Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Footprints on my Path

I’ve often wondered who I would choose if I were suddenly given that bizarre opportunity to invite 3 people from history to dine with me. My dilemma would not be who, but rather how to keep the guest list to 3! I know my list should include Abraham Lincoln, maybe Winston Churchill, and of course, as a chef, I would choose Julia Child.
What a conversation that would be. But a far more interesting conversation would be one between my maternal Great Grandfather Napoleon Boneparte Ogg (pictured), my paternal Great Grandmother Ella Estes Johnston, and my maternal Grandfather, William Clyde Ogg, because he died when I was a baby. I'd love to get ot know him.

So why do I choose my great grandparents rather than say Henry the Eighth, Marilyn Monroe and Catherine the Great? It is simple. If given this one chance, I’d want to make the most of it. I can read about famous and historical people, but I have hundreds of questions to ask my ancestors! Questions I’ve tried to find the answers to for years. Marilyn simply does not know who was the first Estes to leave Northern Italy and what path he took to finally arrive in America.

I have always believed my choices, my destiny, the direction of my path is not something completely up to me. I’m not saying my bad decisions are someone else’s fault; no, they are completely on me! I am saying some of my decisions were made because of family, because of the way I was raised. My love of family, my respect for my parents and my grandparents have had a strong influence on my choices. In all honesty, those influences have been ignored by me on more than one occasion, sadly resulting in bad choices! You know that old saying “live and learn”? I am still learning!

I’m sure I’d be a great candidate for a time machine trip back to the 1200s, just as I am sure a trip to the moon is not my cup of tea. I’d like to visit Aberdeenshire, Scotland to look up some of the Ogg clan. Do you know they say the Oggs are one of the oldest clans in Scotland? There is evidence they were there during cave dwelling time, thus the name Ogg….a simple guttural sound. I have researched the Oggs and have traced the family back to the 1200s, but apparently I’ve only scratched the surface.

Ironically, the Johnston clan also comes from the Aberdeenshire area in Northern Scotland. It is completely possible the Oggs and the Johnstons were neighbors! Maybe an Ogg and a Johnston married hundreds of years before my Mom, Virginia Ogg, married my Dad, Tom Johnston! Gee, that is kind of scary!

After my time machine visit to Scotland, I’d dial in Northern Italy, around Lake Como. This is where my biggest question lies. All I know is an Estes left Lake Como and an Estes eventually ended up in Virginia. Who, How, When? That is where Ella Estes comes in to play at my dinner table. Maybe, just maybe, her father might have told her who that ancestor was. Was it his Grandfather? Great Grandfather? I may never know, but I love knowing I have ancestors from Lake Como! I am an Italian!

All of these magnificent people, the Oggs, the Johnstons, the Esteses have left footprints on my path. Big male footprints, little petite female footprints. Sure, my path moves forward, but I’d love to follow those footprints back in time and find out what they were like, who they really were.

Now, what would I serve at my dinner?

Traditional Haggis!
Here is a recipe dating from 1856.Scotland

500g dry oatmeal
225g chopped mutton suet
225g lamb or venison liver, boiled and minced
225ml stock sheep pluck (heart, liver, lungs, windpipe), boiled and minced
1 small chopped onion
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cleaned sheep or lamb's stomach bag

1. Toast oatmeal slowly and evenly under the grill until crisp.
2. Mix all the remaining ingredients (except for the stomach bag) together.
3. Pack the mixture into the stomach bag to just over half full, press out the air and sew up securely with kitchen string.
4. Prick the haggis all over with a large pin to prevent it bursting. You can wrap it with foil if the stomach appears weak in places. Drop into a large pot of cold water, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 3 hours.
5. Serve with clapshot. (Play your cards right and I just might share my recipe for clapshot with you! It’s a combination of mashed potatoes and turnips! YUM!)

I bet you are wondering why there aren’t Scottish restaurants on every corner!

My new favorite quote: "It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged." -- English writer G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

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