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Stories and Stovies
From the Welsh Valleys

Taffy was a Welshman

Taffy was a Welshman,
Taffy was a thief;
Taffy came to my house,
And stole a leg of beef.

I went to Taffy’s house,
Taffy wasn’t home;
Taffy came to my house,
And stole a mutton bone.

I went to Taffy’s house,
Taffy wasn’t in;
Taffy came to my house,
And stole a silver pin.

I went to Taffy’s house,
Taffy was in bed;
I took up a poker
And flung it at his head.

It's interesting to me that my Granny (Charlotte Beat McIntosh) instilled in us a fierce pride in Scotland. I think that came about because she was raised by her Granny (Jessie Hackett Beat) who raised her with stories of "Auntie Chat" (Charlotte Crofts) and Jean Duncan who "had a house in the Seagate and would tell stories of old Uncle Adam {Admiral Adam Duncan} the Sea Captain."

My Granny would pass on the pride that had been passed down about "blue blood in your veins, Chat" and emphasized a philosophy of life that was based upon "Canna's Winna's Brither" (can't is brother to won't) and "There's nobody, be them laird or lady, who comes from better folk than you do."

We lived in a home that, when I was about 15, was condemned for redevelopment (nice way of saying it was part of Dundee's slum clearance and city rehabilitation projects of the 1960's). We often had scrambled eggs on toast or beans on toast for Thursday night supper, but we lived proudly, thanks to my Granny and her stories of her Granny and Auntie Chat and Jean Duncan's connection to Uncle Adam’s naval victories and honors and the Duncans of Lundie and Dundee.

But yet, and this leads to this little section remembering the "Welsh Folk" as my Granny would call the family of her World War I submariner husband, beginning with my Granny we've all married out of Scotland - Charlotte McIntosh married David James Thomas of Havorfordwest and Llanelli, Wales as a result of World War I; Caroline Bett Thomas married Jerome Alvoet of Pitthem, Belgium/ Detroit, Michigan/Windsor, Ontario as a result of World War II; and I married John Bleh of Cincinnati, Ohio as a result of the Cold War.

I wonder who the granddaughter named after me will marry and if she, too, will grow up with a proud philosophy of who she is and the great women, beginning with her own mother, she has looking after her?

The headstone of my great grandmother, Caroline Fisher Thomas
The headstone of my great grandmother,
Caroline Fisher Thomas –
my mother was named Caroline Bett Thomas
for her grandmothers

Mrs. Williams Elderberry Wine
(from the New England Cook Book)

Bronwen Williams was my best friend all the way through primary, or elementary school, in Dundee, Scotland. Her mother made this wine every year. I never got the recipe, obviously, but I want to put this in as an excuse to reminisce some more.

Mr. Williams, by the way, was a Welshman and everybody called him "Taff." That was the way things were then, I would never dream of calling anybody's parents by their first names - even if I knew their names, and I still think about Bronwen's parents as Mr. and Mrs. Williams. By the way, Scotsmen were often called "Jock", Irishmen were "Paddy", Welshmen were "Taffy" and the English were just "those people South of the border."

1 quart freshly picked elderberry blossoms
1 gallon boiling water
6 cups granulated sugar
1 cake yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1/2 pound chopped seeded raisins

Strip the tiny white flowers from the elderberry blossoms until you have 1 quart of them. Discard the stems. Boil together for 5 minutes the gallon of water and the sugar. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Pour the boiling hot syrup over the elderberry blossoms and allow to cook a while (about 1/2 hour), then stir in the yeast water. Place in a large crock, cover, and allow the mixture to stand 3 days, then strain out the blossoms through several thicknesses of clean cheesecloth, rinsed first in hot water, then in cold. Add the chopped raisins, stir, cover again, and allow to stand in a cool place until the mixtue stops fermenting or working, or about 1 month.

Strain out the raisins and discard them. Strain the remaining liquid again through a fine sieve lined with four thicknesses of cheesecloth rinsed in boiling water, then in cold water. Bottle and cork the wine, label and store it in a cool place for 1 year before drinking.

This is the vase that held my grandmother’s wedding flowers

Remember what I told you about Scottish wedding cake?
This is the vase that held my grandmother’s wedding flowers
on top of her cake, an old Scottish bridal tradition.

An old Welsh postcard – front and back, from Auntie Maud, my grandfather’s sister, to my Grandmother.

An old Welsh postcard

An old Welsh postcard

I hope you can see the postmark date – it’s 1922. I have many more pictures and remembrances of my grandfather which my grandmother saved, and I’ll put them in another book.

Charlotte's Welsh Rarebit

This is really a very nice way of making a grilled cheese sandwich:

Melt about 2lbs of sharp grated cheddar cheese and 1 tablespoon of butter in your microwave or double broiler. Add seasonings you like (remember Charlotte's philosophy of onions in everything!) such as 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, a little cayenne pepper. Once they are stirred in, add some more liquid such as 1 cup of milk (some people like to use a light beer, such as a Scottish lager) and stir until smooth. Toast some bread and serve your sauce over the bread.

You can also add ham, tomatoes, green peppers, strained and chopped tomatoes, etc.

This is also a nice fondue (going back to the sixties when in the Navy we thought fondue parties were so elegant) for dipping toasted bread.

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