Sept. 16 Edit: Just added some online resources about the Constitution below Dolley’s cake recipe at the end of this post. Some good stuff! Not sure how you plan to do your less-than-an-hour of reading the Constitution to celebrate September 17, but watching 100 celebrities, politicians, judges, and schoolkids do it on The Words That Built America has got to be the best way.
I know I just got done posting the video for the last episode, but Constitution Day is right around the corner – this Thursday, September 17 – and I wanted to make sure you had time to get your ducks in a row. 🙂 This will be a video-less post. I am sure most of you are heaving a sigh of relief…
Also, wanted to prod those of you who are on the fence about using our new 21st Century Lyceum Forum to post about how your family is coping with the reopening of school while mitigating the Covid virus situation. I am one of the newest members of the waitlist for St. Louis University’s kidney transplant program. The first two hurdles are getting past a couple of VERY experienced nurses as they review one’s application for the program and then every medical record ever generated about a person. The reason this is pertinent is that during the couple of hours I was on the phone with Kathy (I know, it’s hard to believe I was on the phone for a couple of hours ;-). And I may have changed her name to protect the innocent.), we were discussing how families have been affected by recent events and what they could do to handle things.
Imagine, during the portion of the call when I was telling her about 21CL, my surprise when she started talking about pods in exactly the same vein of thinking that I had considered discussing the idea with you all. She said, “Yeah, I think families should start forming pods. Kind of like some homeschoolers do. But they could still use the virtual programs that the local schools provide. This is just a way for parents to share child supervision not only between each other in a home, but between families in a neighborhood or group of friends. One parent watches a group of kids from four families part of one day. Another parent from the group watches them later.”
Wow. I have spent the past month trying to figure out how to say that on here. Thanks, Kathy. I hope her thoughts help a family or two get their juices flowing on this.
As for Consitution Day, we can read aloud at about 180 words a minute. The U. S. Constitution has just under 7600 words, including the amendments. That means that the whole thing can be read aloud in just under 45 minutes. I cannot honestly think of a better way to spend a September 17 afternoon or evening with family and friends.
If you couple the reading of the most important political document in the history of mankind (yes, that’s my opinion – but I’m pretty sure most would agree…) with some family games like Trivial Pursuit, Stratego, or Twister (which is a great metaphor for the discussions that happened throughout the summer of 1787 in Philly) and a feast of dishes the Framers would have eaten on a daily basis, you have the makings of a great Constitution Day family party!
Some quick research turned up food and drink that would have been available to guests of various hotels and taverns of the time and place. You can Google it, too, but Carolinn and I decided on having some fish in honor of George Washington, who ate fish and other seafood from his own fisheries almost daily; a green bean and carrot dish called farce; macaroni and cheese, in honor of Jefferson (even though he was in France at the time); pickles, olives, chocolates, and other imported treats to the Philadelphia of the 1780s; and a cake made from an original Dolley Madison recipe. I’ve reproduced the cake and frosting recipes below, in case you are interested.
I have found myself becoming more and more nostalgic and reflective of that important summer 233 years ago as I watch our nation being stretched at the seams. The Constitutional Convention was rife with quarrels and belligerence, to be sure, but always undertaken with a spirit of resolving those disagreements with solid, practical, even compromised conclusions. I have much faith and hope that we will eventually begin treating our disagreements the way the 55 Framers did – with passion and loyalty for our own positions, but with respect and an open mind for those of others.
Have a great Constitution Day!
Dolley’s Cake Recipe:
“Dolley Madison’s Layer Cake
…This recipe for layer cake was a Madison specialty, frequently served to guests…
Beat the whites of 8 eggs until stiff and in peaks. Put aside. Cream 1 cup butter with 2 1/2 cups sugar. Add 1 cup milk slowly, mixing well. Add 3/4 cup cornstarch and 3 cups sifted flour to the butter-egg mixture. Mix well and add 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Fold in the egg whites carefully. Bake in 4 layer pans, well-greased. Bake in a medium (350 degrees F.) oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched lightly. Cool on racks and frost with Dolley Madison’s Caramel
Mix well 3 cups brown sugar, 1 cup cream, and 2 tablespoons butter. Put the mixture in the top of a double boiler and cook gently for 20 minutes. Just before removing from the stove, after the caramel has thickened, add 1 teaspoon vanilla, stir constantly. Remove and cool. Fill the layers of the cake and put the icing on top as well.”
—Presidents’ Cookbook (p. 89)
Some Constitutional Resources:
- PDF of US Constitution
- Annotated Constitution
- Summary of the Convention day-by-day
- Madison’s notes on the Convention– if you don’t have time to read Madison’s notes from each day of the Convention – and you probably don’t 🙂 – at least read his entry for the final day, which begins with Benjamin Franklin’s letter that was read to the group before the fruit of their labors was signed by all but three delegates.
- Article on Convention food
- Presidential foods
- The Words That Built America – the HBO documentary that features over 100 statesmen, celebrities, and schoolkids reading the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Takes 48 minutes to watch it all. If you want to skip the Declaration (but why would you?), start at 11:00 in. This is how Carolinn and I are going to do our Constitution Day reading… 🙂