Friday Fun Facts - 11/1/2013

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

1) This is a traditional corn-husk doll, like the one Jemmy played with as a toddler. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
[Brianna] reached for the litter of toys, spilled out of their basket, and plucked a battered corn-husk doll from the rubble. “Here, see dolly? Nice dolly.”

Jemmy clasped the doll to his bosom, sat down abruptly on his bottom, and began to address the doll in earnest tones, shaking it now and then for emphasis.

"Eat!” he said sternly, poking it in the stomach. He laid the doll on the floor, picked up the basket, and carefully turned it over on top of the dolly. “Say put!”

Brianna rubbed a hand down her face, and sighed. She gave Roger a glance. “And you want to know what I do all day."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 87, "En Garde".  Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Some of these "corn dollies" can be quite elaborate, as you can see from the example above. These dolls can be male or female, but traditionally they have no faces.  According to Wikipedia,
One [Native American] legend is that the Spirit of Corn....made a doll out of her husks to entertain children. The doll had a beautiful face, and began to spend less time with children and more time contemplating her own loveliness. As a result of her vanity, the doll's face was taken away.
If you want to try making your own corn-husk doll, you can find step-by-step instructions here (PDF) or here.

2) These photos show what a scarificator looks like. This particular one comes from Vienna, circa 1800.

According to this site,
First developed in the early 1700s as a more humane and efficient bloodletting instrument than lancets and fleams, scarificators had multiple blades that shot out with the press of a spring-loaded lever creating an instantaneous series of parallel cuts in the skin of the patient.
You may remember that Dr. Fentiman was quite enthusiastic about this new gadget:
A small, dapper man in a frock coat and a large wig stooped by her side, some small object in his hand.

Before I could speak, he pressed this against the maid’s limp arm. There was a small, sharp click! and he removed the object, leaving a rectangle of welling blood, a rich dark red against the slave’s brown skin. The drops bloomed, merged, and began to trickle down her arm and into a bleeding bowl at her elbow.

"A scarificator,” the little man explained to Ulysses, with some pride, displaying his object. “A great improvement over such crudities as lancets and fleams. Got it from Philadelphia!"

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 45, "If it Quacks..." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here is a brief video demonstrating how a scarificator works.  These devices were still in common use well into the 19th century.

3) This is the marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis.
She held out the basket she carried for my inspection. Four bulbous roots lay in the bottom.

“Mallow root,” she explained. “My husband suffers from a chill on the stomach now and again. Farts like an ox.”

I thought it best to stop this line of conversation before things got out of hand. “I haven’t introduced myself,” I said, extending a hand to help her up from the log. “My name is Claire. Claire Beauchamp.”

The hand that took mine was slender, with long, tapering white fingers, though I noticed the tips were stained, probably with the juices of the plants and berries resting alongside the mallow roots in her basket.

“I know who ye are,” she said. “The village has been humming with talk of ye, since ye came to the castle. My name is Geillis, Geillis Duncan."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9, "The Gathering".  Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This is what mallow roots look like.  According to Wikipedia,
The root has been used since Egyptian antiquity in a honey-sweetened confection useful in the treatment of sore throat. The later French version of the recipe, called pâte de guimauve (or "guimauve" for short), included an eggwhite meringue and was often flavored with rose water. Pâte de guimauve more closely resembles contemporary commercially available marshmallows, which no longer contain any actual marshmallow.
For more information about the medicinal uses of mallow roots, look here and here.

4) This postcard image shows a plaque on the memorial to the Regulators at Alamance Battleground, North Carolina. (I don't know about the rest of you, but the reference to "two others, whose names are now unknown", makes me shiver. Poor Roger!)
This Evening the Dead were interred with military Honors; and three Outlaws taken in the Battle were hanged at the Head of the Army. This gave great Satisfaction to the Men & at this Time it was a necessary Sacrifice to appease the Murmurings of the Troops, who were importunate that public Justice should be immediately executed against some of the Outlaws that were taken in the Action and in opposing of whom they had braved so many Dangers, & suffered such Loss of lives and Blood.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 66, "A Necessary Sacrifice".  Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's a view of the monument itself.The statue depicts James Hunter, one of the leaders of the Regulation.

Black Pudding

5) Have you ever tried black pudding? (Photo credit: Ian Tindale, on Flickr.)I knew nothing at all about it until I read A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
The worst part was cleaning the blood: swishing an arm through the dark, reeking depths of the barrel to collect the threads of fibrin that formed as the blood began to clot. These clung to my arm and could then be pulled out and rinsed away--repeatedly. At that, it was slightly less nasty than the job of washing out the intestines to be used for the sausage casings; Brianna and Lizzie were doing that, down at the creek.

I peered at the latest results; no fibers visible in the clear red liquid that dripped from my fingers. I dunked my arm again in the water cask that stood beside the blood barrel, balanced on boards laid across a pair of trestles under the big chestnut tree.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 71, "Black Pudding".  Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
This video shows how to make black pudding, also known as boudin noir or blood sausage. (Warning: not for the squeamish!)

If you want to try it yourself, you'll find detailed instructions here. And here's an article from the Daily Telegraph from September 6, 2013, about black pudding making a comeback in British cuisine.

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts, and please come back next week for more.


Joy Stocks said...

I love black pudding! Some of the best comes from Bury, in Lancashire.
A local delicacy here in Shropshire is a "Black Watch" scotch egg. (for those who are not familiar, a scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in minced pork sausage-meat, coated in egg and breadcrumbs, and then fried; usually served cold) The Black Watch variety uses a mixture of sausage-meat and black pudding - simply gorgeous!

Anonymous said...


Just as a followup it is still taking a long time for your site to load for me. I tried it with Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. From the time I click on the link until the actual time it takes to load there is a delay of an average of 70 seconds. Once it actually starts to load it takes 1 second or less. The same lengthy delay occurs if I type in the URL.

Great FFF as always. Your site is worth the wait. :)


cherylc said...

Wonderful as always Karen! Thank you!!

Karen Henry said...

Joy - I've never tried black pudding myself. Didn't occur to me to look for it when I was in Scotland last year.

Jerry - Sorry to hear the site is slow for you. I wonder if Blogger is having problems, or maybe it's a network issue of some kind? If you can't access my blog through the regular URL, try the RSS feed

Cheryl - Thanks, I'm really glad you're enjoying the FFF! :-)


Anonymous said...


Thanks. The RSS feed loads instantly and I think I'll go with it. It's really hard to diagnose a problem with getting a site to load. Often it is due to old and outdated software.


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