Saturday, January 11, 2014

it's nice

So I bought a clock radio, and have taken both to falling asleep and waking up to our local classical music station, the world renowned WFMT. This is something I haven't done in perhaps thirty years. It's nice. (Clock radios still have timers! What a revelation!)

The station happens to have stopped playing, may I say faithfully at 6:00 am, a hymn I still remember, and always associate with (my nineteen-year-old self) getting up to catch the bus to a community college on fresh, cold, lavender-swathed winter mornings. I owned a lavender-colored coat and scarf then; and sometimes the winter morning light on hoarfrost and brown branches can look lavender. The lyrics to the hymn were prettily descriptive of all the seasons -- "the lane [or lake?] in its soft summer dew, the stars on a winter night." The chorus ended in something about "the bells in the valley belo-ow."  Google the keywords as I may, I can't seem to find the hymn. Perhaps you know it?

In the meantime, why don't we enjoy something else that is nice? Here is a bit of culinary history recovered from the starched-ruff-and-saber era, which might for all I know be the same era as the hymn. Christian Guy, in An Illustrated History of French Cuisine (tr. Elisabeth Abbott, 1962), writes of nice things in the early seventeenth century:

There was one innovation: the guests tied their napkins around their necks; for more than a century before they had flung them over one shoulder or over the left arm. This change -- like the innovation of the fork -- resulted from the fashion for fluted linen collars which the wearers wished to protect. Because of those ruffs, every man also had to let his neighbor help him tie his napkin around his neck (whence the expression 'help make both ends meet').

Curious how the phrase "to make ends meet," to us, means to manage one's finances carefully, to get by. But the full phrase makes more sense in reference to a big cloth napkin. For if it is about money, -- what two ends are meeting? The ends of a dollar bill?

We think not. Below, one more nice thing, in keeping with one of our two new themes for the year. You remember we chose the Baroque and lemons. No kidding. One bright morning this week, my new clock radio and WFMT awakened me to "the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba," from Handel's Solomon.

Never heard of it? Me neither. But now we have.


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