Food and Piano: Thoughts from and about A. B. Longstreet

Illustration from a 1850 edition of en:Augustu...

The oddest things can bring laughter to my life.  I just finished reading a book first published in 1835.  It’s a small volume, Georgia Scenes by Augustus Baldwin Longstreet.

If you’re a true Southerner you’ll recognize the author’s name.  Longstreet was President of four Southern institutions of higher learning starting in 1839 at Emory College when it was still located in Oxford, Georgia.  From Emory Longstreet spent years at Centenary College in Louisiana, The University of Mississippi and South Carolina College.  Can you guess which side he was on during the Civil War?  Yes it was the South but his small book isn’t about that period. Georgia Scenes is a compilation of characters, incidents and scenes from the first half century of the Republic.

Food from Georgia Scenes

In various stories his characters seek out an oyster house hidden upstairs in a Savannah house, attend a county fair with quite a bit of “punch” being drunk even by the ladies and attend a newlywed couples disastrous dinner party.  The dinner consisted or “ two-pale-blue, dry, boiled fowls; boiled almost to dismemberment, upon a dish large enough to contain a goodly sized shote…a prodigious roast turkey, upon a dish that was almost concealed by its contents…the back and sides burned to a  crisp, and the breast raw.”  Next to be served was a ”burned round of beef and a raw leg of mutton.”  FYI:  The marriage did not survive.

In another story Longstreet tells of an afternoon tea when I certain Miss Aurelia Emma Theodosia Augusta Crump was entreated to play the piano for the group.  Longstreet’s description cannot be improved on. Since Longstreet didn’t fill in the details of what was served at this tea I am making my suggestions.  In the spirit of the occasion as you read I would suggest you improvise an afternoon party with my favorites:  Diet Coke and something from the Publix Bakery; two true Southern treats, even if they weren’t available around 1790.

Piano Music for Tea

Piano“She seated herself at the piano, rocked to the right, then to the left, leaned forward, then backward, and began. She placed her right hand about midway the keys and her left about two octaves below it.  She now put off to the right in a brisk canter up the treble notes and the left after it.  The left then led the way back, and the right pursued it in like manner.  The right turned, and repeated its first movement; but the left outran it this time, hopped over it, and flung it entirely off the track.  It came in again, however, behind the left on its return, and passed it in the same style.  They now became highly incensed at each other, and met furiously on the middle ground.  Here a most awful conflict ensued for about the space of ten seconds, when the right whipped off all of a sudden, as I thought, fairly vanquished.

But I was in the error against which Jack Randolph cautions us; “It had only fallen back to a stronger position.”  It mounted upon two black keys and commenced the note of a rattlesnake.  This had a wonderful effect upon the left, and placed the doctrine of “snake charming” beyond dispute.  The left rushed furiously towards it repeatedly, but seemed invariably panic-struck when it came within six keys of it, and as invariably retired with a tremendous roaring down the bass keys.  It continued its assaults, sometimes by the way of the naturals, sometimes by the way of the sharps, and sometimes by a zigzag through both; but all its attempts to dislodge the right from tis stronghold proving ineffectual, it came close up to its adversary and expired.”

Victor Borge could not have done better – and so I retire to enjoy my Diet Coke and desserts.

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