The tales we tell.

A friend of mine — just a teensy bit jealous of my eight months of relative indolence here in Michigan — said the weather forecast for the whole state, year-round, could be summed up thusly: “Cloudy, with increasing shittiness.”

Have it your way, Miss Thing. Of course, today (and many days) he would be absolutely correct. Today we had clouds and rain all day, with the relative blessing of temperatures in the 50s for most of it. I’m sorry that we have this rule about not talking about seminar topics, because tonight’s set me woolgathering on the drive home, which is probably the point. I started thinking about stories that get told and stories that don’t get told, and why that is. Most people don’t know that this country’s greatest defeat of a white military force by Native Americans occurred not at Little Big Horn, but in the heart of Fort Wayne, Indiana, a battle called “Harmar’s Defeat.” Miami Indians led by Little Turtle, the great Miami leader, slaughtered Gen. Josiah Harmar’s army on October 22, 1790, very nearly to the last man. The Indians, a historian told me, refer to that fight as the Battle of the Pumpkin Fields, because so many scalped skulls were left on the riverbank, steaming in the autumn air, that it looked like a field of squash ready for picking.

And yet, while every American schoolchild learns about Gen. Custer and his defeat in Dakota, only a bare handful know about Little Turtle and Kekionga. The same historian said that what happened in the northwest territories at the end of the 18th century was as significant in the history of this country as what happened at the end of the 19th in what we now think of as the American west. And now it’s little more than regional history. Why?

Oh, a short list: Hollywood, Custer’s PR staff, what you might call the Zeitgeist. How would we remember 9/11 if it had happened on a day like today, the towers upper floors hidden by low clouds? Differently, that’s for sure. The smoke would have mixed with the fog, the towers would have seemed to fall out of the sky itself. It would have a whole new set of images. We could say the attack came “out of the blue,” but it wouldn’t mean the same thing.

Sorry to woolgather so. I’m the world’s most boring student these days, immersed in the dative case, the complexities (or lack thereof) of my second act (which sucks sucks SUCKS, I tell you), the approaching OSU game and next week’s Fellows presentations, for which I have to cook for 30 or so people. Any ideas for a sophisticated but simple dessert? I’m open.

Posted at 9:55 pm in Uncategorized |

9 responses to “The tales we tell.”

  1. deb said on November 18, 2003 at 11:50 pm

    make some pumpkin pies. you can do this in your sleep. (it is thanksgiving week, after all.) your foreign fellows will be charmed, and your fellow american fellows, separated from their extended families, will wax poetic about how much it makes them think of home. bring real whipped cream. E-Z. can’t miss.

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  2. Mindy said on November 19, 2003 at 6:43 am

    I vote for Swedish Cream. Recipe can be had in Jean Anderson’s American Century Cookbook and The Doubleday Cookbook. I had this at the Oyster Bar, it came drizzled with triple raspberry sauce from DeBrand’s, and it was absolutely to die for. The recipe is the simplest thing and easy to make in quantity. Serve plain or with fruit.

    Ain’t it interesting how Deb and I have offered suggestions for dessert only?

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  3. John Ritter said on November 19, 2003 at 8:30 am

    Pumpkin pie is good but I loved my grandmother’s mincemeat pie. She passed away thirty years ago this month, but I remember sitting down to her dinner table with all the extra leaves in. She would have more food than real estate at the table, so some of the dishes were placed on the sideboard. Turkey, ham, three kinds of potatoes, beans of various varieties, peas, salads, rolls, gravy, and of course, the desserts. She always served her own pickled relish with the dinner to add to the dining experience.

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  4. Lesley said on November 19, 2003 at 9:54 am

    I have recipe for “Pumpkin Pie”, which involves

    beating the egg yolks and stirring them into …mashed sweet potaotes; carefully so you don’t

    have scrambled eggs instead. And then whipping the egg whites and folding those into the

    mix,. Tastes like eating spice-flavored clouds.

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  5. jcb said on November 19, 2003 at 11:25 am

    I say borrow a page from Sammy’s book and make Sweet Potato Pie…which she seasons just like pumpkin pie…but it’s, y’know, not pumpkin.

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  6. alex said on November 19, 2003 at 7:18 pm

    Miss Thing�it wasn’t me who uttered those fatuous words. I hope. Of course, after a cocktail or two anything’s possible. Living under the jet stream here in Chi-Town, it makes for mostly gloomy and always volatile skies. And it’s true that a fair portion of Michigan gets whatever shit comes our way with the added benefit of colder, darker latitudes.

    Dessert… hmmm… For a big crowd, I’m a believer that simpler is better. And simple is never so good as when you grill peaches, pineapple and plums. You can chop up ten pounds of of that stuff, wrap it up in foil and throw it on the grill until it caramelizes. It’s almost impossible to make it burn, and the longer it cooks the more awesome the flavor. It’s about as rich as anything you’ll ever eat without a whole bunch of confectionary sugar. (Of course, you can go all out and sprinkle sugar on it too before you grill it and enjoy a buzz beyond belief along with your glass of port, which incidentally goes quite well with it.) Then just spoon it into mugs, glasses, whatever and top it with some cream. Real cream. This is real food. At its best.

    Ah, Harmar’s defeat. I had a great third-grade teacher who taught us about that one. Of course, I was in Fort Wayne. My mom went to the elementary school named for General Josiah Harmar. It sat vacant on the Maumee Avenue whore stroll for many years until they tore it down. I was lucky to have had this teacher, as it was her own passion for history that she brought to the job, nothing required by the schools. Alas, she gave up on teaching and went into selling real estate, not because she had dollar signs in her eyes�she came from money and probably didn’t have to work�but I imagine she got fed up with the mediocrity of the whole school system and wanted a change.

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  7. Cassandra said on November 20, 2003 at 9:40 am

    Pavlova –

    Giant meringue covered in whipped cream and fruit – really good, dead simple, great looking and you can make the meringue ahead of time.

    Nigella Lawson has a good recipe

    Good luck!

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  8. T said on November 20, 2003 at 4:37 pm

    Ms. Nall: I have to preface the following comment with “I love your blog.”

    That done, Custer was not defeated in Dakota. He served in Dakota Territory (at Fort Lincoln just south of Bismarck, North Dakota), but the campaign against the Sioux climaxed in Montana at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Every single one of his men died in battle and their remains were buried on the battle field where they fell. (Custer’s remains were reinterred at West Point.) The Battle of Little Bighorn is now a national monument. I suggest a visit. If you don’t believe me, check the History Channel:

    One more thing: I’m not telling you something you don’t already know, but there is a North Dakota and a South Dakota. Please don’t misunderstand or take offense; however, I believe someone from North Carolina or West Virginia would agree that lumping states as ‘Dakota’ is inaccurate, at best.

    Thanks for keeping it interesting.


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  9. DRM said on May 8, 2005 at 6:55 pm

    I don’t know if this will be posted or not since the original post is in Nov 2003. Harmar’s Defeat was not the worst defeat of the Americans at the hands of the Native Americans (indians). It was the following campaign under St Clair as pointed here.

    In 1791, Washington sent a larger force, led by Arthur St. Clair, into Ohio. Once again, Little Turtle confused the American troops. A surprise attack killed nearly 600 Americans and injured 300 more. That battle was the greatest single defeat of U.S. forces by Indians in American history.

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