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More blog search bloopers. June 2, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , ,

Once again, our virtual inbox here at Poor Richard’s Almanac is overflowing with (inadvertently) humorous search phrases that have somehow brought people to our blog. Here are some of the latest and greatest, with, as always, the search phrase in bold, our comments following. Enjoy!

books old ladies like: At a guess, 1,000 Ways to Torture Rude, Impertinent Whippersnappers Who Use Search Phrases Like This.

charm for a good garden: Don’t we all wish we had one of these! Four that spring to mind are the ever-popular four-leaf clover, especially appropriate in a garden setting; a gazing ball, originally designed to divert the Evil Eye from your garden; and a scarab beetle or ladybug (the scarab, aka dung beetle, because it assists in turning dung into garden fertilizer, and the ladybug because she eats garden pests like aphids and whiteflies). Not a charm per se but a harbinger of peace and garden prosperity would be a statue of St. Francis or St. Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners.

grannies naked in their gardens: What grannies do in their gardens is no business of ours, or yours either, you little pervert. As long as we don’t see them, anyway. Otherwise, we’re going for the “good fences make good neighbors” approach.

clothes to wear for Benjamin Franklin: Where Ben is now, we understand that dazzling white robes are all the mode.

mediums of poor richard: Hey, get your own Ouija board.

growing manzano pepper jelly: And here we thought you had to cook it.

if elephant eats coconut: No doubt there’s a proverb (or at least a cliche) lurking here somewhere. “If elephant eats coconut, no pina coladas”?

what happened to ben and jerry when they: Frankly, we don’t want to know.

celebrate birthday in different face: Now, there’s a thought! This year, we’d like to celebrate our birthdays as Thulsa Doom or Darth Vader, or maybe Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle (our friend Ben); Galadriel or Nefertiti or Mma Ramotswe (Silence Dogood); and George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt or Jim Chee (Richard Saunders). Just think, you’d never have to worry about anyone telling you how “great” you were looking this particular birthday again!

what to feed your dig: We’re really hoping that would be “dog.” 

There are plenty more where these came from, but that’s enough for now. Some of our most bizarre queries, such as “rhubarb pregnancy” and “where can i view pictures of antique see,” actually end up making sense, once we’ve worked through them and figured out what’s missing. Sure enough, they really are looking for one of our posts! But queries like the ones we’ve featured in this post are not just baffling, they make us wonder what’s happening to our collective IQ. First the dinosaurs, then us, then the cockroaches…


Blog searches go berserk. March 11, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in chickens, gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , ,

Typically, we like to space out our posts on the spaced-out blog searches we receive here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, but we’ve recently been inundated with such classics that we just had to share some with you. (If they keep showing up at this rate, we may have to make it a weekly feature.) We’re able to see the search-engine terms that bring folks to our blog courtesy of our blog host, WordPress, which also lets us see how many searches have come in for a given phrase. Thanks, WordPress!

So here we go, their search (in bold) and the response we’d love to give them:

causes for decline in ice cream: Uh, anybody else notice this?

how much chicken manure should I add for: We’re trying not to link this to the previous query. (Trying… gasp… aaauughhh… ) Whew. It’s not easy resisting temptation. Moving on to trying to be our usual helpful selves: For balanced, quick-cooking compost, try one part chicken manure (which is very high-nitrogen) to three to five parts straw, leaves, shredded paper, or other high-carbon material. Because of its high nitrogen content, we don’t recommend using chicken manure to make manure tea* unless you really dilute it, as in half a trowelful per 5 gallons of water. Don’t want to burn those plants! We prefer to mix it with straw and shredded paper and use the resulting mix on our raised beds, where it acts as both mulch and fertilizer. (The other benefit of mixing chicken manure with straw, etc., is that it doesn’t smell. We can only imagine the aroma of a ripe bucket of chicken-manure tea!) 

pure richard’s almanac: Why, thank you.

money is the rude of all evil: You can say that again.

jerman woman friend ship me but iam poor: See search phrase above. And anyway, we don’t want to hear about it.

opposed Amish friendship bread: This is the first time we’ve heard of a baked good taking a stand against anything. Though, come to think of it, if we were Amish friendship bread, we’d probably be opposed to baking.

almanac fungi: That would be one old almanac.

ditch lily smell: This one intrigues us, because in these parts, escaped daylilies, both the common orange Hemerocallis fulva and its red-throated orange cultivar ‘Europa ‘, are known as “ditch lilies” because they so often grow in the ditches alongside roads. Some daylilies are fragrant, including the lovely lemon lily, H. lilioasphodelus (formerly H. flava), and a number of cultivars, including the beloved old classic ‘Hyperion’. But most have no fragrance at all, including the so-called “ditch lilies.” However, a number of people have arrived at our blog over the past few days with this search phrase, which inclines us to think they’re looking for something else, perhaps the foul-smelling skunk cabbage. If anyone has a clue about this, please let us know!

* We just want to be sure that everyone realizes that manure tea is a liquid plant fertilizer, typically made by submerging a burlap sack of cow or horse manure in a 5-gallon bucket of water, not a refreshing drink for extremely depraved humans. Compost tea is made in a similar manner, substituting a shovelful of compost for the manure. It doesn’t smell the way manure tea does, but it’s not as high-nitrogen, either. We prefer to dilute liquid seaweed (kelp) in water and use that as a foliar feed or soil drench, and use compost as a top-dressing or soil amendment and manure as an ingredient in compost. But that’s just us.

More blog query bloopers. February 3, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: ,

With two big posts (2nd blog anniversary, Shiloh’s first birthday) coming up later in the week, our friend Ben thought a little light entertainment was in order. And, thanks to our blog host, WordPress’s, query tracking, we here at Poor Richard’s Almanac have an abundance of humorous queries to draw from. Some recent classics by which readers have been directed to our blog:

* old ladies: Let’s just say that Silence Dogood is not amused.

* irene adler’s hairdo: Beg pardon? I don’t think Sherlock Holmes ever mentioned it. But given that Irene was involved in one of Sherlock’s earlier cases, if anyone wants to try an Irene Adler hairdo for themselves, Silence suggests that they check out early Victorian hairstyles and prepare themselves for a very long, very expensive salon appointment. The beautiful mistress of a future king would have spared no expense on her appearance.

* benjamin franklin light bulb quotes: We hate to disappoint you here, but as our friend, historian, and fellow PRA blogger Richard Saunders points out, it would be over a hundred years after our revered hero and blog mentor, Benjamin Franklin, died before Mr. Edison and Mr. Tesla came up with the idea of a lightbulb. Old Ben was often far ahead of his time, and yes, he did indeed channel electricity with his kite and key, but he lit his Colonial home with candles like everyone else. 

* what did ben franklin do for a hobby: We admit that we love this query. In most respects, Dr. Franklin’s whole life was a hobby. Our friend Ben supposes that some people would say that old Ben played chess as a hobby, or dabbled in music, or invented things. Others would say that his hobby was politics, or even flirtation. But with a mind like Ben’s, mankind was his hobby; the world was his hobby; pure thought was his hobby. What an interesting query.

* detracting birds from windows: That would be “distracting.” 

* shoes worn by amelia warner web in the e: Uh, who dat?!!! 

* fermentation M&Ms: Eeeewwwww.

* dr oz gets old: So what’s your point? Even plastic surgery can only take you so far.

* blog name abuse: As always, the name of our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, comes in for a lot of abuse. By now, we’re used to King Richard’s Almanac, Little Richard’s Almanac, Poor Ben’s Almanac, and the like. But the past couple of weeks have given us “black poor richard,” “browns allmanac,” and “ladies almanac 2010.” People, please.

* bad tomato taste: This just in. At least it wasn’t “rotten tomato taste”…

Rotten tomatoes. September 24, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , ,

“How can you tell when a tomato is rotten?” This reader query arrived today here at Poor Richard’s Almanac. At first, our friend Ben and Silence Dogood were rolling around laughing. How could anyone ask such a question?! Haven’t we all had the misfortune of having to deal with rotten tomatoes, those squishy, stinky, moldy, oozing horrors? No wonder throwing rotten tomatoes was considered a fitting commentary for a poor performance. Eeeewwwww!!!! 

But then we thought again. Suppose your only experience of tomatoes had been with the rock-hard, mealy, tasteless supermarket type, the type that’s bred to hold its shape and firmness at the price of flavor and fragrance? Maybe these tomatoes don’t rot, or at least, don’t rot during the week or two someone is likely to have them in the house. Maybe rotten tomatoes are as unreal to these folks as sour ultra-pasteurized milk. Maybe this was a legitimate query and not a bad joke.

What a shame. We wouldn’t wish an encounter with a rotten tomato on anyone. Talk about gross! But we’d wish that everyone could have the joy of eating the type of thin-skinned, flavorful tomatoes that are likely to rot if not eaten the minute they ripen. Aaaahhh!!! And we’d love for you to have the chance to enjoy raw milk, too, even if you do have to use it fast before it spoils. In both cases, it’s so worth it.

How do you dress as Ben Franklin? May 22, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , ,

This search phrase brought someone to our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, a couple of days ago. Our friend Ben found the question odd, so of course I kept thinking about it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clue as to how to answer it, and our fellow blog contributor and resident historian, Richard Saunders, had already headed off for a long Memorial Day weekend in Boston with his girlfriend, Bridget.

I was once again pondering what would prompt someone to ask this question when help arrived from an unexpected quarter, in the form of another dreaded—I mean, ah, unexpected—visit from none other than our hero and blog mentor, the great Doctor Franklin himself. Silence Dogood had just left to drop our new puppy Shiloh off at puppy playschool for the morning (she goes on Wednesday mornings to make sure she plays well with all types and ages of dogs) when our friend Ben heard the by-now-familiar rapping of a cane on the glass of our front door.

Our friend Ben [rushing to get to the door before the glass shatters]: Uh—gasp—how delightful to see you, Doctor Franklin! Won’t you please come in?

Dr. F.: Well, high time, dear boy! Were you planning to keep an old man standing on your stoop all morning? And by the way, is something wrong? You seem winded, poor fellow! Why, when I was your age, I could swin across the Delaware and back without a second thought. Seems like you moderns have gone all soft! Too much time at the desk and not enough in the fresh air, eh? Remember what they say about all work and no play. Here, just take this cane and frock coat, won’t you? Oh, and here’s my hat.

OFB, staggering under a pile of clothes and accoutrements: Do have a seat, Doctor Franklin! I’ll be right with you. Would you care for coffee? Uh, tea?

Dr. F.: Coffee or tea at this hour, dear boy? Whatever are you thinking?! Don’t you know that’s an afternoon pastime? But some small beer would be just perfect for this hour of the morning. And I don’t suppose you, ahem, have any comestibles to go with it? I’m positively famished!

OFB [suppressing groan of dismay]: Right away, Dr. F.! [Returns with beer bottle and glass.] Let me just see what Silence has in the kitchen. How does good bread, butter, marmalade, cheese, and apples sound?

Dr. F.: Excellent, dear boy! [Looks at bottle.] Mercy on us! What’s this? “Moose Drool”?!! [Hastily sets bottle down.] Surely your society isn’t so depraved or desperate that you’d drink that?!!

OFB: Oh, no, sorry, Dr. F.! That’s not really moose drool. It’s a brand of beer! [Sees Franklin’s skeptical expression.] It’s a, uh, a joke. A friend brought it back to us from a trip out West.

Dr. F.: Out West? You mean to the Kentucky territories?

OFB: Er, no. A bit farther west than that. But, please, try it [pours beer into glass], it’s actually quite good. [Holds glass under old Ben’s nose.] See? Beer!

Dr. F.: Hmpf. What is the world coming to? “Moose Drool.” Take that bottle away, dear boy! I don’t want to look at it. I’m sure it would quite take away my appetite… ah… You did say there was bread and cheese in the kitchen, I believe? And butter and marmalade and apples? Make haste, young Ben! I could practically eat a moose myself!

OFB [lurching out of the kitchen with a laden tray]: Here you are, Doctor Franklin! Incidentally, I have a question for you: One of our readers wanted to know how you’d dress as Ben Franklin.

Dr. F.: Whatever do you mean, dear boy?

OFB: Well, I assume the person was wondering what sort of clothes you wore, uh, wear, uh…

Dr. F.: When do you mean?

OFB: Urk?!!

Dr. F.: Well, really, young Ben! You surely can’t think that I wore the same suit of clothes at all times [stares at OFB’s T-shirt and jeans] as you seem to do!

OFB: Uh—

Dr.F: I always suited my outfit to the situation at hand, dear boy! If I was in my print shop, I wore the clothes of my trade. If I was with my club of up-and-coming young businessmen, the Junto, I wore the clothes of a prosperous gentleman. When I was in England pleading the Colonists’ cause in Parliament, I wore a luxurious suit and wig that would have done credit to any member of the House of Lords. And when I was in France, trying to impress the court with the romantic, untamed grandeur of the New World, I wore a homespun coat and fur cap that would have done my contemporary Daniel Boone proud.

OFB: Oh.

Dr. F. [observing his empty glass]: Ahem, all this talking works up quite a thirst, don’t you think?

OFB: [suppresses groan while heading off to get old Ben a refill]

Dr. F.: Ah, that’s better! Now what were we saying?

OFB: About your clothes…

Dr. F.: Really, dear boy, what’s all the fuss? Why would someone want to dress like me, anyway?

OFB: My question exactly. But still…

Dr. F.: Well, young Ben, if you really want to know, I’d suggest that you ask your good lady.

OFB: Ask Silence?!

Dr. F.: Of course! Tut-tut, look at the time! [Drains beer glass.] I must be pushing off now or I’ll be late for my chess game!

OFB: Who are you playing?

Dr. F.: That young hothead Jefferson. He’s a fool for chess!

OFB: Has he ever won?

Dr. F.: What! Beaten me?! Certainly not, young man. It will be a cold day in the Antipodes before an upstart like young Tom will best Ben Franklin at chess! But he’s really not bad. Um, now where did you put my coat? Ah, thank’ee, dear boy. I’ll just take my cane and hat and be off now. See you anon!

OFB: [suppresses groan]

No sooner has Dr. Franklin departed than OFB hears Silence Dogood’s car turning into the drive.

OFB: Silence! How do you dress as Ben Franklin?

Silence [staring]: I don’t.

OFB: No, I mean, how would someone dress like old Ben?  

Silence: When do you mean?

OFB [groaning]: Geez, that’s exactly what he said!

Silence: He? He who?!

OFB: Why, Ben Fr—uh, I mean, uh…

Silence: Oh no! I’m gone for half an hour and you have another hallucination about being visited by Ben Franklin?!! Not again! [Looks around.] Ben, I can’t believe this! It’s not even ten in the morning and there are two beer bottles and a whole tray of crumbs and cheese wrappers here! Look, if you’re that hungry, why don’t you just say so? There’s no reason to drag poor Ben Franklin into this! And as for that beer, what on earth are you thinking? Whoever heard of drinking beer in the morning?!

OFB [with dignity]: I understand that it was the custom to drink small beer with breakfast in Colonial times.

Silence: Since when are you an expert on Colonial times?

OFB: I’m not, that’s why I’m asking you about Ben Franklin’s clothes. Someone came on our blog and wanted to know how to dress like Ben. I, uh, got the feeling you might know.

Silence: Well, you’re right about that. Let’s start in Ben’s print shop, when he was publishing his newspaper and Poor Richard’s Almanack in Philadelphia. Do you remember how aggravating it is when the ink from the New York Times smears all over your hands? 

OFB: Eeeww, yes, that’s why we started reading it online.

Silence: Well, imagine working with the wet ink all day. When Ben came to work, he’d have had his brown hair pulled back in a queue—what we’d call a ponytail—tied with a leather thong. He’d have been wearing a cotton or linen shirt with no collar, full sleeves, and an open neck, sort of like a smock, that he could pull over his head and tuck into his breeches, which could have been made of wool or leather. The breeches only came to the knee, so to cover his calves, Ben would have worn stockings that came just above the knee and were held up by garters.

OFB: Uh, garters?!!

Silence: ‘Fraid so. Both men and women wore stockings and garters back then, and men of fashion wore high-heeled shoes and makeup, too.

OFB: Urk!

Silence: Ben would have worn leather shoes that had been custom-made for his feet. Back then, you couldn’t just walk into a shoe store and pull a pair off the rack; you either went to a shoemaker and had him measure you for a pair or had him come to your home for a fitting. Not that it did much good.

OFB: What do you mean?

Silence: Back then, the concept of contoured shoes for the left and right foot was unknown. The two shoes were exactly the same and could be worn on either foot. Couldn’t have been too comfy! Before laces and Velcro, they were held on with buckles, silver or gold for the rich and brass or pewter for the masses. The buckles could be incredibly showy, festooned with glittering Marcasite crystals or even gems. But Ben doubtless went to work in plain, sturdy shoes with sensible pewter or brass buckles.

OFB: So he wore a blousy shirt, knee breeches, stockings, and shoes.

Silence: And a vest and apron.

OFB: Vest and apron?

Silence: A man would have considered himself undressed if he didn’t have a vest on over his shirt. Vests ranged from elaborately hand-embroidered silks to plain leather, but no man would have left home without one. In Ben Franklin’s case, a leather vest would have been an essential part of his printer’s wardrobe. He’d have buttoned it up to protect his shirt from the ink and dirt, and attached an apron to the top button of his vest, tying it at the back, to save his clothes from the inevitable ink spills.

OFB: Geez.

Silence: Think about it, Ben. Today’s specialized workers wear specialized outfits, right? Think about lab coats, overalls, doctors’ scrubs, chefs’ toques—those tall, funny-looking white hats—and aprons. The same was true back in the distant day. If Ben had been a blacksmith, he’d have worn a leather apron over his clothes instead of the cotton or linen apron of a printer. If he’d been a lawyer, he’d have worn a threadbare black suit and a bag-wig. In those days, it didn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to tell what you did; everybody knew by what you wore. And speaking of Sherlock Holmes, what has been going on here, anyway?!

OFB [desperately]: Uh, Silence, didn’t you want to go to the grocery today? If we’re going to get there before we have to pick up Shiloh, we’d better get a move on!

Silence: Yikes! Let me make up a list and let’s go! [Rushes into the kitchen.]

OFB: Gasp…

Can you grow weeds in pots? May 19, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, wit and wisdom.
Tags: ,

“Can you grow weeds in pots?” This reader search brought someone to our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, this morning. Friend, our friend Ben doesn’t know about you, but I can grow weeds in pots. In fact, it seems like every time I look at my collection of container plants, the pots seem to have sprouted oxalis or Norway maple seedlings or annual grass or even pokeweed. I spend half my container-gardening time removing these invaders to make room for the plants of my choice to grow and thrive.

Let me note, however, that you don’t have to depend on pot culture to get a fine crop of weeds. They’re also perfectly happy to grow in your perennial and veggie beds, in your shrub borders, under trees, in the lawn, and especially between the bricks in your patio, the stepping stones in your paths, the concrete in your sidewalk, and/or the asphalt or gravel on your driveway and parking area.

In short, if growing weeds is your goal, you are in luck! They’re hardy, maintenance-free, self-sowing, and adaptable. They’ll usually multiply on their own, giving you a fine stand of, say, garlic mustard, poison ivy, or thistles before you can say “What the bleep’s that and how’d it get there?!!”

So, uh, enjoy. But, please: Our friend Ben disavows any and all responsibility for your decision to grow weeds in pots. And, ahem, if your question was actually about whether or not you could grow “weed” or pot in pots, well, I wouldn’t know. But I understand that there are plenty of specialty magazines that can help you.

Is vinegar harmful to a raccoon? March 25, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

Is vinegar harmful to a raccoon? This was the question that led not one but two people to our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, early today. We have gotten a lot of curious enquiries over the year we’ve been blogging, but frankly, this one takes the cake. How can we resist wondering what led to such a question:

* Someone carefully dressed a salad with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and set a little plate outside for the raccoon. But wait, is vinegar harmful to a raccoon?

* Someone carelessly left a bottle of homemade apple cider vinegar out on the deck. The next day, the empty, uncorked bottle was lying on the deck… Is vinegar harmful to a raccoon?

* Oops, that bottle of red wine “vinegar” migrated out the back door and, well, you know how it is, I guess some critter must’ve drunk it. Is vinegar harmful to a raccoon?

* I read that a vinegar rinse was good for adding red highlights to dark hair. But, oh, dear, I didn’t really mean to practice on that raccoon…

* I’ve been swigging down a shot of vinegar ever’ day since I heard it’d cure whatever ailed you. I aim to live to be a hunnert! But, dang it, thet raccoon up and drunk my shot. Is vinegar harmful to a raccoon?

* I read that predator urine would scare critters away from the veggie garden, but I didn’t have any, so I dumped a bottle of vinegar around the garden bed instead. Is vinegar harmful to a raccoon?

* A vinegar rinse is supposed to get your sheets and underwear whiter than white, right? But last time I saw my sheet, a raccoon had taken it off the clothesline and was carting it away. Is vinegar harmful to a raccoon?

* I read a tip online that vinegar and newsprint would give your windows a shiny sparkle. I was outside washing the windows when I saw this raccoon…

Raccoons are omnivores like us, and dextrous omnivores at that. Our friend Ben suspects that vinegar is just as good, bad, or indifferent to raccoons as it is to us. And given our dog’s, parrots’, and chickens’ preference for dressed salads, I think a raccoon would love some mixed greens dressed with a tasty vinaigrette. Maybe with a few water-garden goldfish as fresh sushi topping.

Whatever the case, we’d love to know what prompted this question. And as always, we’re grateful to our alert readers for giving us something to laugh about!

Too many questions! November 15, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Fans of Batman, Val Kilmer, or Jim Carrey may recognize the title of this post from our friend Ben’s favorite Batman movie, “Batman Returns,” which stars Val Kilmer as the best Batman ever versus the double whammy of Two-Face (delightfully played by Tommy Lee Jones, who was clearly enjoying himself) and The Riddler (Carrey). Drew Barrymore is also sensational as one of Two-Face’s molls. “Too many questions!” is a pivotal line spoken by Carrey as his character is transforming from Edward Nygma, nerdy scientist, to The Riddler, evil wannabe world dominator. But I digress.

Getting back to the post itself, we get some very interesting queries here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, and sometimes we’re so intrigued that we’ll devote an entire post to answering one. The latest batch of queries are all easy to answer briefly, however, so those of us who blog here—our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders—decided to split them up and answer them all in one post. And let me just say that, post title aside, there are never too many questions as far as we’re concerned! Of course, coming up with good answers is another matter…

Let’s get started. Call our friend Ben lazy (Silence often does), but I cheerfully volunteered to take on the question “Do orange tabbies always have gold eyes?” That’s because the answer is literally sitting in front of my face. While it’s true that Bo, the orange tom who occasionally deigns to grace our deck with his presence, has gold eyes, our orange Maine coon, Athena, has green eyes. I have also on occasion seen orange cats with spectacular orange eyes. If you’ve ever seen an orange cat with blue eyes, please let us hear from you.

The next question, requesting the recipe for a “non-alcoholic swizzle that the Pilgrims drank,” might have been enough to flummox even a historian of the Pilgrim era. But here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, thanks to Silence’s massive cookbook collection, it was a piece of cake (make that a glass of swizzle). Silence first pulled Early American Beverages down from her groaning cookbook shelves to check it out. Hmmm. Like Europeans at the time, the Colonists weren’t particularly prone to non-alcoholic beverages. There were some very curious drinks consumed in the Colonies, including (but by no means limited to) syllabubs, shrubs, devilled ale, bang, something called Balm of Mankind, instantaneous beer, flummery caudle, cherry bounce, crambambull, elephant’s milk, fish skin coffee, and (Silence’s favorite) Perfect Love. No sign, however, of swizzle.

Fortunately, Silence is nothing if not determined, and she persevered in her search. It didn’t take long for her to find the answer. The Pilgrim’s non-alcoholic swizzle was a beverage made from vinegar and molasses. To make your own to astonish guests this Thanksgiving, mix 3/4 cup molasses and 1/4 cup white vinegar with 1/2 teaspoon ginger and 1 quart water in a glass jar. Shake well, refrigerate overnight, and serve cold. (Note: Left unrefrigerated, this would have doubtless become an alcoholic beverage fast enough!) Let us just note that we ourselves would prefer the dictionary version of “swizzle”: “A tall drink, originating in Barbados, composed of full-flavored West Indian rum, lime juice, crushed ice, and sugar; typically served with a swizzle stick.” But suit yourselves.

The next question on our roster was “What are the odds of finding a black pearl in an oyster?” This doubtless arrived on our virtual doorstep because of our many piratical posts, including our now-infamous “Pirate Week” posts (which see). Though we were in fact posting about The Black Pearl, the ship of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame, Richard Saunders bravely volunteered to head into uncharted waters to try to find an answer to this query.

Richard discovered that black pearls are in fact both rare and cherished, and are second in popularity only to white saltwater pearls. They are produced by the black-lipped pearl oyster, Pinctada margaritifera, which lives in the salt waters off Tahiti and many other Pacific Islands (thus, “Black Tahitian Pearls”). South Sea pearls are actually rarer than black pearls and valued accordingly, but black pearls retain their mystique, rarity, and value nonetheless. 

This may be because of their romantic history. Richard learned that the first person to bring black pearls into vogue in Europe was the Empress Eugenie, second wife of Napoleon. To this day, the greatest collection of black pearls in the world is said to be in the hands of the Duchess of Anhalt Dessau in Germany, who is reputed to own three large caskets of the finest black pearls ever discovered. It took the Anhalt Dessaus a century to amass this treasure. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait a century—or be a duchess—to own black pearls today. And if you’re a black pearl aficionado, you’ll be pleased to learn that harvesting black pearls does not involve killing the oyster that produces them.

To answer the original question, your odds aren’t bad if you head to the oceans around Tahiti and find a black-lipped oyster that has been cultured for pearl production. Otherwise, they’re almost nonexistant.

Let’s move on to today’s final question: Do you have a recipe for Pennsylvania Dutch applesauce? Naturally, we bounced this one to Silence, who was a bit bemused. According to her, applesauce is so easy to make that a conscientious child could do it: You take a mix of flavorful apples, core them, cut them up,  and put them in a heavy pot like a Dutch oven (make sure you’re using one like Silence’s beloved LeCreuset enamelled cast iron rather than plain cast iron, which can impart an iron flavor to your applesauce). Silence likes to leave the peels on for additional flavor, fiber, and (if they’re red) color, but you can peel the apples if you want. Add just enough water, apple cider, apple juice, or cider vinegar to keep the apples from sticking to the pot as they cook down over low heat.

When the apples reach applesauce consistency, they’re done. Taste and add sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup or maple sugar, and/or ground cinnamon to your liking. (Silence likes to leave hers plain if the applesauce turns out sweet and flavorful, but adds sugar and cinnamon if it’s tart or bland.) Silence cans hers in a boiling-water bath, but you can eat yours hot from the pot, perhaps with a little cream, as dessert, or chill it in the fridge and serve cold. You can even freeze it.

As Silence pointed out, nothing could be easier. And, as far as she knew, applesauce is made this way by everybody who makes it. So, she wondered, do the Pennsylvania Dutch have a special secret when it comes to applesauce? She was determined to find out. She turned first to her ultimate authority on all things Pennsylvania Dutch, William Woys Weaver. In his gorgeous book, Pennsylvania Dutch Country Cooking, he has a recipe for something vaguely applesauce-like that’s definitely a different critter. He calls it Green Apple Pap (Griene Ebbelbrei), and it’s actually a raw puree that’s served as a relish with poultry or as a sauce. Here’s the recipe:

        Green Apple Pap

14 ounces unripe green apples, such as ‘Summer Rambo’, ‘Yellow Transparent’, or ‘Gravenstein’, peeled and cored

2/3 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

1/2 cup sugar

grated zest of 1 lime

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put the apples, wine, olive oil, mace, sugar, lime zest, and cayenne in a food processor and puree to a smooth, creamy consistency. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Hmmm. Sounds good, jah?! But, er. Is this what the person who inquired about Penna. Dutch applesauce was looking for? Will Weaver has a good deal to say about apple butter, that luscious concoction made by continuing to cook applesauce down over extremely low heat until it becomes a rich, dark, buttery puree, but nothing about applesauce per se, even in his other book on Penna. Dutch cooking, Sauerkraut Yankees. Silence needed to take her search a bit further.

This might have seemed daunting to a normal person, but Silence was unfazed. From her shelves, she extracted The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook, Folk Art and Foodways of the Pennsylvania Dutch, The Kutztown Area Historical Society Commemorative Cookbook, Wanda E. Brunstetter’s Amish Friends Cookbook, Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets, and The Palm Schwenkfelder Church Cookbook. All righty, then!

Turns out, the Schwenkfelder’s applesauce recipe is no different from Silence’s.There was nary an applesauce recipe in Mennonite Country-Style Recipes, Folk Art and Foodways of the Pennsylvania Dutch, The Kutztown Historical Society Commemorative Cookbook, or The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook. And in Wanda Brunstetter’s Amish Friends Cookbook, there was a recipe, not for applesauce, but for another apple relish. This one, from Sharri Noblett of Port Arthur, Texas, is a bit different from Will Weaver’s, but also looks good, so here it is. Meanwhile, should anyone out in the blogosphere know what makes Pennsylvania Dutch applesauce different from any other applesauce, we would love to hear from you!

       Over-100-Year-Old Apple Relish

16 cups cored and ground apples

8 cups ground onions

2 cups hot red peppers (jalapeno or others)

8 cups vinegar

12 cups sugar

Core and grind apples. Grind onions and peppers. Combine all ingredients and cook in large kettle until mixture thickens. Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring constantly. If mixture becomes dry, add a little more vinegar. Skim off foam. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. (Silence assumes you should then process the jars in a boiling water-bath canner for at least 20 minutes.)

That’s it for today. Do you have any burning questions? Feel free to ask us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac! Who knows if we can answer them, but we’ll do our damndest, and it never hurts to ask, right?