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The Table

The Table The Table

Friends and braised sausage

This is another fictional story based on the lives of my ancestors. Isaiah Linton was my fifth-great-grandfather, a Quaker abiding in Bucks County, Pa. in the 1700s.

Isaiah Linton leaned forward on his elbows in an attitude of attention to hear his daughter’s conversation in the hub-bub of the busy tavern. Still, one hand rubbed restlessly over the other where they tented in front of his chin and his eyes shifted continually to evaluate the occupants of other tables. It would have been better to sup in an establishment run by their own people. But Sarah had been enthralled by the notion of dining at the famous City Tavern of Philadelphia, and he had not had the heart to deny her this one indulgence, just as she had prevailed in her plea to accompany him to Yearly Meeting.

Still, he could not put himself at ease here. While Sarah looked about her with the innocence and frank interest of a 15-year-old girl from Bucks County, her father was certain that the queer looks of other patrons was a response to the plain dress that marked the two as Friends--or Quakers, as they were derisively known. The wounds of the Revolution were fresh in 1787, and even those that didn’t view the Linton’s religious pacifism as traitorous were inclined to see them as being outsiders in the new nation that had been born in war.

Isaiah felt suddenly weary. The city had that effect on him. It had been meant to be the “City of Brotherly Love”, but it seemed a sump of contention. It would be good to head home tomorrow, back to a place where Friends had not lost their prominence, where their beliefs in equality and non-violence were not an object of contempt.

He forced himself to focus on his daughter’s face, framed so charmingly by the narrow brim of her bonnet. Sarah tucked back a wayward strand of hair, her eyes gleaming as she leaned towards him. “Think of it, Father-the writers of the new Constitution did sup in this very place, perhaps even at this table!” She sat back, remembering her modesty and arranging her hands in her lap, frowning as she did so. “ ’Tis a fair thing in many aspects, but I do not think this constitution ought to be the law of the land--its protection of slavery is intolerable..”

Isaiah sighed. “They shall do as they wish, daughter. Just as the armies of both sides destroyed our crops and stole our cattle. Loyalist or Patriot, Confederation or Constitution--none have ears to hear of Christian charity. We must do as was agreed at Yearly Meeting and strive to live our own lives in quietude, apart from worldly strife.”

Sarah shook her head vehemently. “The Friends must witness more strongly than ever against this evil!” She cupped one hand to shield the pointing finger of the other as she leaned forward. “Look at that manservant, over there! We know not whether he be free or slave. How can we abide in quietude in such a world?”

Isaiah forebore to examine the liveried servant. He rubbed his close-cropped, unpowdered scalp and hoped that his daughter’s outburst hadn’t garnered the attention of the merchants in their tri-cornered hats at the next table. He felt old--old and tired. “Perhaps, daughter, thou should think more about being a good wife, someday, and a mother. Would that not be more seemly for a girl nearly a woman?”

Sarah sat back and pressed her lips together, gauging how far she might press her father. “Have our people perhaps made a mistake in educating their girl children, then? According womenfolk equal place in Meeting?”

Isaiah was saved by the arrival of their dinner: plump sausages braised in good ale alongside sauerkraut warmed with bacon, and potatoes mashed in cream. He smiled at Sarah’s exclamations over the good food and felt the extravagance was perhaps not a sin. He shook his head as he bent over his plate. She still believed she could change the world. He would not destroy that. He would bask in the brightness of her hope a while yet.

Beer-Braised Sausage

Adapted from “The City Tavern Cookbook” A variety of sausages can be used in this recipe, such as Polish, Italian, Bratwurst, Knackwurst, etc.

Bake for about 5 minutes at 350°, then set aside: 8 sausage links

Heat over medium high heat, stirring until the onions are transparent:

2 Tablespoons butter 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced Add the sausages and:

4 cups dark beer

Cook over medium heat until the liquid has reduced to the point where it has formed a nice coating for the sausages. Serve with mustard and side dishes of mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.