Cerniglia revealed that a mysterious globe was the butter chiller, and an urnlike vase was the slop jar. She pinged the table bell on display, explaining that hanging sashes in a house's various rooms once connected to kitchen bells, rung to summon servants. "Now we have what, cell phones?" she laughed.
When I asked her why a display of dainty period Christmas cards showed images of roses and leaves instead of more familiar iconography, she drew a connection to the pagan origins of Christmas, with ancient solstice-celebration use of evergreens signifying the endurance of life at the turning point of midwinter darkness. I dimly recalled corroborating biblical verses in Jeremiah 10:2-5, forbidding the use of what sounds awfully like a (pagan) Christmas tree.
Period recipes, an entire elaborately set dinner table, and a dinner-table chart showing the proper placement of "Gravy for Ducks," "Parsnips," and "Oyster Sauce," among thirteen dinner dishes, round out the exhibition, which will remain on display through February.
[Originally published in January, 2005.]