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DINNER NEGLECTED SACRAMENT
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Barbara Holland (1933-2010), a Washingtonian, moved to Bluemont (pop. 200) in Loudoun County in 1993 and wrote "Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences." A manifesto for enjoying the unsung, out-of-fashion, and slightly disreputable joys of life, the book was a defiant rejoinder to the Puritan spirit that variously possesses religious crusaders and radical feminists, fitness fanatics and subdivision covenanteers, vegans and workaholics, and all the other grim tribes of Scold Nation whose purpose is to make us feel bad about feeling good.
With the permission of Barbara Holland 's publisher, we are excerpting chapters from "Endangered Pleasures" on this page the first Saturday of each month.
We do not necessarily endorse every indulgence profiled by the author. But by golly she does make them sound good.
DINNER has fallen on sad days. Forty years ago, many quite ordinary people had their dinner cooked for them by hired help, who were often pretty good at the job and understood such esoteric matters as dumplings rising fatly on the simmering chicken pieces, nestled among bits of aromatic celery and smelling of rosemary.
Failing this, dinner was cooked by the lady of the house, who had varying degrees of talent but at least accepted what was expected.
It was a lot of work. Looking back on our childhood, many of us remember the fruits of this labor. Mashed potatoes made of real potatoes, with a dent in the middle to hold the thick, dark gravy. Freshly shelled peas, popping between the teeth to release the complex, oniony, long-simmered broth and gooey strands of cheese. The warm nutmeg-and-cinnamon breath of an apple pie. Tiny spicy meatballs in a savory sauce. The rumpled, swollen souffle, pregnant with airy bliss, yearning to be violated.
Hard work, all of it.
Children came home from school and headed to the kitchen for a cookie, to be shooed back out again by a woman making dinner. Stirring, tasting, measuring, beating, slicing. Shucking corn. Whipping egg whites. An hour later the house was filled with anticipatory smells of cooking.