Tag Archives: Culinary History

Dangerous Jobs in NY History: Produce Manager?

While researching stories that deal with history, I enjoy finding offbeat items, things that have happened in the past, which allows me the liberty to stretch the definition a bit and label them as history. Work can’t be all dullness and difficulty, and these items help make it fun. Which brings me to a list of some historically dangerous occupations: farming, logging, mining, and … produce manager?

Sounds ridiculous, right? Thousands have entered those other three occupations knowing full well the potential downside. Produce manager, on the other hand, seems pretty safe. But what would you choose—a job with the risk of injury, or a job that might one day “produce” your worst nightmare?

If you’re squeamish, you’d have to be bananas to choose the latter. But who in the Adirondacks and North Country, on our own home turf, ever expects to be attacked by scorpions or tarantulas? But it has happened, and far more than once.

Here are a few tidbits from the world of those bravest of souls: produce managers.

In 1891, a fruit vendor in Watertown was handling bunches of bananas when a scorpion slammed its stinger into his hand. Few scorpions can actually kill humans, but that hardly makes any scorpion attack more acceptable. In this case, quickly applying a tourniquet and rendering first aid lessened the victim’s suffering. The scorpion was said to be about six inches long.

In 1933, a two-inch scorpion stung Herb Sloan of Heuvelton (St. Lawrence County) three times. Suffering what was described as excruciating pain, he received first aid from a doctor and was then rushed to the hospital as his body temperature rose dramatically. He was accompanied by his attacker, who rode along in a jar.

Sloan later described what happened. “I ran my hand in among the bananas, when I suddenly felt a sharp, burning sting. When I yanked my hand out, I saw this ugly-looking thing attached to my fingers. Its jaws were clamped tight and its tail was whipping around. Three times it whipped its tail and ran the sharp needle at the end of it deep into my finger. I finally shook it off, and managed to get Dr. Mulholland without delay, then lost no time in getting to the hospital.”

In 1937, Medric Gandron, manager of the Whitehall (Washington County) A&P, likewise suffered a scorpion attack on his finger, requiring medical treatment and a recovery period.

Another job hazard for fruit handlers was tarantulas, and St. Lawrence County has had more than its fair share of incidents. Claude VanPelt of Gouverneur was bitten by one in 1901, and when William Kory of Potsdam was hanging bananas in his store, a tarantula with a six-inch leg-span fell to the floor. Kory escaped unscathed.

Like Kory, others had close calls but weren’t actually bitten, though the shock of finding a tarantula likely had lasting psychological effects. In 1910, at Long’s fruit store in Alexandria Bay, employee James Pollock was startled when one latched onto his shirt and tried to bite through the sleeve. And Fort Jackson’s Gladys Nichols, after grabbing fruit from a bag over a period of several days, discovered she had all the time been reaching into a tarantula’s adopted home.

Less lucky was Cliff McIntosh of Morrisburg. Talk about your nightmares?a tarantula got inside his clothes and bit him several times before it was killed. He endured extreme pain and swelling and was treated by a doctor.

Ed Chase, a store clerk in Whitehall, was bitten in 1920 by a tarantula that latched on so tightly, he couldn’t shake it off. A stick was used to remove it, and a doctor later amputated the tip of Chase’s injured finger.

Sol Drutz, owner of the Star Market in Saranac Lake, was unfortunate enough to have two spider stories connected to his store within a two-year span. Employee Margaret Duquette was bitten during the first episode, requiring “extensive medical treatment” before she recovered.

Then, in 1935, according to the Lake Placid News, “A lady tarantula, dreaded spider of the tropics, chose a Saranac Lake meat market as the ideal spot to hatch her young.” It was the store-owner’s mother, Annie Drutz, who had the pleasure of discovering the intruder.

In each and every instance above involving scorpions or tarantulas, there was one consistent factor: bananas. So remember that if a problem arises, you heard it here first?eating bananas can lead to serious health issues.

Lawrence Gooley has authored 11 books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Fort Ticonderogas Chocolate History Symposium

A weekend-long celebration of chocolate, wine, and spirits, will be held October 12-13 at Fort Ticonderoga’s “Chocolate Covered History” Symposium. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the origins of chocolate and its role in the 18th century military history of Fort Ticonderoga.

The weekend event combines wines, spirits, chocolate, and history and includes a Veuve Clicquot Champagne and dessert reception, full day symposium, and gala dinner. Breakout sessions will provide opportunities to taste various foods prepared using American Heritage Chocolate, an authentic colonial chocolate recipe made only from ingredients available in the 18th century, made by Mars Chocolate.

Following a Friday evening champagne-dessert reception at The Sagamore Resort, October 12, the symposium will begin on Saturday, October 13, at Fort Ticonderoga with Chocolate in the Americas: Connecting History from the Amazon to New England presented by Rodney Snyder, Chocolate History Research, Director for Mars Chocolate, NA, Mars Incorporated. Christopher Fox, Curator of Collections at Fort Ticonderoga, will present the second session entitled Breakfasting on Chocolate: Chocolate in the Military During the French & Indian War and American Revolution. Afternoon breakout sessions include Wine and Chocolate: Perfect Pairing led by Janine Stowell of Banfi Vintners- Baking with American Heritage Chocolate with Chef Gail Sokol- Tuthilltown Spirits Whiskey Seminar with Ralph Erenzo, Co-Founder of Tuthilltown Spirits- and A Revolution in Chocolate: 18th-Century Energy Drink, led by Fort Ticonderoga’s Director of Interpretation, Stuart Lilie.

“Chocolate Covered History” will be topped off with a Saturday evening gala at The Sagamore Resort and will include a cocktail reception and four course meal integrating chocolate into every recipe. Guests will have a once in a life-time opportunity to enjoy dishes such as Native Corn Stew paired with Chocolate Dusted Pine Island Oysters- Preserved Ducking, Pickled Fall Vegetables, Dandelion Greens with Chocolate Huckleberry Conserve- and Lavender and Knotweed Honey Marinated Lamb Chops with Roasted Rutabaga Mash and Chocolate Sassafras Sauce. Rum Spiked Chocolate Cake with Bergamot Tea Infused Pumpkin Custard and Mulled Cider Glaze will complete the meal. Each dish will be paired with appropriate wines.

Monies raised through the “Chocolate Covered History” symposium and gala will support Fort Ticonderoga’s educational and interpretive programs. Fort Ticonderoga is a not-for-profit historic site and museum whose mission is to ensure that present and future generations learn from the struggles, sacrifices, and victories that shaped the nations of North America and changed world history.

More about this event can be found online or by calling 518-585-2821.

Illustration: An 18th Century Chocolate Mill from Denis Diderot’s L’Encyclopedie (courtesy the Confectioners Mill Preservation Society).

NY Wine History: Finger Lakes Museum Doc Premier

The Finger Lakes Museum is hosting the premier showing of its documentary film series, Vine to Wine- Savor our Finger Lakes, at Bristol Harbour Resort in Canandaigua on Friday, September 21st. The 6:30 p.m. event includes an assortment of tapas and wine tastings from regional wineries as well as presentations by the wine professionals who created the program series. Attendees can also bid on “Finger Lakes Experience” silent auction packages and participate in a raffle.
Part One of the Vine to Wine series, which highlights the history of grape growing and winemaking in the Finger Lakes Region, will be presented at four different venues across the region in October and November. Through film, live presentations, and wine and juice tastings, people can learn how the region developed into the wine destination that it is today.

For additional information and program schedule, or to purchase tickets for the premier, log on to www.FingerLakesMuseum.org or call 315-595-2200. Reserved ticket prices are $15 per person or $20 per person at the door.

The Finger Lakes Museum is being planned to be the premier cultural and natural history resource dedicated to the enjoyment, education and stewardship of the Finger Lakes Region, and to freshwater conservation.

The Finger Lakes Museum is chartered by the New York State Education Department and is incorporated as a not-for-profit tax-exempt organization. For more information or to make contact, log on to www.FingerLakesMuseum.org.

Dutch Influence on the American Kitchen Lecture

Senate House State Historic Site will host noted author and food historian Peter G. Rose on Saturday September 22, 2012 at 1pm. She will be giving a talk “The Influence of the Dutch on the American Kitchen.” The program is free and open to the public.

Peter Rose lectures on historic Dutch foodways throughout the country. She illustrates her talks with paintings of the Dutch Masters and has spoken at many museums with holdings of such Dutch art all over the country, including the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard’s Fogg Museum and The National Gallery.

Rose has worked as a food writer and contributed a syndicated column on family food and cooking to the New York – based Gannett newspapers for over 20 years. She has written articles for magazines including Gourmet, Hudson Valley Magazine and The Valley Table. In 2002 she received the Alice P. Kenney Award for her research and writing on Dutch food history.

Senate House State Historic Site is part of a system of parks, recreation areas and historic sites operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and the site is one of 28 facilities administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission in New York and New Jersey. For further information about this and other upcoming events please call the site at (845) 338-2786 or visit the State Parks website at www.nysparks.com.

Say Cheese: When New York Cheese Was King

It’s a little known fact that the cheese industry in America owes a lot to New York State. Milton Stewart has set out to set the record straight with Say Cheese! The Story of the Era When New York State Cheese Was King, the story of the era when the premier cheesemaking region of the United States was in Central New York, chiefly in the Mohawk Valley.

In 1851, Jesse William set up what is considered the first cheese factory in America in Oneida County. It was also in New York that Professor Xerxes A. Willard became the nation’s most respected spokesman for the &#8220associated dairies&#8221 concept in his drive to create higher standards in cheese making. Continue reading

John Lennons Travels in Ulster County, New York

The Depuy Canal House has sat in High Falls since the 1790s when it was constructed by Simeon Depuy, “one of the most prominent citizens of High Falls, New York.” It opened, according to the Depuy Canal House’s website, as the Stone House Tavern. The tavern entered its heyday when work commenced on the Delaware &amp- Hudson (D&amp-H) canal to link the coal fields of Pennsylvania to the Hudson River in Kingston. This tavern sat on Lock 16, convenient to the canal men until the canal closed in 1899. Continue reading

Cambridge Home of Pie a la Mode in Foreclosure

The invasion of British TV Chef Gordon Ramsey into Washington County during the winter of 2012 did not leave the horrors of the invasion of British General John Burgoyne during the summer of 1777. However, Ramsey’s new program for Fox TV, Hotel Hell, could not remake the historic Cambridge Hotel hotel and has left the home of Pie a la Mode on the auction block.

As first reported here at New York History in January, the Cambridge Hotel is best known for where apple pie with vanilla ice cream, was invented . Since the filming of the Fox TV show, the hotel, which owed nearly $470,000, has been foreclosed on by the Glens Falls National Bank and Trust Co. The Cambridge Hotel has had financial troubles for years under different owners. The Fox TV show is scheduled to air late this summer.

The American Victory at Saratoga over General Burgoyne in 1777 is known as the Turning Point of the American Revolution. This commentator is hopeful that Chef Ramsey’s TV show will mark a turning point for the Cambridge Hotel.

Sean Kelleher is the Historian for the Town of Saratoga. He served as the Director of the Washington County Fair Farm Museum, and worked with a number of Champlain, Hudson and Mohawk Valleys historic sites on grant writing, interpretive planning, and marketing.

Holstein History, Milk Bottles and Milking Machines

The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark will hold its third annual Holstein Heritage event at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 3, the third day of Dairy Month, at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro.

Milton C. Sernett PhD will present Peterboro: Cradle of the Holstein Breed! Sernett’s interest in the history behind the New York State Holstein Association monument on Oxbow Road just north of Peterboro gave impetus to this annual event recognizing the important role that Peterboro played in the agricultural industry.

In his illustrated talk Sernett will use his research to relate the history of Gerrit Smith Miller’s importation to Peterboro of the first registered Holstein-Fresian herd in America. Sernett published the book Cradle of the Breed: Gerrit Smith Miller and the Kriemhild Herd, for the first Holstein Heritage event, and followed that publication with another in 2011 Say Cheese! The Story of the Era When New York State Cheese was King. Both books will be available at the program, at the Peterboro Mercantile, and are online at mercantile.gerritsmith.org

Returning directly from the National Association of Milk Bottle Collectors (NAMBC), Peter Bleiberg will share information on milk bottles and their collection. Bleiberg, a resident of New Hartford and the next editor of The Milk Route, the official newsletter of the NAMBC, has been collecting milk bottles for twenty-four years. He focuses his collection on the variety of pictures and slogans that began to appear on painted milk bottles in the mid-1930’s.

To promote the use of their milk and other dairy products, dairies used images of cows, barns, babies, families, ice cream, butter, nursery rhymes, war-related scenes, and many other subjects on the backs of the colorful bottles. Peter’s presentation, entitled Marketing of Milk in the 1940s, includes pictures of hundreds of bottles and traces the advertising themes on the bottles that sat in our refrigerators and on our kitchen tables every morning.

Mike Gleason will return to the annual event with his antique milking machines and, hopefully, with copies of his book on milking machines that is in publication at this time.

The public is encouraged to attend this heritage session which broadens understanding of the rich history of Gerrit Smith and his family. The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark at 5304 Oxbow Road in Peterboro has been designated by both the state and national park services as a site on the Underground Railroad.

 Exhibits on freedom seekers and abolitionists are in the three buildings on the estate that are open to the public. The site is open in 2012 on weekends from 1 -5 pm through September 23, for special events, and by appointment. Admission is $3 and free for students. For more information: 315-280-8828, info@gerritsmith.org or www.gerritsmith.org.

Illustration: A Holstein from an 1898 print.

Historic New York Beer Tastings Set in NYC

To celebrate its summer exhibition Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History, the New-York Historical Society will host a series of beer tastings that showcase the thriving brewing culture in New York City and State.

Beer Here will examine the social, economic, political, and technological history of the production and consumption of beer, ale, and porter in the city from the seventeenth century to the present day. The beer tasting program, run by Starr Restaurants catering group, will take place in the exhibition’s beer hall on most Saturday afternoons from May 26 through August 25, 2012.


The half-hour beer tastings, which will occur at 2 pm and 4 pm, will offer visitors the chance to hear directly from brewers and brewery founders about the history and process of making beer. In addition to tasting local artisanal creations, visitors also will experience first-hand the hops, whole leaf flowers and other ingredients used to make beer. Tickets for the tastings are $35 (Members $20) and may be purchased online. A six pack special discount (purchase by telephone or in person only) is offered to visitors who purchase tickets to six separate tastings for only $150 (Members $100). A complete tasting event schedule follows below.

In addition to the beer tastings, New-York Historical also will host Beer Appreciation Night on Tuesday, July 10 at 6:30 pm, featuring Beer Here curators Debra Schmidt Bach and Nina Nazionale- Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery- Steve Hindy, co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery- and Gabrielle Langholtz, editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. A special tasting of Brooklyn Brewery beers will follow the program. Combined tickets for the program and beer tasting are $49 (Members $37), and program-only tickets are $24 (Members $12).

Beer Tastings Schedule & Participating Breweries

The Matt Brewing Company
Saturday, May 26, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm, Saturday, August 4, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm

The Matt Brewing Company has prospered at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in Central New York for over a century. Under the leadership of the third and fourth generations of the Matt Family, the Brewery has earned the reputation as one of the most respected specialty brewers in the country and continues its family tradition with the celebrated Saranac family of beers. The tasting will feature Saranac White IPA, bursting with Citra hops, and the refreshing fruitiness of orange peel & coriander and the softening characters of wheat malt and oats, and other special selected beer.

Kelso Beer Co.
Saturday, June 2, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm

Kelso Beer Co. was founded by Kelly Taylor, also a brewmaster at Heartland Brewery, and wife, Sonya Giacobbe, in 2006 to create fresh, flavorful, low-alcohol session beer. The tasting will feature Saison, a Belgian style ale- Recessionator, a big bold doppleback- India Pale Ale, a punchy, bright and unique beer- and Pilsner, a classic European pils, with a floral nose, slightly sweet with a dry finish.

Keegan Ales
Saturday, June 9, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm, Saturday, August 18, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm

Keegan Ales was founded in early 2003 when Tommy Keegan learned about an empty building in Kingston that nobody would buy because there was a defunct brewery stuck in it! The Keegan Ales tasting will feature Mother’s Milk, a dark and creamy milk stout with hints of oatmeal, chocolate and milk- Hurricane Kitty, a coppery and heavily hopped India Pale Ale- and Barley Wine.

Bronx Brewery
Saturday, June 16, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm, Saturday, August 11, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm

Bronx Brewery is a craft brewer and distributor based in the South Bronx. It was launched in 2011 by a small team with two things in common: a maniacal focus on creating high-quality beer and a passion for the Bronx. Bronx Brewery will serve its Bronx Pale Ale, a deep amber, American-style pale ale. A second, yet-to-be released, spring beer may be available as well.

Harlem Brewery
Saturday, June 23, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm

The Harlem Brewing Company story starts about 86 years ago. Legend has it that during Prohibition a special beer was being made and this secret brew could be found in Speakeasies and after-hours spots all over Harlem. This tasting will feature Sugar Hill Golden Ale, a medium bodied golden ale known for its drinkability, with a subtle citrus accent and a finish of hops and malt flavor.

Blue Point Brewing Company
Saturday, June 30, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm

Blue Point Brewing Company is Long Island’s only microbrewery. It was founded in 1998 by two long-time friends, Mark Burford and Pete Cotter. The brewery’s unique direct-fire brew kettle imparts a lightly toasted, complex taste to produce a line of ultra-premium microbrews.

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
Saturday, July 7, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company was started by Scott Vacarro, an avid brewer from the young age of 17. The brewery opened in 2006, and is named after Captain Lawrence Drive, the street where Vacarro grew up. After much success, Vacarro recently expanded the brewery into a new location in Elmsford, NY with more brewing capacity and a large tasting room. The tasting will feature: Captain Kolisch, Liquid Gold, and Pale Ale.

Genesee Brewing Company
Saturday, July 14, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm

Genesee Brewing Company, based in Rochester, New York, is one of the largest and oldest continually operating breweries in the United States. The Brewery makes the Genesee line of beers, including the original Genesee Cream Ale, Dundee Pilsner, the award winning Dundee Pale Bock, Dundee Stout, and Dundee India Pale Ale.

Heartland Brewery
Saturday, July 21, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm

Heartland Brewery opened as New York’s first American style brewpub on Union Square in 1995 and has been igniting New Yorkers’ passion for craft beers ever since. Heartland has consistently brewed New York’s freshest craft beers, including Heartland’s classic six as well as a wide range of unique seasonal brews.

Ithaca Beer Company
Saturday, July 28, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm

In December 1998, Dan Mitchell, founder of Ithaca Beer Company, created the first local brewery in Ithaca that exemplifies “The Spirit of the Finger Lakes.” Ithaca Beer Company was recently awarded two medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado in 2008. The tasting will feature Nut Brown, with subtle hints of both chocolate and coffee- CascaZilla, a red ale- and Apricot Wheat Ale, an easy-drinking wheat beer.

Greenport Harbor Brewing Company
Saturday, August 25, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm

Founders John Liegy and Rich Vandenburgh met in college and dreamed of opening a microbrewery. That dream became a reality when in in July of 2009, the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company was founded. Today, Greenport’s beer is served in over 200 places on Long Island and NYC.

Forest to Fields: Champlain Valley Agriculture History

A short booklet, From Forest to Fields: A History of Agriculture in new York’s Champlain Valley published by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Essex County and the Lake to Locks Passage Scenic Byway highlights the rich history of the Champlain Valley with a focus on the region’s farms and fields.

From Forests to Fields is authored by Anita Deming, who has more than 30 years experience as an agricultural extension agent with CCE, and Andrew Alberti, Program Manager for Lakes to Locks Passage since 2008 (where he focuses on 21st century technology applications and local and regional interpretation and planning) and a contributor here at New York History. Alberti is also editor for the Lakes to Locks Passage and National Geographic Geotourism website.

Chapters cover Native American agriculture, early explorers and settlements, the agricultural revolution, farming in the modern era and a short review of the architecture and use of farm buildings and a list of resources. The authors explain the impact of the 1807 Embargo Act, the influence of the opening of the Champlain Canal in 1823 on local farm trade, the grange movement, and changes in the local sheep and dairy industries, and more.

The booklet is 48 pages and profusely illustrated. You can request a copy by contacting Lakes to Locks Passage. There is a suggested $10 + S&H donation.