at three o’clock.” She also adds that “the great art in this pudding is tying the bag properly, as the meal swells very much.”

IMG_2577Hasty Pudding with Whipped Cream, raspberries, and a cup of coffee


However, if you wanted to make “a pudding in haste,” you could leave out the eggs and some other ingredients and boil it for only two hours and make “Hasty Pudding.” To lessen the time to fifteen to twenty minutes, you could simply make corn meal mush, boiling it in the pot as if it were oatmeal.

There are two references to Hasty Pudding that still echo through our popular culture. The first is a verse from “Yankee Doodle”:

Father and I went down to camp
Along with Captain Gooding
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding

There is also a reference to our Yankee Doodle sticking a feather in his hat and calling it macaroni. Macaroni, you will note, is made of wheat. It is unlikely that any of the regular Continental Revolutionary soldiers would have ever seen or tasted it. So why is the reference there?

Remember that the song was first composed by the British to mock Continental soldiers. Back in England, it had recently become popular among the gentry to take a tour of Europe as a coming of age experience. Many of those who did so came back wearing what some considered to be foppish clothes.  They also brought back recipes for exotic European dishes, including macaroni. Some men, who did not go on such tours whether by choice or due to lack of funds, mocked the travelers, calling them “macaronis” or “doodles” (fools!). The British were calling American men “fools” twice over. First for wishing to imitate fools, and then to think that they could copy the fashion simply by sticking a feather in their hat.


American Continental soldiers took up the song and made it their own. They added lyrics, edited others, and kept some just as they were—including the term “Yankee doodle”, from which we now have the derivation “dude”.

The second reference to Hasty Pudding (still made of corn meal) that echoes through our culture is Harvard’s “Hasty Pudding Club”, the oldest social club in the United States. These days it boasts a theater company and an a Capella group. When Channing joined the group in 1794 or 1795, the Club’s only activity (other than consuming pudding) was expository speaking. The group staged imaginary trials.  Club members would eat two pots of Hasty Pudding per meeting.  Individuals were expected to provide the puddings according to a rotating alphabetical order. Whether Channing made the pudding himself at this uncle’s house where he was living or if he had someone make it for him, we don’t know. We can assume, however, that he ate his share.

We also know that he was chosen to be the commencement orator for his class at his undergraduate graduation in 1798. Later, he would be known as one of the greatest speakers in an age that prized public speaking.

Henry Whitney Bellows, who became minister at All Soul’s Church in New York City and the great organizer of the Unitarian movement, tells of the impression Channing made on him when he was a student:

So profoundly helpful, so inspiring was his preaching, that I, for one, lived on it, from fortnight to fortnight, and went to it every time, with the expectation and the experience of receiving the bread of heaven on which I was to live and grow, until the manna fell again; and men of all ages had much the same feeling.

How much of this ability to produce oratorical manna came from Channing’s consumption of Hasty Pudding we cannot say.

History-1sketch and verse from one of the first meetings of Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Club


The Harvard Club still eats their pudding on special occasions, with scoops of ice cream. I have been putting on Channing Dinners for small groups here in Lansing, Michigan, serving just one or two tablespoons with whipped cream as an appetizer. It is tasty, and also very filling, a near perfect food for teenage boys! If your guests arrive hungry, just a tablespoon or two will allow them to relax into a half hour of conversation before the soup course. Here are links to two recipes. I used the second one, but boiled the pudding for two hours in a lidded bowl of CorningWare rather than baking it.


Recipes: https://whatscookingamerica.net/History/HastyPudding_IndianPudding.htm




Most American dudes today know all about mac and cheese, but few have ever tasted Hasty Pudding. As New England farms expanded, so did the production of wheat. When the Erie Canal opened in 1823, wheat from fields all around the Great Lakes could be shipped to New York City and beyond. Flour mills were built along the East Genesee River and subsequently Rochester, New York became known as “Flour City”.  Between 1880 and 1924, more than four million Italians came to the United States, bringing with them the knowledge of how to turn wheat into macaroni.


The United States still produces three times as much corn as wheat. However, it is wheat that appears on the emblems of eight different U.S. States. Corn appears only on the emblem of Pennsylvania and you have to look hard to find it there. Grain is written into the soundtrack of America.  In 1895, Katherine Lee Bates wrote “America the Beautiful” in which our “amber waves of grain” give testimony that “God shed His grace on” us.



Thankfully, we are living in a time when a plurality of understandings can co-exist.  There are endless cooking traditions that are being honored as well as new combinations being created.  There is good food to be discovered everywhere.  Pass me some of the Hasty Pudding, please.  My, but it is delicious.