Since the outbreak of Covid-19, bakers, from novice to expert, throughout the world have been busy baking bread. After purchasing a few books, several baking supplies, and receiving much-needed encouragement and instructions from a good friend, I am now a dedicated bread baker fan. I have to laugh at my initial hesitation to bake bread because what I read in Elizabeth E. Lea’s Domestic Cookery on page 41 would put today’s squeamish bakers to shame. After reading Elizabeth’s instructions, you will learn that you have to know how to prepare the proper fire in the oven, from the proper wood to burn, the correct colors of flames to acquire, and above all, one has to achieve the proper temperature for each individual receipt (aka recipe).
Allan Farquhar (1863-1944) was a Sandy Spring treasure who worked tirelessly to spread the Quaker messages of hope, civic responsibility, and compassion. My selection this week highlights one of his essays written in 1917 in an effort to urge his readers to join the cause of justice and to fight against the evils of tyranny. He reminds his readers that, “[W]e all know and feel that there is something to be done, that we would be recreant to our duty if we stand idly by, washing out hands of the whole retched business, and sheltering ourselves behind the comforting though that we are not responsible and it is not our affair.”
This message expressed so many years ago rings true today. After witnessing recent vitriol and combative public dialog, Farquhar’s messages are a welcome relief in these troubled times.
In 1862 John Greenleaf Whitter penned The Ballad of Barbara Fritchie. Upon its publication, the poem was met with instant notoriety, as well as controversy. The poem paints a vivid picture of a 95-year old woman waving an American flag out of her second-story window in Frederick, Maryland just as General Stonewall Jackson and his troops were marching past. The well-known line, “Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag,” still resonates today. The particulars found within the stanzas have been debated from the moment pen met paper. This brings me to Sandy Spring native Mr. Allan Farquhar who wrote a letter to the editor of The Sun in 1912 in support of the author’s use of literary license. As it turns out, Barbara Fritchie was not the woman waving the flag; it was someone living on the same street. To find out more, do a little searching; you will certainly be surprised. Above all, Farquhar’s letter to the editor displays this man’s amazing wit, intelligence, and extensive literary knowledge.
With Thanksgiving now upon us and celebrations either canceled or reduced to a fraction of their former selves, I felt it appropriate to share one of Jack Bentley’s letters written to his mother, Cornelia, in 1918 while serving overseas in World War I. Jack tells his mother that he believes “[I]t is the best one I have ever had — I have a lot to be thankful for, first I am alive, second I just had a nice dinner, and third I have a lovely mother and home over in little Maryland…”
I am touched by Jack’s attempt to ease his mother’s concerns regarding his safety. This is a testament to his enduring commitment to assure his family and friends of his well-being and his unwavering faith that all will be fine. Let us try to emulate his faith and strength in our current crisis. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.