Saturday, June 3, 2017

Before Green Gables and Afternoon Ruby Tea Biscuits

A happy weekend to you, dearest creatures, young and old!

I don't know how many people know there's a unique story about Anne Shirley before she came to Green Gables. It's called  Before Green Gables (The Prequel to Anne of Green Gables).  I don't remember where I purchased it either. Possibly here on the island while vacationing years ago. And it wasn't written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, because she didn't start her story about Anne when she was a baby. Lucy's story of this red-headed orphan began at the age of 13. The author of this prequel to Anne's existence before she came to Prince Edward Island was Budge Wilson. She hails from Nova Scotia. She did a very good job creating this fictional beginning of the fictional teenage Anne-girl that we have come to love so much!

I don't read books very much now (shame on me!) - except my Bible, of course - as I used to do years ago. I was a voracious reader for many years. Everyone in my family read books all the time. I always loved reading in bed at night. And my sister, Cindy, would do the same. Her bedroom light would be on when I came home from a late date and find out that she, indeed, had fallen asleep with a book in her hands! In preparation of our annual two-week camping trip, my daughter and I would go to the library and sign out a number of books to read while on our trip - at least four or five each! I really should get back in my old habit of reading books.

Years ago I read through piles of Nancy Drew mysteries and then the Gothic romance mysteries by Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart. I have a collection of those that I picked up at The Salvation Army Store. I adore my animal books that I mentioned in an earlier post. And Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens. I really should spend more time sitting down, relaxing with a cuppa tea, and a good book. I walk by so many of them that are sitting on the window shelves in my front porch library (photo above) every day that you would think it would prompt me to read more!

Hmmm.... I think I do more reading off my computer screen than anything else, unfortunately. My collection of Anne books sit on a shelf in the blue room as you see below, along with Anne! A number of Christian fiction graces the shelves of my antique book case in the living room.

The other day I decided that my readers should get acquainted with Anne all over again, but during the time she was born and orphaned. And I decided to start reading this lovely story again to reacquaint myself with the trials and triumphs this red-headed girl had to endure. She loved books, too!  How about that? Of course, she would, don't you know! If you are an author, most assuredly, your main character - Anne - would also love to read. It makes sense, doesn't it?

You may remember that Anne would tell Marilla about her window friend, Katie Maurice. Katie lived in the book case in Mrs. Thomas' house. This book case with glass doors actually belonged to Anne's parents. When they died, the furniture was to go to another family in need, but Mrs. Thomas' drunken husband was upset that they wouldn't be getting anything from the Shirley residence, especially since Mrs. Thomas had been the Shirleys' paid household help. When no one was around, Mr. Thomas drove his cart to the house and stole it!
Here is an excerpt from when Anne was five and a half years old. Since the time Mrs. Thomas took baby Anne into her home, she birthed four more babies adding to the three children she already had. Her oldest, Eliza, was about to get married and leave home. Little Anne's household chores included washing diapers, and taking care of crying babies, among other things.

Anne stood in front of the china cabinet in the dim back hall and closed her eyes. In the background, she could hear various gurgles and snores - the sounds of sleep. She felt safe. She raised her hand, and opened her eyes.

Behind the glass door, Katie was waving her hand in greeting and smiling broadly. Anne felt her heart skip a beat or two.

"Hello, Katie Maurice," she whispered. "I'm so glad you've come to be my friend. My name is Anne, Anne Shirley, Anne, spelled with an e." Eliza had always said that, so it must be important, even though she had no idea what it meant.

Then Anne paused. Katie Maurice was standing very still and smiling quietly. It was clear that she was eager to hear anything that Anne might choose to tell her.

"I was born almost exactly five and a half years ago, just as the sun was rising. Mrs. Thomas says that I was a very homely baby, but my mother thought I was the most beautiful baby in the whole world. I expect that my mother was right, don't you?"

Already Anne was feeling a warmth inside her whole self that was new to her. Here was someone to whom she could tell all her secrets - even the ones she'd been unable to tell Eliza - like about how sad she felt when Mrs. Thomas called her lazy or wicked, when all she was doing was stopping work for a few minutes so that she could pretend she was a princess - like in the story Eliza read to her from one of her readers - or a brave knight killing a dragon. Already Anne was starting to tell Katie about that.

"When you're doing something boring like scrubbing diapers, those pretend things just happen, and when they happen, you have to sort of just stop whatever you're doing to look at what the princess is wearing or what color the dragon is. It's not really being lazy or wicked, is it, Katie?"

Anne looked hard at Katie. She was definitely shaking her head.

Anne signed with relief. "Oh, Katie Maurice!" she said, "I knew you'd understand. So now I'll tell you all about my own wonderful parents."

Anne was still talking when the first baby started to cry, one and a half hours later.
This story of Anne's beginnings and her journey through orphan hood is filled with love during her parents' short life together, joy at Anne's birth, sadness at their death. Your heart will ache many times about the people who care nothing for children, especially orphans. Greediness and selfishness abound in her small world. That's not surprising, is it? Through all her trials and adventures and growing up in loveless homes and orphanages, Anne triumphs. I expect you will shed some tears. I most certainly did and will continue to do so as I finish reading it.

You can find this this delightful story of Anne's beginnings on Amazon.com in paperback or hardcover. Or check your local bookstore for availability. My copy is hardcover - in green, no less! And while sitting cozily in your comfy living room armchair or all snugly in your bed while everyone is asleep, perhaps you'll brew a cuppa tea and feast on some Afternoon Ruby Tea Biscuits that Anne made for Rachel and Marilla one fine afternoon. Keep the crumbs and jam off the bed sheets!

The recipe for these beautiful biscuits came from another of my "Anne" books - a cookbook by Kate Macdonald, who is Lucy Maud Montgomery's granddaughter. It was designed and written to teach children how to cook and bake. The recipes are lovely. Kate compiled these recipes from the different cooking episodes in the Anne series of books.

A number of quotes from the Anne books are sprinkled here and there along with lovely illustrations by Barbara Di Lella. The recipe collection includes "Anne's Liniment Cake" - the cake she added anodyne liniment to instead of vanilla! Today, I'll share the biscuit recipe with you. I've re-written the directions for you in adult fashion - or should I say, for an experienced cook!

Afternoon Ruby Tea Biscuits

2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (I used solid coconut oil)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup red jam or jelly
(Biscuit cutters - 1 large, 1 small)

Preheat oven to 425⁰F. Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the vegetable shortening until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs. Add the milk and mix it into the flour with a fork until the mixture forms a soft ball. Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and knead 12 times. Roll out the dough until it's about 1/4 inch thick. With a large biscuit cutter cut circles, very close together. With a metal spatula, lift half the circles onto the cookie sheet. Arrange them about one inch apart. With the smaller cutter, cut a hole in the rest of the circles to make rings, and lift out the centers with the spatula. Set these little centers aside. With the spatula, place the rings on top of the large circles on the cookie sheet. Put a teaspoonful of jam or jelly in the middle of each ring. Bake the biscuits 12-15 minutes, or until puffed and slightly golden. Immediately lift the tea biscuits from the cookie sheet with the spatula to cool on a rack.
Makes 12 biscuits.
(with the leftover centers of dough, you can bake some little plain biscuits).

As I don't have a biscuit cutter, I used a drinking glass to cut out the large circles. And for cutting the small hole, I rescued the cap off an empty salad dressing bottle that was in the recycle bag.
Worked like a charm! 

Here they are fresh out of the oven. I've had this cookbook for umpteen years and this was the first time I've made these beautiful biscuits!😋

I used a blueberry/raspberry jam so my tea biscuits are actually darker than ruby. Which means you can use any jam you like, don't you know! Peach or apricot would be a great choice. And since I made these this morning, I didn't wait for the afternoon to indulge. They accompanied my breakfast! 
Use the little biscuit discs to make jam sandwiches or eat them plain.
Enjoy your private tea party and book reading adventure - even if your choice of book is not the one mentioned today!

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, 
O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. 
Psalm 19:14


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