Saturday, November 7, 2015

From the Halls of Montezuma...

The opening line of The Marine's Hymn no doubt has its roots, much like the resolution of the Oregon boundary dispute and the annexation of Texas, in the presidency of our Nation's Eleventh President.

James K. Polk, just one of three U.S. presidents born in North Carolina (yes, of course I am counting Andrew Jackson despite South Carolina's claim to the contrary - but yet Polk's birthplace is only a mile from the state line), was responsible for the U.S. invasion of Mexico in 1846, for which he sought and obtained a declaration of war from Congress. "From The Halls of Montezuma" refers to the Battle of Chapultepec, 12-13 September 1847, during which a force of Marines stormed Chapultepec Castle in a bloody but successful assault.

Today's history lesson was less about war-making and more about pie-making: we trooped on down to the confluence of Sugar Creek and Little Sugar Creek in southern Mecklenburg County, to the original birthplace of President Polk. There, in 1795, little James K. Polk (the first of ten children) was born in an inauspicious log cabin, a recreation of which adorns the site. We were guided in our journey of late 18th and early 19th century American frontier life by the High Docents of the Historical Cooking Guild of the Catawba Valley ("the premier hearth cooking organization of North Carolina"), who regaled us with pumpkin and apple pies, syllabub, "snowballs," doughnuts, wood smoke and history lessons.

From GG's armamenterium of period-specific items we obtained a solid 18th century outfit for both Caroline and Jack and a "good-enough" shift for Sam to wear. I am informed that children of that vintage would have been largely unshod at such an age, so we peeled off shoes and socks and out into the muddy drizzle they ran. It is remarkable how much fun kids can have if you will just let them be kids. Mud is really easy to wash off of bare feet, much more so than from shoes, and any remaining dirt hardly shows on the smooth-hewn wood floor of a log cabin.

The ladies of the cooking guild, who have been plying their craft of "authentic and historically accurate methods of 18th century hearth cooking and other historical foodways" for well over 25 years now, had clearly spent most of the morning preparing a feast for the visitors of the historic site. However, due to fortunate county food code restrictions, all of the food was solely for "display purposes" and none of the visitors were allowed to sample a taste. No such restriction applied to the "reenactors" themselves, our little critters included. So Jack spent most of the day crouched around the hearth or perched over the edge of the table, asking "can I try that?" or "can I have a bite of that?"


Above Left: Caroline, after swiping an apple; Above Right: the kids, sampling "the goods"


Full album of pictures is located here, courtesy as always of Google's Picasa Web Albums:

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