Thursday, October 19, 2023

History of Halloween


    "Samhain (a Gaelic word pronounced “sow-win”) is a pagan religious festival originating from an ancient Celtic spiritual tradition," and is now celebrated as Halloween (  Over the years customs have changed and the celebration of the changing seasons, and life after death have moved away from a pagan perspective to consumer driven celebrations. While Samhain was tied to the last harvest and relighting the hearth fires, after they burnt out, from a communal fire, that tradition has been adapted into what Halloween represents today.

    In the past, fire has been seen as protection and fuel for the home life in many cultures and was celebrated throughout, even as the pagan history started to meld away into the past.  Bonfires would still be built to help keep away fairies and witches as a form of protection.  Fire was thought to be good magic from the sun, that helped to grow the crops and provide life for the people.  Today, we use fires to heat our homes or create ambience when we desire.  Few people cook in their homes on a fire now a days and so the community's traditions of creating a large fire are relighting the hearth have gone away.

    Now we find a bit of the fire from the past in the use of Jack-o-lanterns.  The first Jack-o-lanterns were created out of turnips, and later switched to pumpkins.  The first Jack-o-lanterns were originally lit by coal and set out on sticks.  These Jack-o-lanterns were created to keep out a tricky character named Stingy Jack who Irish myth states he tricked the Devil and has been left to wander the world never going to his resting place after death. 

    As Christianity became more in practice the Catholic Church, through Pope Gregory, created holy days to keep the populace from fully participating in pagan rituals.  All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2, keep alive the pagan traditions while putting a Christian spin on such a celebration.  While now October 31 is also known as All Hallows Eve, with many of the underlying traditions still celebrated but with the original intent lost to the past. 

    The Celtics were not the only ones to have found celebrations between life and death.  After all the Day of the Dead, or El Día de los Muertos,  is widely supported in Mexican cultures as a way to honor the dead when the boarded between the two worlds is thinner, and those that have passed can come back and celebrate with their loved ones.   The Mexican celebration is not a change or continuation of Halloween  but more of a chance for loved ones to celebrate and show respect for those that have passed, with food and drink in honor of their lives.

    When it comes to trick-or-treating, the Celtic traditions are thought to have started this process as well.  The custom to give tokens or parts of the harvest to the spirits wandering the earth during the time when the spirits are closest.  The treats are meant to help entice the Spirits to not create harm or mischief and help the harvest last through the dark days.  Once Christianity took over, the unmarried young men would walk around town calling for treats and wore masks hiding their identity.  From here the tradition of wearing costumes was born.  

gather your ghosts, fairies and witches and head on out to your Halloween celebrations.  Many of the traditions we now celebrate are rooted in much older
traditions founded before America was developed as a country.  The pagan origins are just that, how the traditions developed over time and changed with the culture of the world.   Be safe while trick-or-treating this year, go as a group and make sure you have a light to be easily seen.  



Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Let's Eat ~ Food Trucks Lou's Country Food


    When you head West on Hwy 11/Wild Cat Way in Sulphur Springs, just behind Lowe's you can find Lou's Country Food.  Lou's food truck has been operating for the last four years, while on her day's off from her first job.  When you see her window open be sure to stop by for some good home-cooked, Southern food.  Her specialty is chicken fried steak, that she hand batters, and buys locally.  She makes all her own food and loves to cook for others. Her love of cooking is what brings her to her food truck on her day's off.  In a perfect world she would cook for those around her every day.    

    Before Lou opened her food truck, she and her father had a restaurant in Como called Butch and Lou's; that she closed shortly after his passing.  Now you can find her cooking up all your country favorites in Sulphur Springs.  Her hours are not always the same since she works her food truck on her days off.  Be sure to give her a call 903-335-6334 to place your order or to see if she is open.  When she is open, she will be serving up food from 10 a.m. to 7 p. m. or 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.  Lou's takes cash or card when you order. 

    You can find all your home cooked favorites on Lou's menu. From sandwiches, burgers, and full meals as well as tasty sides to complement all her main choices.   A hot item are the orders of Pittsburgh hotlinks, get them while they last.  Of course, her plate of the day goes quickly as well.  A crowd favorite is Chicken fried steak, which she was out of, when we stopped by, so we ordered the next best thing, Chicken fried chicken.  

    Since burgers are always a crowd favorite, we ordered a cheeseburger with everything on it.  Boy it did not disappoint.  One more boys said it even matched In-and-Out for flavor and substance.  The cheeseburger we ordered came with everything a good burger should have, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.  Plus mustard since everyone needs a little bit of condiments on their burger. 

    The Chicken Fried Chicken was cooked just right and battered to perfection.  The chicken was moist, and the portion size was filling.  My seventeen year old, was full by the end of his meal, now that's saying something.  His plate came with two sides and he selected fried okra and French fries.  You can even select a roll or corn bread to go with your plate.  Of course, don't forget the gravy.

    We also ordered a BLT, after all who does not love bacon.  Both kids said that was probably the best thing we ordered. The sandwich was loaded up with plenty of bacon, and just the right amount of lettuce and tomato, to complement each other well.  The bacon was nice, thick, and crispy.  The perfect sandwich for lunch or dinner.

    If you are ever in Sulphur Springs and Lou's is open, be sure to stop by and order any of the great items on her menu.  We do not feel like you will be disappointed at all by her offerings, portion sizes or taste.  Thanks, Lou, for the great food. 


Thursday, October 5, 2023

Your Garden ~ Elderberry Syrup


    Cold and flu season is rapidly approaching, and we want to start the season off with the best immunity we can provide.  Of course, we are not medical professionals so listen to your doctor, but we feel elderberry syrup can make the difference.  Elderberry syrup along with a heathy diet and washing your hands regularly can help reduce your chances of becoming sick as well as has seen a decreased length of time of a particular illness.  The reduced time a person is sick leads to increased productivity and an overall feeling of wellness once an illness has passed you by.  Who would not want to reduce the time they are sick?  I know I would. 

   To help with that, we make our own Elderberry syrup using berries we grew on our family farm or those that we found and harvested from the roadside.  Elderberries are an often wild grown, edible plant with multiple health benefits. The main reason we use and make Elderberry syrup is to help prevent flu and colds.  If someone happens to get the flu or a cold, we increase the amount of syrup they take.

    I like that Elderberry syrup can be made from fresh, frozen, or dried berries.  Since we harvested our own berries from plants that we grew, once they are a deep purple color, we remove them from the stem and get rid of any leaves and freeze for later use.  The stem and the leaves can be toxic if consumed so be sure you are only saving the berries.  

    The syrup is simple to make and easy to store.  You can make a big batch and water bath them for later use or just make what you need for your family to make it through the season.  I usually make two-quart sized jars for our family of seven during the cold and flu season.  Once those sniffles arise everyone takes a couple of teaspoons in the morning before school.  That way their immunity stays strong, and hopefully prevents any further issues.

Elderberry Syrup

3 1/2 cups water

2/3 cup dried elderberries (1 1/3 cup fresh/frozen)

2 tablespoons grated ginger (1 tsp ground ginger)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Honey to taste

Pour everything but the honey into a saucepan and cover with a lid.  Bring the mixture to a boil, uncover, and reduce the heat and let it simmer for 3-45 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.  Remove from the stove top and let it cool.  Once cooled transfer to a jar, be sure to "squeeze" the liquid from the berries before putting in the jar.  Once strained add the honey and mix it well.  Close the lid and you are all set.  If you want to water bath the jars when completed do this now.  

    We store our syrup in the fridge while in use.  A standard dose if 1/2-1 teaspoon for kids, and 1/2-1 tablespoon for adults.  If sickness strikes take a normal dose every 2-3 hours a day until better.  You can order dried elderberries online to make your syrup at home.  Or visits your health food or farm store to see if they carry readymade syrup.  Gummies could also be a good option for your family, just be sure to read the labels.