Saturday, December 25, 2010

'Tis the Season for Southern Cookin': A Christmas Feast

Merry Christmas! We hope you're enjoying a wonderful day with family and friends, lots of presents, and delicious food. As you sit down for your own Christmas feast this evening, we've got a holiday meal to offer you as well. We've cooked up you a lavish Christmas dinner, based on a Christmas menu listed in Atlanta's own The Dixie cook-book (1883). Below you'll find the full dinner menu, with recipes waiting for you after the jump. Enjoy! 

A Christmas Dinner Menu

Raw oysters served with sliced lemon
Turtle soup
Baked fresh fish
Roast turkey garnished with fried oysters
Mashed potatoes
Lima beans
Pickled beets
Mayonnaise of chicken salad
Cranberry sauce
Christmas plum pudding with rich sauce
Mince pie
Sponge and lady cake mixed
Fruit and nuts

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, dear readers! May your day be filled with everything that brings you joy! 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Trees in the Era of Gone with the Wind

In 1870, Christmas was proclaimed an official federal holiday, in an effort to unite into one celebration a country that had been divided by a war. The foundations to this project lay in a series of elements that were already common to Christmas celebrations both in the North and in the South and that ultimately contributed to forging an American identity. It's on one of these elements that we are going to focus today: the Christmas tree.

The first Christmas trees appeared in the German communities of Pennsylvania in the first decades of the 19th century. Multiple accounts and sketches survive of these decorated trees, including a charming announcement from the Society of Bachelors in York, Pennsylvania  that in 1823 was promising to decorate its Christmas tree so that it would "be superb, superfine, superfrostical, shnockagastical, double refined, mill'twill'd made of Dog's Wool, Swingling Tow, and Posnum fur; which cannot fail to gratify taste." (Because, seriously, who wouldn't want a Christmas tree that is superfrostical and snockagastical at the same time?) The custom quickly became a point of fascination for Americans in the neighboring states and Christmas trees began to appear in parlors in New York and Boston.

By the early 1840s, the phenomenon of the Christmas tree had started to move southward.  In 1842, the citizens of Williamsburg, Virginia were buzzing with excitement to see the very first Christmas tree known to state history. It was Charles Minnegerode, a German-born professor of classics at William and Mary College, who introduced the first Christmas tree that holiday season, bringing over an evergreen to the home of his friend, Judge Nathaniel Beverly Tucker. Fortunately for us, a first-hand account of this 'inaugural' Southern Christmas tree has not been lost to the sands of time. A young Sarah Pryor, who you might remember from her account of the daring hoop skirt blockade runner, was on hand to recall the event in her memoir:
"The beautiful Christian custom of lighting a Christmas tree—bringing 'the glory of Lebanon, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box,' to hallow our festival —had not yet obtained in Virginia. We had heard much of the German Christmas tree, but had never seen one. Lizzie Gilmer, who was to marry a younger son of the house, was intimate with the Tuckers, and brought great reports of the preparation of the first Christmas tree ever seen in Virginia.

"I had not yet been allowed to attend the parties of 'grown-up' people, but our young friend John Randolph Tucker was coming of age on Christmas Eve, and great pressure was brought to bear upon my aunt to permit me to attend the birthday celebration... The tree loaded with tiny baskets of bonbons, each enriched with an original rhyming jest or sentiment, was magnificent, the supper delicious, the speeches and poems from the two old judges (Tucker) were apt and witty."
--excerpted from My Day: Reminiscences of a Long Life by Sarah Pryor (1909)
Throughout the 1840s and early 185os, Christmas trees continued to grow in popularity, spurred by three very powerful forces in Victorian America: religion, commerce, and the publishing industry. Sunday schools began to incorporate Christmas trees into their holiday season festivities. The cheerful evergreens served as an enchanting reminder to young children about the Christian messages of renewal and promise at the heart of the Christmas season. In addition, resourceful teachers constructed games based around the Christmas tree, where pupils would receive small trinkets or sweets from the tree's branches for correctly reciting Bible verses.

Outside of the religious sphere, the world of commerce had also started to capitalize on the novel concept of the Christmas tree. Christmas trees were likely first sold for profit as early as 1840, when an intrepid farmer's wife from New Jersey set out for New York City with a cart full of trees for sale. By 1851, one of the first Christmas tree markets in New York City was set up in Washington Square by a gentleman by the name of Marc Carr. Other large cities soon adopted Christmas tree markets of their own.

The publishing world also served to widen the reach of the Christmas tree. Advertisements for Christmas trees started to cropped up in newspapers and magazines began to include holiday stories about Christmas trees. But there was one publication that played a greater role than all others in popularizing the Christmas tree in the United States. Any guesses about which one?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Black Christmas in the Antebellum South

"For the first time in their lives the negroes were able to get all the whisky they might want. In slave days, it was something they never tasted except at Christmas, when each one received a 'drap' along with his gift."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter XXXVII

Starting with 1820, criticism of slavery and of the Southern lifestyle based on it became more and more pronounced, as the problem of the former expanding to the new Western territories arose. Faced with this pressure, the Southerners countered by creating a "cavalier" myth of the South that would help define and defend its peculiar institutions, and Christmas was to play a central part to this end. As P.L. Renstadt notes in Christmas in America. A History, "Christmas became a key element in expounding the southern ideal, one in which the perceived virtues of the plantation system could be symbolized and ritualized. In the boldest ways, the southern Christmas provided a picture of harmony amid increasing tension."

The relationship between master and slaves and the way slaves themselves celebrated Christmas became essential in defending the perceived rightness of the state of affairs in the South. Memoirs and letters use Christmas as an example that the reality of slavery was much less harsh than the Abolitionists imagined. Christmas in the antebellum South was ultimately a charade of benevolent paternalism, glorified to the limits of caricature in stories like William Gilmore Simms' Maize in Milk. A Christmas Story of the South, where noble planters with names like Colonel Openheart ignore their own financial difficulties to buy the old and infirm slaves of neighboring plantations to save them from being sold down river. 

And since noblesse oblige, this expensive act of charity couldn't shadow in the least the lavish celebrations of Christmas on the Carolinian plantation Maize in Milk. It was more important than ever to keep the old traditions alive in times of hardship, Colonel Openheart proclaimed to his somewhat more prudent wife. On Christmas day, he gathered all of his slaves -both old and new - to give them the gifts he had bought from them in the city. These included shawls, caps, razors, hatchets, knives, scissors and cases of pin and needles, but no money, for it would have been "spent perniciously at some neighboring groggery."

Poster of the Week

Most of our featured posters, and most Gone with the Wind posters in general, tend to focus solely on Scarlett and Rhett. To make up for that (and just in case you were bored with our favorite couple. Though, how could you ever be?), today we chose a set of 11x14 theater lobby cards from 1939 that show all of the four main characters, along with a title card with credits. You can leave thanks for the chance to gaze at Ashley Wilkes here.

 Movie images from Poster information cited from Herb Bridges' "Frankly My Dear..."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

White Christmas in the Antebellum South

"I'm mighty glad Georgia waited till after Christmas before it seceded or it would have ruined the Christmas parties, too." 
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter I

“'Do you remember,' he said and under the spell of his voice the bare walls of the little office faded and the years rolled aside and they were riding country bridle paths together in a long-gone spring…  There was the far-off yelping of possum dogs in the dark swamp under cool autumn moons and the smell of eggnog bowls, wreathed with holly at Christmas time and smiles on black and white faces.” 
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter LIII

In the years following the Civil War, Southerners, both black and white, would look back at the old plantation Christmases with overwhelming nostalgia. For the former, like for Scarlett and Ashley, it was the charm and security of the wealthy antebellum days that they were crying after, the self-assured grace of their old lifestyle which had vanished in the throes of war and Reconstruction. For the latter, for the slaves upon whose labor and confinement that illusion had been built, the old Christmases stood out as bright spots from their life before Emancipation, as occasions when they'd receive small gifts from their masters, the permission to drink and, more importantly, when they didn't have to work.

In writing today's post I tried to bring you one side of the story first and see how Christmas was celebrated among the white Southern nobility. Tomorrow we will look at the way slaves themselves celebrated Christmas and try to see how and why Christmas became a central element in establishing the myth of the Old South as an untroubled world of chivalrous masters and happy slaves. To bring you a taste of 19th century Christmas celebrations, I've relied on a handful of period sources, as well as on Penne L. Restad's excellent Christmas in America. A History. You will find all of them listed at the end.

And now, let's roll!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 17: Scarlett's Red and White Christmas Dress

Fresh on the heels of Scarlett's green Christmas dress, the Doppelganger Dresses series is delighted to bring you Scarlett's other Christmastime outfit from Gone with the Wind: the charming red and white gown she wears to say goodbye to Ashley as he returns to war. This dress is one of my all-time favorite costumes from Gone with the Wind, and I think Walter Plunkett did an inspired job in creating it.  It hits all the right notes: it's playful without being over the top, girlish without being too demure, festive without screaming "CHRISTMAS" at the top of its lungs.

Little surprise here, it's also grounded in historical style. After the jump, you'll find two dresses from period fashion plates that bear close resemblance to Scarlett's own Christmas gown. One important difference to note: both of our period selections feature long sleeves, as was standard for day dress styles. Plunkett actually did toy with a long-sleeved version of this costume, but opted for the short-sleeved version instead, which he felt made Scarlett look more youthful. 

The fashions are waiting for you after the jump. Check them out and, as always, let us know what you think. Which one reminds you most of Scarlett's red and white Christmas dress? 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 16: Scarlett's Green Christmas Dress

The Doppelganger Dresses series gets into the holiday spirit this week! For our latest edition, we're delighted to bring you a period inspiration for the enchanting green Christmas dress Scarlett wears over Ashley's Christmas furlough. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have a love-hate relationship with this dress. I love it because it's such a sweetly romantic gown and because Scarlett looks so fetching in it. But I also hate it because Scarlett looks so fetching in it... and it's all for the benefit of that wishy-washy, feckless Ashley Wilkes.  

But let's place my own prejudices aside for a moment and move on to the main attraction: the dress, of course. After the jump, you'll find a period fashion plate that recalls our dashing heroine's own Christmas outfit. Check it out and let us know what you think! 

And be sure to stay tuned for next week's installment of Doppelganger Dresses, where we'll feature Scarlett's other Christmas costume from Gone with the Wind, the red and white dress she wears to say goodbye to Ashley as he returns to war. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Poster of the Week

Jolly old England is the nation of origin for this week's poster, which features Rhett and Scarlett standing in front of Tara in their surprise party attire.  Also, is it just me or does this poster do a really awful job of depicting Vivien Leigh? You'd think her own countrymen would be able to generate a more accurate likeness!

Image from

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Tis the Season for Southern Cookin': Merry Christmas Cake

We're back with another holiday installment of Southern Cookin' and this week's recipe is about as seasonally-inspired as you can get: Merry Christmas cake! 

The recipe for this charming cake comes from an 1878 Southern cookbook with a rather long name: Housekeeping in Old Virginia, Containing Contributions from Two Hundred and Fifty Ladies in Virginia and her Sister States, Distinguished for Their Skill in the Culinary Art, and Other Branches of Domestic Economy.

You can check out the recipe below. We hope it helps you to eat, drink and be merry this Christmas season!

Merry Christmas Cake
2 cups sugar.
1 cup corn starch.
2 cups flour.
1 cup butter.
1/2 cup sweet milk.
Whites of 8 eggs.
2 teaspoonfuls baking powder.

Bake in jelly-cake pans. Between each layer when done, on sides and top, spread icing, with grated cocoanut. A very pretty dish.--Mrs. Mc G.

Cold Icing

Whites of 3 eggs.
1 pound sugar.

Beat very light and season with vanilla or lemon. After beating very lightly, add the white of another egg and it will give a pretty gloss upon the icing.--Miss E. P. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Decorate for the Holidays with Scarlett and Rhett Winterberry Holly

"My, Captain Butler, don't you look dashing today!"
"'Rhett Butler' Meets 'Scarlett O'Hara' and the Results are Explosive." What's this? An entry in our contest for funniest and most succinct summary of Gone with the Wind? No, actually.  

This headline comes from a gardening article which reveals a charming little piece to warm our Windie hearts: there are two strands of winterberry holly named Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. And, naturally, this brazen combination is tailor made for each other and produces quite stunningly red holly berries. So, dear gardeners, you can now truly bring Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler home for the holidays! Isn't that thrilling?  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Time for a Contest!

As those of you who keep in touch with us through Facebook know already, next week we're hosting a contest for funniest and most succinct summary of Gone with the Wind. This is the prize - a GWTW calendar for 2011: 

and - now that we have your attention - these are the details:
When: Monday, Dec. 13 at 9 am CST through Tuesday, Dec. 14, 9 am CST
Where: on our Facebook page, Everything Gone with the Wind
Why: because we want to give you a GWTW calendar for Christmas, that's why. 
What do you have to do: Write a witty summary of GWTW under 100 words. Submit it in the thread that will be opened for this purpose on our wall on Facebook. Wait for the results. Funniest entry gets the calendar. The rest of the contenders get the chance to badmouth Bugsie & iso's crappy sense of humor.
Hope to see you there!

Rue de la Paix

This week's collage is all about illustrating the "child on Christmas morning" concept. (Dirty-minded readers are asked to overlook the context behind Scarlett's smile for a second.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Poster of the Week

A tearful Scarlett gazes at a bemused Rhett in this 11x14 Gone with the Wind lobby card, produced in 1968 to promote the movie's theatrical re-release. My favorite part by far is the tag line below the image: "Scarlett O'Hara's widow weeds are no barrier for flirtation when Rhett Butler comes to console her." Isn't that the truth!

Image from

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 15: Carreen's Checked Skirt and Vest from the Prayer Scene

Carreen O'Hara returns for an encore appearance in our latest edition of the Doppelganger Dresses series. This time, we've found a historical fashion plate that matches up nicely  with the checked skirt and vest that she wears in during the family prayer scene at the beginning of the movie. 

Check it out after the jump and, as always, let us know what you think! 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

'Tis the Season for Southern Cookin': Holiday Eggnog

“ 'Do you remember,' he said and under the spell of his voice the bare walls of the little office faded and the years rolled aside and they were riding country bridle paths together in a long-gone spring…  There was the far-off yelping of possum dogs in the dark swamp under cool autumn moons and the smell of eggnog bowls, wreathed with holly at Christmas time and smiles on black and white faces.” 
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter LIII

We have Bugsie and her eagle eyes to thank for this edition of Southern Cookin'. Because as she discovered, there's a small gem about antebellum Christmastime in the County tugged away in this nostalgic paragraph from the mill scene. Eggnog was a holiday tradition for Scarlett's friends and family! So with this knowledge in hand, we're naturally pleased to bring you not one but two recipes for eggnog, should you like to partake in this canon-approved holiday beverage.

Why the two recipes? Well, the first comes courtesy of The Dixie cook-book, published in Atlanta in 1883, to give you a local recipe that could have inspired Scarlett's own eggnog at Tara.

And if you want a little more pizazz, the second recipe offers up a Creole twist on this classic drink via The Picayune's Creole Cook Book, published in New Orleans (1901). 

We hope you enjoy these recipes and celebrate Christmas as Scarlett did--by raising a glass of holiday eggnog!


Stir half a cup of sugar (white), yolks of six eggs well beaten, into one quart of rich cream; add half a pint of brandy, flavor with nutmeg, and lastly add whites of the eggs well whipped.

--from The Dixie cook-book, published in Atlanta (1883) 


10 Fine, Fresh Creole Eggs
A Quart of Milk
2 Cupfuls of White Granulated Sugar
A Gill (1/2 cup) of Fine French Cognac
A Grated Nutmeg 

Beat the yolks to a cream, add the sugar, and beat to a cream. Blend all thoroughly, beating till very, very light. Now pour over the boiling milk, stirring well. When thoroughly blended add the whites of the Eggs, beaten to a stiff froth, and the Liquor, and serve hot. This Egg-Nog is also served cold by the Creoles at New Year's receptions. At the famous Christmas and New Year Reveillons it is served hot. The Liquor may or may not be added, according to taste.
--from The Picayune's Creole Cook Book, published in New Orleans (1901)

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Christmas Doll for Ella

“He [Rhett] always asked Mammy's permission to take Wade riding and consulted with her before he bought Ella dolls.” 
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter XLIX

Call me a softie, but the snippet above always make me smile fondly. I love both Rhett's thoughtfulness to his stepchildren and his courteous deference to Mammy. Plus, the idea of Rhett Butler gravely consulting Mammy about which dolls to buy for Ella is just plain charming (and frankly hilarious). So to that end, if Mammy approves, we think we have an ideal Christmas gift for Rhett to buy for little Ella.   

This lovely doll comes from the December 1871 edition of Godey's Lady's Book, so it's at the very height of fashion and sure to catch the fancy of any young girl. Moreover, it's trimmed especially for Christmas with cheerful ribbon flourishes. We think Ella would adore it. 

So, take note, Rhett, and buy it for her--after conferring with Mammy, of course!

"Fancy Dress for a Doll." Godey's Lady's Book, December 1871.

Description from Godey's Lady's Book: "This plate is intended as a guide for dressing a Christmas doll. Any color of ribbon can be used to suit the taste of the owner... We give it printed in blue and pink. Our young friends can dress their dolls in whatever colors will suit them best; we merely give the idea." 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rue de la Paix

Following her Doppelganger Dresses debut, Bonnie Blue Butler serves as the star of this week's collage in her blue velvet dress. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 14: Bonnie's Blue Velvet Riding Habit

We have a beautiful, if tragic, costume from Gone with the Wind to feature as this week's Doppelganger Dresses entry: Bonnie Blue Butler's blue velvet riding habit. 

The matching fashion plate is waiting for you after the jump. Does it look like Bonnie's riding habit to you? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Poster of the Week

Germany makes its Poster of the Week debut with an entry that's both fantastical and vaguely disturbing. Scarlett surveys the war dead during the siege of Atlanta... while the superimposed head of Rhett Butler looms in the background. Is it a metaphor for the omnipresent role Rhett plays in Scarlett's life--or just a case of questionable unique poster art? You be the judge.

 Image from

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'Tis the Season for Southern Cookin': Snow Cake and Snow Custard

Today ushers in the very merry month of December and the official start of the Christmas season here at the blog! To celebrate this festive time of year, we'll be bringing you plenty of holiday blog posts all month long, including several special editions of Southern Cookin'.  Each week leading up to Christmas, we'll feature seasonal Southern recipes from the Gone with the Wind era to get you in the holiday spirit. 
And today we are pleased to not only inaugurate this holiday series, but to also introduce a new cookbook to our collection. Our recipes, selected for their wintry feel, come courtesy of The Dixie cook-book, published in 1883 in Scarlett's home base of Atlanta, Georgia. We hope you enjoy them, and be sure to stay tuned for more goodies next week!

Favorite Snow-Cake
Beat one cup butter to a cream, add one and a half cups flour and stir very thoroughly together; then add one cup corn starch, and one cup sweet milk in which three tea-spoons baking-powder have been dissolved; last, add whites of eight eggs and two cups sugar well beaten together; flavor to taste, bake in sheets, and put together with icing.

Snow Custard
Half a package of Coxe's gelatine, three eggs, two cups of sugar, juice of one lemon; soak the gelatine one hour in a tea-cup of cold water, add one pint boiling water, stir until thoroughly dissolved. Add two-thirds of the sugar and the lemon juice; beat the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, and when the gelatine is quite cold, whip it into the whites, a spoonful at a time, from half an hour to an hour.

Whip steadily and evenly, and when all is stiff, pour in a mold, or in a dozen egg-glasses previously wet with cold water, and set in a cold place. In four or five hours turn into a glass dish. Make a custard of one and one-half pints milk, yolks of eggs, and remainder of the sugar, flavor with vanilla, and when the meringue or snow-balls are turned out of the mold, pour this around the base.

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