Cider the October Drink

Cider was the real original American drink. C

By the 18th century apple cider was a staple at every family table; at harvest many apples were pressed into cider and the remainder was placed carefully into barrels to store through winter for eating or replenishing supply. Pehr Kalm, a Swedish naturalist, noted in his travels in 1749 that nearly every home on Staten Island (now a part of modern New York City) had a small orchard attached and in the colonial capital, Albany, apples were being pressed for cider to be exported south to New York City [20] By 1775, one in ten New England families, most of them farmers, had a cider mill on the property.[15] In one of his letters to his wife Abigail, John Adams complained explicitly about the quality of Philadelphiaalcohols and being homesick for her cider.[21][22] Thomas Jefferson grew several varieties of apple at his home in Virginia and there are records of his wife Martha Jefferson overseeing their harvest and brewing while she was mistress of the plantation.[23] Ciderkin, a slightly alcoholic beverage made from cider pomace, could also be found on colonial tables, and was often served for breakfast. Applejack, made in the North, was made in a very similar manner to Canadian ice cider every winter and likely would have been familiar to Mrs. Adams as an alternate means to concentrate alcohol when it was far too cold outside to bring out the cider press.[24] 

The taste for hard cider continued into the 19th century in pockets of the East Coast, but with the double blow of immigration from Central and Eastern Europe, where lager beer is the traditional staple, and the later advent of Prohibition hard cider manufacturing collapsed and did not recover after the ban on alcohol was lifted. Temperance fanatics burned or uprooted the orchards and wrought havoc on farms to the point that only dessert or cooking apples escaped the axe or torch; only a small number of cider apple trees survived on farmland abandoned before the 1920s and in the present day are only now being found by pomologists. [25]

ider, real cider, vanished from the American landscape during Prohibition, when many cider orchards were burned to the ground by die-hard temperance advocates. Even after repeal, cider never recovered. The nation, by the early 20th century, had turned to beer, and the apple crop reverted to eating apples—the kind used by hopeful kids to woo their teachers. Many heirloom cider apple varieties—the acidic, high-tannin bittersweets and bittersharps—simply vanished. Post-Prohibition, cider—when it was produced at all—was often made from eating apples such as the ubiquitous Red Delicious which, most cider aficionados agree, makes lousy cider.

Volume sales for hard cider increased 278% between 2010 and 2014, and the only thing hampering the continued growth of the industry is the buzz-kill inducing lack of real cider orchards. What is a maker to do? Farmers and scientists at the University of Vermont, the University of Michigan, Cornell University, Virginia Tech and Washington State University are working with the USDA and the U.S. Apple Association to distribute millions of dollars in grants and research initiatives to get more cider apple trees successfully growing, and determine which varietals grow best where – and which ones the market enjoys.

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Frost Descends 霜降 shuāng jiàng Oct 23rd

Frost’s Descent is the 18th term and the last solar term of autumn, during which time the weather becomes much colder than before and ice crystals form as frost begins to appear.  In the lower reaches of the Yellow River region, frost first appears in late October or early November and it does in much of America and Europe. . It comes other times in other parts of China As Frost’s Descent comes, the world is filled with the atmosphere of late autumn and the sense of coming winter.

Eating persimmons during Frost’s Descent can help people resist the cold and protect their bones. In the countryside, people believe that their lips will crack if they don’t eat persimmons during this period. Chinese people also enjoy apples Frost’s Descent. The Chinese have an equivalent to the western “Apple a Day” saying, “Eat an apple after meals, even old men can be as strong as young men.” Apples moisten the lungs, quench one’s thirst and help one’s digestion. The pear is another recommended fruit during Frost’s Descent, which can promote the secretion of body liquids, clear away heat and reduce sputum. It’s a custom to eat duck on the first day of Frost’s Descent in south Fujian province and Taiwan. There is a saying in Fujian which goes, “Even nourishing all year is not as good as nourishing the human body on the first day of Frost’s Descent.” Eating duck is a way for people there to gain weight for the coming cold season..

ChestnutsIt is considered that eating chestnuts during Frost’s Descent is beneficial for one’s health. Chestnuts have a warm nature and sweet flavor, and are good for nourishing the spleen and stomach, invigorating the circulation of blood, relieving coughs and reducing sputum. I like them roasted but it is often difficult to get them just right so I often buy the snack packs of them in my Korean grocery at this time. They are not prepared the same way as in the west where I usually find them in sweet syrup for baking.

Bpwl of fresh jujube fruit with forkThe jujube, also known as Chinese date, is one of the fruits on the market during Frost’s Descent. Nutritious with a great number of vitamins, dates can nourish the blood, decrease blood pressure, and improve one’s immunity. They are an ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Tradiional Korean Medicine. There are many cultivars all over the world and they are used in cooking and for teas as well.  In Vietnam they smoke them and call these black jujubes.

Here is a bit of final miscellany about Frost Descends. The people in Daxin county in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region celebrate the first day of Frost’s Descent. In the Frost’s Descent Festival, the Zhuang people offer sacrifices, dance and sing folk songs. The  360 years= old festival also commemorates Cen Yuyin, a heroine in battles against foreign aggression.

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Movies for October – The Work of Val Lewton

Certainly in the run-up to Halloween people start thinking of the spooky movies they want to watch. A lot of people don’t like what are considered horror movies. Many are derivative, repetitive or just plain poor quality. There are some true classics in the genre like the original Frankenstein but there is also a lot of pure drek. As for myself, I am more interested in the same things in a so called horror movie as I am in any other movie: cinematography, plot, character and atmosphere. So the Ten little Indians variety of movie where you count down the murder of foolish teenagers is not for me. It wasn’t even when I was a teenager.

I think my tastes were influenced by my grandmother. When I was young and often spent time at my grandparent my grandmother had found a radio station that was re-broadcasting the old radio programs that played when radio first became popular. As I sat with her in the kitchen while she cooked or baked we listened to the shows she liked; The Shadow, Inner Sanctum, Lights Out and Suspense. The kind of horror on those shows was not the startle type. It didn’t depend on visually nasty things but rather your own imagination.

So the old, atmospheric movies in black and white were not boring to me but reminiscent of those old radio shows. Sitting in the dark, watching them over a bowl of popcorn was a special experience. Fairly soon in my exploration of the movie world I found a series of movies over time that belonged in this class. As it turned out they were all produced by one man, Val Lewton. Lewton was a Russian-American novelist, film producer and screenwriter best known for this string of low-budget horror films he produced for RKO,

Poster for Cat people movie

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,

Cat People, which came out in 1942, was the first production for producer Val Lewton, who was a journalist, novelist and poet turned story editor for David O. Selznick RKO hired Lewton to make horror films on a budget of under $150,000 to titles provided by the studio. The film was shot from July 28 to August 21, 1942, at RKO’s Gower Gulch studios in Hollywood. Sets left over from previous, higher-budgeted RKO productions notably the staircase from The Magnificent Ambersons were utilized. Near the end of the filming of Cat People, two crews were working to finish the picture on time, one at night, filming the animals, and one during the day with the cast. But costing only $141,659 iy came in $7,000 under budget. and it made almost $4 million in its first two years, according to some sources. The picture  saved RKO from financial disaster.

Cat People tells the story of a young Serbian woman, Irena, who believes herself to be a descendant of a race of people who turn into cats when driven to emotional extremes. Reviews were initially mixed but time has been favorable. Critic William K. Everson dedicated a whole chapter to the film and its successor The Curse of the Cat People in his book Classics of the Horror Film. In 1993, Cat People was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. The film still holds a 93% Fresh rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, where anyone can chip in their two cents.

Next in the lineup was I Walked with a Zombie in 1943. This was one where Lewton was forced to use the film’s title by RKO executives. The film was initially based on a piece written by one Inez Wallace for American Weekly Magazine, but Lewton asked his writers to borrow from Jane Eyre to give narrative structure and to research Haitian voodoo to give some authenticity. Lewton, together with scripters Curt Siodmak and Ardel Wray, came up with a story in which a nurse travels to the tropics to care for  the wife of a seemingly abusive plantation owner. The film used very limited sets and only a handful of extras, but as with Cat People director Jacques Tourneur managed to create a realistic yet atmospheric impression of a tropical island populated at every turn by voodoo worshippers. In an era of gross out walking dead movies this is a moody thriller, far more faithful to West Indian zombie traditions. Ambiguous throughout, one is left wondering if it is voodoo or human weakness and evil that is the cause of all the grief. Initially rejected by some critics, later writers have viewed more highly and it  still holds a 92% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, showing there is still an appreciative audience for it. In 2007, Stylus Magazine named it the fifth best zombie movie of all time and if you look at the list you’ll see how different it is from all the others. It’s a zombie movie for people who hate zombie movies as well as those that like them.

Movie poster for The Leopard Man 1943The Leopard Man also came out in 1943. Director Jacques Tourneur’s third and last picture for Lewton, it was based  on the book Black Alibi by the adventure story writer Cornell Woolrich. The story revolves around the purchase of a leopard as a publicity stunt for a nightclub in a small New Mexico town, which then manages to escape. A series of killings ensue and of course it is assumed from th nature of the deaths, it is the big cat, But is it? When the leopard is found to have been dead before at least one of the killings everything changes.when The haunting finale takes place during the annual “Day of the Dead” festivities. According to a contemporary interview with writer Ardel Wray the film exteriors were shot around Santa Fe, New Mexico. While perhaps one of Lewton’s weaker offerings it is one of the first American films to attempt to realistically portray a serial killer well before the term was even in use.  Rotten Tomatoes still gives it an 88% fresh rating and many newer films don’t merit that.

The Seventh Victim was the third film to come out in 1943. It was directed for Lewton by Mark Robson and was his first picture as a director.  the film focuses on a young woman who stumbles on an underground cult of Satanists in Greenwich Village in New York, while searching for her missing sister. Charles O’Neal had written the script as a murder mystery, set in California, that followed a woman hunted by a serial killer but it was revised by DeWitt Bodeen, basing the story on a Satanic society he had encountered in New York City. Filmed in only 24 days,  it was not well received. It lost money at the box office and received mixed reviews from critics, who found its narrative incoherence a primary fault. It was later revealed that Robson and an editor, John Lockert, had removed four substantial scenes from the final cut, including an extended conclusion.  Again however, time has been kinder to it. The cinematography and score have been praised and without any spoilers I can say there are interest precursors to classic moments in later horror films. The subject natter may have been ahead of it’s time, more modern viewers give it a 92 % fresh rating in spite of it’s downbeat ending.

The Ghost Ship, the final film for Lewton in 1943 is about a young merchant marine officer who begins to suspect that his ship’s captain is mentally unbalanced and endangering the lives of the ship’s crew. The ship’s crew, however, believes the vessel to be haunted and cursed and several mysterious deaths occur. The film did well at first but in February 1944, Lewton was sued for plagiarism by playwrights Samuel R. Golding and Norbert Faulkner, who claimed that the script was based on a play that was submitted to Lewton for a possible film. Because of the suit, The Ghost Ship was withdrawn from theatrical release and not shown for nearly 50 years. It was not until the film’s copyright was not renewed and it entered the public domain in  the 1990s that it was again available. Not as well known and somewhat more of a thriller than a horror film, critics tend to rate it higher than regular viewers, who are perhaps disappointed at that lack of traditional horror elements. While not the Caine Mutiny and perhaps not even an October type of film, it is certainly worth a viewing.

Movie Poster for The Curse of the Cat PeopleThe Curse of the Cat People was demanded by the studio as a follow-up to the success of Cat People with another script by DeWitt Bodeen. It came out in 1944 and was directed at first by Gunther von Fritsch and then Robert Wise. This film, which was then-film editor Robert Wise’s first directing credit. Even though it is the sequel to Cat People and has many of the same characters, it is more of a ghost story. I like the way it was described on Rotten Tomatoes page by Hal Rovi “Saddled with a lurid title, producer Lewton and screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen chose to offer a fascinating glimpse into the wonderfully boundless realm of a child’s imagination, and in this respect the film is an unqualified success”. It is in many ways a unique film and whether because of this or in spite of it The freshness rating is at Rotten Tomatoes is still 89 %.

Lewton did three more of his B horror films, all successful and all with Boris Karloff. You can read about them in this post. The original pairing of the two has an interesting story behind it which may be a post for another October day.


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The aftermath of taking a day off for autumn activities was a really busy Monday. I had forgotten how much more energy you have when you spend time taking a day to have fun. I cleaned up the front yard and got everything ready to put into storage for the winter; the seed spreader, the watering can and some empty plant pots. I was still in that autumn activities mood so why not apply that energy to what needed doing. There aren’t enough leaves to rake yet. I noticed yesterday that the hills that back the orchard were still green. It did get very warm but without the summer humidity it still felt like fall, so green hills seemed wrong somehow. After a glass of cider and a really big slice of apple cake made from the orchards apples, I made my way over to the Starr Hill brewery to have my little Oktoberfest. I was amazed at the selection.  I got a flight, five small glasses, each of a different type.

Since I still had a sweet taste in my mouth from the apple cake I started with Last Leaf, a maple brown ale. It was a good choice, There was a tiny bit of sweet on the front of my tongue at first and then it was all nice ale flavour. I washed the sweet from the cake away without being spoiled by it. Then I had Festie, their Oktoberfest offering. It was crisp and light. You have to remember in a true Oktoberfest you are drinking beer all day. While you don’t want an insipid, watery beer, but it can’t be to heavy either. Then I had 2 Tone, a vanilla porter that I really liked. To me it would be perfect for a beer to slowly enjoy in cold weather. I usually favor beer in warm weather, like many people. Still, there are occasions when you might want beer in colder weather, like when you are having a nice hot oyster stew and some warm sourdough bread for dinner in front of the fire. That’s when I’d like to have some of it on hand.

After that was Little Red Roostarr, a coffee cream stout. One of the brewmasters must be into coffee, they have several coffee offerings. I admit to being more of a porter person than a stout person, and at first, even though I’m a coffee lover, I wasn’t sure. After a few sips it began to grow on me. I think that because it’s a milk stout, it kept the coffee from giving it a bitterness. Milk stouts have lactose added and the beer yeast can’t ferment it, so it sweetens the brew. According to what I was taught you go from light to heavier brews so your palate isn’t spoiled for the flavors of the lighter ones, but I finished with a really light beer because I then wanted clear my taste buds to have a pint and listen to the band. Crozet Gold is named after the little town the brewery is in. It’s what they call a golden ale and it was really light and very refreshing on top of the stout. But of course the pint I ordered was the Oktoberfest brew, and I had the added pleasure in drinking it that they were donating a dollar a pint for every pint sold in October to a local alternative health care group.

Newtown Pippin variety apple sapling bearing fruit

Newtown Pippins by Leslie Seaton from Seattle, WA, USA [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The band was good and I had a very enjoyable day all around, coming home with a half bushel of assorted apples and a half peck of Fujis for making dried cinnamon spice apples. When I make my city shopping run I’ll have to pick up some big bags of spices at the Indian market, those tiny bottles and tins in the regular market just don’t cut it, either in volume or price. The assorted bushel this year contains what are locally called Albemarle Pippins or Newtown Pippins in New York where they originated.  They are not easy to come by although they were at one time quite famous.  In 1838, Andrew Stevens, the American minister (ambassador) to Great Britain, presented Queen Victoria with a gift basket of the apples from his wife’s Albemarle County orchard. In response, Parliament lifted import duties on the variety, which were not reimposed until WWII.  I think the queen must really have liked them, and so do I. In New York most of them go into Martinelli’s cider but here in Virginia they are still eaten by many, including myself.


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A Great Day

I had such a great day. Can’t believe how late it is and I am full of fresh cider and apple cake and delicious beer and good music. By the time I got home the cats were in “FEED US NOW!” mode , so I did and now I need dinner (some solid food to go with the beer) so I am going to cheat a little and do multiple posts tomorrow. I was out in the sun and fresh air and  am definitely going to sleep early and well, especially after some food . So good night and I hope your day was as enjoyable as mine.

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A Slight Delay for a Really Good Day

I try to get my posts out in the AM unless we have to visit the vet or sit at the mechanic’s shop. But as we get to the waning side of the year I reflected that my social life has really been non-existent this year and a lot of ventures have not gone as planned. So today’s post will come after I return this PM from a day of having some fall fun. I am going to the orchard for some apples and fresh cider and then I am going to catch a local trio, Delaplane. at the Starr Hill brewery. I first encountered Starr Hill at a beer festival in Maryland years before I moved to Virginia and their brews were excellent. I have driven by at least a dozen times and never stopped at the brewery, although I have bought the beer at the store. Today is the day. It is sunny and supposed to go up to 85F/29.4C so It will be a nice day for going to the orchard and then cooling down with some seasonal beers and music for an afternoon. All this writing about the pleasures of October is hard work. I think a bit of personal indulgence is deserved. After all although I promised myself I would do a post a day for the month, a challenge to increase my productivity in all things, not just writing, I also 00promised myself an Oktoberfest.

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Caturday Thoughts: Darkness Falls

Red light against large tree trunkCats are nocturnal creatures. This is the common belief. Even Fred Flintstone “put the cat out for the night”.  The big cats, the wild ones are in fact mostly nocturnal. Feral domestic cats are usually nocturnal as well. Night is when the small rodents and insects that are their prey are out and about but also sleeping all day, hidden away, keeps them safe from human activity and other daylight dangers.

This is one reason cats were associated with evil. Man has always been afraid of the dark and cats occupy the darkness with impunity. Dark has negative connotations almost no matter what it is applied to. This is unfortunate and regrettable.

We could start with the “Dark Ages” . In the context of medieval Europe this refers to a period which is really the Early Middle Ages, AD 500 – 1000. Our understanding of things have adjusted the dates over time but it’s roughy this period. The centuries immediately following the fall of Rome were marked by barbarian invasions, population decline, cultural and economic deterioration, and (to modern historians) a lack of records, therefore the “dark” label.  The label can squarely be laid at the feet of Petrarch, the Italian poet, writing in the 1330s but was reinforced by the bias of later scholars against anything that wasn’t a classical golden age. Most recently the trend has been to greatly reduce it’s application to periods deemed dark only in the sense of an information blackout due to a dearth of historical records.

Darkness, however, is necessary and good.  Our modern obsession with light has actually created an environment which is detrimental to our health. Our environment is so unnatural we don’t know nature when we see it. According to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), the sky glow of Los Angeles is visible from an airplane 200 miles away. When L. A. lost power in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, panicked residents called local emergency centers to report seeing a strange “giant, silvery cloud” in the dark sky. What they were seeing was actually the Milky Way, long obliterated by the urban sky glow.

I find in this incident an uncanny reminder of Isaac Asimov’s story Nightfall. According to Asimov’s in his autobiography, editor John Campbell asked Asimov to write the story after discussing with him a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson. “If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God!”   Campbell felt Emerson was very wrong in his prediction. According to Asimov,  he said “I think men would go mad.”

There is mounting evidence our attempts t0 overwhelm the dark are making us sick. For example, melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, is secreted at night and is known for helping to regulate the body’s circadian clock. Melatonin triggers a host of biologic activities  and melatonin levels drop precipitously in the presence of artificial or natural light.  The circadian clock affects physiologic processes in almost all organisms. These processes include brain wave patterns, hormone production, cell regulation, and other biologic activities. Disruption of the circadian clock is linked to several medical disorders in humans.

Small white sun settng behind black trees and pink blue skyI myself, love the dark and wish more than anything my numerous ignorant neighbors would turn out their prison spot light style front porch lights at some point rather than leaving them on all night. We have street lights, it’s not as though the streets are impassable. Most of my neighbors are retired or work normal daytime hours too. Why they need the bloody lights on all night is beyond me. The cats are all he sleep disruption I need. And even their sleep is disrupted by he lights sometimes.

My cats are more crepuscular than nocturnal, thankfully. Cats combining daylight activity with nighttime activity are commonly known as crepuscular. Crepuscular cats lounge around and lay low around midday to avoid the heat in summer, then become more active in the early morning and early evening hours. Artificial heating and cooling can effect this but I keep that at a minimum.

Two black and white cats in cat cup

Don’t kid yourself. We move when we want to!

Even as I write this on a cool, gray, overcast day I have watched both Dolly  and Milk engage in some wild racing around the house and it’s mid-morning. I was just reading that moonlit nights and dreary, cloudy days can lure the crepuscular cat into activity. I guess I can verify the research is good.

Feral cats appear to be predominantly nocturnal.  Since these cats survive in colonies usually around a food source such as a restaurant dumpster, a trash can or an abandoned building, they often are hidden and sleeping in the day to avoid human contact. In areas where there are not persecuted like the cat islands in Japan, they are often seen dozing in plain sight under fishing gear or on steps according to the weather.

All cats can change their activity level at will and can become less nocturnal or more diurnal in response to interaction with their environment or activities with humans.So if your cat is waking you at night, like those funny cartoons of Simon’s Cat, you can get them to adjust things a bit.  In a study of ten cats divided into two equal groups, the results showed housing conditions can have on a cat’s circadian rhythms. . Group A cats lived in small houses and could access small yards for an hour in the morning. Group B cats lived in larger houses, and could access large yards throughout the day, and were kept outside from 9 pm to 8 am. As you might expect, Group A cats developed patterns of activity and rest that more closely mirrored those of their owners while Group B cats were most active at night.

An after dinner (yours not theirs) session of early evening exercise may provide enough activity to tire out your cat and have him (or her) sleep more through the night. And actually this kind of relaxing play time will help your sleep cycle as well, helping you unwind and forget the days tension. Keep in mind your cat may get just as confused by the human time switch we all undergo at this time of year and he or she is already adjusting naturally to the shorter days. Darkness falls but you should be able to enjoy it along with your cats in perfect harmony. Make sure you do what you need to to get good sleep; a darkened room with no electronics, plenty of time to relax and unwind and don’t eat too late. Enjoy the longer evenings by taking time to read a book or work on a craft. Soon it will be dark at dinner, so dine by candlelight. Don’t fight the dark embrace it. Your cat will show you the way.

Full moon behind pine tree in panoramic landscape

Study Source:                                                                                                                         Daily rhythm of total activity pattern in domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) maintained in two different housing conditions. G Piccione, S Marafioti, C Giannetto, M Panzera, F Fazio. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. Published online 7 January 2013.


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