Great Food Poetry, Part I–“Terence, This is Stupid Stuff”

A favorite poet of mine, A. E. Housman, wrote this classic in 1896. It still applies today.


A.E. Housman, 1896

“‘Terence, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can’t be much amiss, ’tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, ’tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.
Pretty friendship ’tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.’

Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
The mischief is that ’twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.

Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
‘Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul’s stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.

There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all the springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.

I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.”

Now that’s what I call a poem. I think I’ll have a beer now.

Peter Hemings, Y’all

As this is Juneteenth, we should celebrate someone who was freed from slavery–Peter Hemings, head chef at Monticello. He learned to cook from his famous older brother James, and was such a master that President Thomas Jefferson would write from the White House for his recipes. Despite being enslaved, he was the half-brother of Jefferson’s wife. History is complicated.

Not satisfied with just that, Peter taught himself brewing, and became the head brewer at Monticello. He was so good at that that he was recommended to be an instructor for the brewer for President James Madison. Jefferson wrote Madison that Peter was “uncommonly intelligent and capable of teaching.” Apparently he could make great beer as well.

After he finally gained his freedom, Peter took up yet another trade–being a tailor in Richmond. It appears that the people of Virginia were both well fed and well clothed, because of people like Peter. My guess is he was the source of many of Mary Randolph’s recipes, from the famous 1824 cookbook The Virginia Housewife.

Great Southern Cookbooks, Part Two–Real Cajun, by Donald Link (2009)

Real Food for Real People

There is only one thing to not like about this book, and that is I wish it was ten times longer. When you keep going back to the same cookbook over and over, you know it’s good. The “home cooking” part is the key here–these are recipes to use everyday.

Link has won a James Beard award, so home cooking may sound like an odd subject for such an accomplished chef. However, that is his strong suit, in that he cooks real authentic Louisiana food. He grew up in the region where people are comically referred to as “Coonasses,” as he notes in the book, which is a regional term for Cajuns.

The recipes? My favorites are the Chicken and Rice Soup, the Hush Puppies, the Hot Pepper Jelly, and the classic Cajun sausage, the Boudin. Cajun Boudin is mostly rice with liver and pork, but it is incredibly tasty. A Cajun seven course meal is said to consist of a Boudin, and a six pack of beer.

Strangely enough, Link is not of mainly French descent, but from German and regular Southern folks. That there are Cajuns of German descent is a surprise to many people from outside the South. And yes, those are the classic Cajun spices of Paprika and Cayenne pepper in the picture.

Cullman Oktoberfest 2019

Courtesy of the Cullman Oktoberfest Facebook page, here is the schedule for this year’s Oktoberfest. The primary locations are the Cullman County Museum, and the Cullman Festhalle, said to be the largest timber framed structure in the Southeast. Prost!

Monday, September 30, 2019

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM School Tours at Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 2:30 PM Wolfgang Moritz at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM St. John’s Church Oktoberfest Dinner

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

7:00 AM – 2:00 PM Farmers Market at the Festhalle

8:30 AM – 2:00 PM Wolfgang Moritz at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM School Tours at Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

10:30 AM – 2:00 PM Freddie Day Catering at the Festhalle

5:00 PM Busy Bee Café German Menu

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

8:30 AM – 2:00 PM Wolfgang Moritz at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM School Tours at Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

10:30 AM – 2:00 PM Freddie Day Catering at the Festhalle

5:00 PM Busy Bee Café German Menu

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Sacred Heart German Dinner

5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Carriage Rides

5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Cullman Oktoberfest Biergarten

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM Opening Ceremonies at the Festhalle

6:00 PM – 10:00 PM Children’s Activities at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

7:00 PM Paper Airplane Contest at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

7:00 PM – 10:00 PM Terry Cavanagh & the Alpine Express at the Festhalle

7:30 PM Pickle Eating Contest (Ages 14 & Under)

8:00 PM Best German Costume Contest & Longest Beard and Braid Contests

9:00 PM Stein Hoisting Contest

Thursday, October 3, 2019

7:00 AM – 2:00 PM Farmers Market at the Festhalle

8:30 AM – 2:00 PM Wolfgang Moritz at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM School Tours at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM Terry Cavanagh & the Alpine Express at the Festhalle

10:00 AM – 2:00 PM Senior Day at the Festhalle

10:00 AM – 2:00 PM Cullman Oktoberfest Biergarten at Senior Day

10:30 AM – 2:00 PM Freddie Day Catering at the Festhalle

5:00 PM Busy Bee Café German Menu

5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Carriage Rides

5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Cullman Oktoberfest Biergarten

6:00 PM – 6:45 PM Cullman Community Band at the Festhalle

6:00 PM – 10:00 PM Children’s Activities at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

7:00 PM Paper Airplane Contest at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

7:00 PM Candlelight Walking Tour (Beginning at the Cullman Depot)

7:00 PM – 10:00 PM Terry Cavanagh & the Alpine Express at the Festhalle

7:30 PM Pickle Eating Contest (Ages 14 & Under)

8:00 PM Best German Costume Contest & Longest Beard and Braid Contests

9:00 PM Stein Hoisting Contest

Friday, October 4, 2019

8:30 AM – 2:00 PM Wolfgang Moritz at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM School Tours at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

10:00 AM – 8:00 PM Arts & Crafts Show at Depot Park

10:30 AM – 2:00 PM Freddie Day Catering at the Festhalle

3:30 PM – 12:00 AM (overnight) Cullman Oktoberfest Biergarten

4:00 PM – 10:00 PM Children’s Activities at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

5:00 PM Busy Bee Café German Menu

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Wine Tasting at the Biergarten

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Christ Lutheran Oktoberfest Dinner

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Avenue G at the Festhalle

5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Cullman Oktoberfest Classic Car Show

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM Living History Cemetery Tour (Every 30 Minutes; Departing from Festhalle)

7:00 PM Paper Airplane Contest at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM The Overtones at the Festhalle

7:30 PM Pickle Eating Contest (Ages 14 & Under)

8:00 PM Best German Costume Contest & Longest Beard and Braid Contests

9:00 PM Stein Hoisting Contest9:00 PM – 12:00 AM (overnight)My One & Only at the Festhalle

Saturday, October 5, 2019

7:00 AM – 9:00 PM Farmers Market at the Festhalle

8:00 AM Oktoberfest 5K & 10K Run

8:00 AM – 8:00 PM Arts & Crafts Show at Depot Park

8:00 AM – 10:00 PM Children’s Activities at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

8:30 AM – 9:00 AM East & West Elementary Singers at the Festhalle

9:00 AM K9s-4-A-Kause at Depot Park

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Cullman Middle & Cullman High School Singers at the Festhalle

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Oktoberfest Junior Sidewalk Art Show

9:00 AM – 10:00 PM Carriage Rides

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Wallace State Singers at the Festhalle

10:00 AM – 11:59 AM Cullman Oktoberfest Biergarten

10:00 AM – 7:00 PM Bingo at Sacred Heart Church (Concessions Sold)

10:30 AM – 2:00 PM Freddie Day Catering at the Festhalle

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Wallace State Jazz Band at the Festhalle

12:00 PM Lions Club Bed Races at Depot Park

12:30 PM Bratwurst Eating Contest at the Festhalle

2:00 PM Round 2 at the Festhalle

2:45 PM Paper Airplane Finals at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

4:00 PM – 7:00 PM Corn Hole Tournament at Goat Island Brewery Sponsored by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church & School

5:00 PM Busy Bee Café German Menu

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Wine Tasting at the Biergarten

6:00 PM Blind the Sky at the Festhalle

8:00 PM Best German Costume Contest & Longest Beard and Braid Contests

10:00 PM Stein Hoisting Contest

There’s still time to practice your chicken dance, so go ahead and shake those tail feathers.