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A Taste of the Season

 

continued

Cerniglia revealed that a mysterious globe was the butter chiller, and an urnlike vase was the slop jar. She pinged the table bell on display, explaining that hanging sashes in a house's various rooms once connected to kitchen bells, rung to summon servants. "Now we have — what, cell phones?" she laughed.

When I asked her why a display of dainty period Christmas cards showed images of roses and leaves instead of more familiar iconography, she drew a connection to the pagan origins of Christmas, with ancient solstice-celebration use of evergreens signifying the endurance of life at the turning point of midwinter darkness. I dimly recalled corroborating biblical verses in Jeremiah 10:2-5, forbidding the use of what sounds awfully like a (pagan) Christmas tree.

Period recipes, an entire elaborately set dinner table, and a dinner-table chart showing the proper placement of "Gravy for Ducks," "Parsnips," and "Oyster Sauce," among thirteen dinner dishes, round out the exhibition, which will remain on display through February.    (end of article)

[Originally published in January, 2005.]

 

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