Collapse of a Colonial Society

The Dutch Larder,
page 13 of 13

And here it was that the distinction shown to strangers commenced. Tea here was a perfect ‘regale,’ accompanied by various sorts of cake unknown to us, cold pastry, and great quantities of sweetmeats and preserved fruits of various kinds, and plates of hickory and other nuts ready cracked. In all manner of confectionery and pastry these people excelled; and having fruit in great abundance, which cost them nothing, and getting sugar home at an easy rate, in return for their exports to the West Indies, the quantity of these articles used in families, otherwise plain and frugal, was astonishing. Tea was never unaccompanied with some of these petty articles; but for strangers a great display was made. If you stayed supper, you were sure of a most substantial though plain one. In this meal they departed, out of compliment to the strangers, from their usual simplicity. Having dined between twelve and one, you were quite prepared for it. You had either game or poultry roasted, and always shell-fish in the season; you had also fruit in abundance. All this with much neatness, but no form. The seeming coldness with which you were first received wore off by degrees.”

It may be noted that Mrs. Grant gives a very different notion of Albany fare than does Kalm, already quoted; and she wrote scarce a score of years after his account. She tells — in this extract — not of wealthy folk, though they were truly gentle-folk, if simplicity of living, kindliness, and good sense added in many cases to good birth could make these plain Albanians gentle-folk. And in truth it seems to me a cheerful picture, —one of true though shy hospitality; pleasant of contemplation in our days of formality and extravagance of entertaining, of scant knowledge of the true home life even of those we call our friends.



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