A guest blog by Karen Parr-Moody
For several seasons now Downton Abbey has enchanted NPT viewers with the sumptuousness of the Edwardian age as experienced by the aristocratic Crawley family. This British period drama, currently set in 1924, is as soap operatic as it is historic. And it gets the historic details correct when it came to the dining room, which has historically been a stage for displaying one’s wealth.
Elite Edwardians went for lavishness in their meals, which ranged from six courses on up. Their four meals a day – breakfast, lunch, teatime and dinner – necessitated many gold-standard accoutrements. In many dining scenes from Downton Abbey, one gets a glimpse of such accoutrements, including four types of stemware, a silver mustard pot and what historians call an “open salt cellar” or, simply, an “open salt.”
Individual salt cellars became popular in the 1700s. Prior to that time, the custom was for the master of the house to sit before one large and ornate salt cellar. Though the salt shaker was invented in 1858 by John Mason, cellars were typically used for fine dining for decades to follow. Many ladies of today have inherited salt cellars from their mothers or grandmothers, including ones in swan motifs, examples of which may be found locally at antiques dealers like Gas Lamp Too.
Individual salt cellars contained a diminutive spoon which the diner used to scatter salt across his or her food. Collectors today especially value ornate, hard-to-find patterns, such as a set of sterling silver salt spoons in the Gorham’s Kings III pattern (circa 1885) spotted on etsy.com.
Aristocrats of the Crawleys’ stripe also used an astounding array of forks. Beyond the typical dinner and salad forks, there was a fish fork, strawberry fork, dessert fork and oyster fork (to name a few). In one of the Downton Abbey dining scenes the persnickety butler, Carson, schools a footman on the difference between the oyster fork and another fork. The Crawleys would have used three-pronged oyster forks in silver – not silver plate – perhaps in Whiting’s Pompadour pattern, circa 1889, also seen on etsy.com.
In another scene from the series, Cora – a.k.a. Lady Grantham – is shown having tea outdoors. On the table before her is a silver bowl and a pair of sugar tongs. The sugar cube was invented in the 1840s in Moravia, and an afternoon tea party experienced by a proper lady would have included sugar tongs for handling cubes, as well as the proper dessert wares. A late-1800s French dessert set by Paul Canaux & Company, available on 1stdibs.com, includes sugar tongs along with the proper server, fork and spoon, all done in sterling silver vermeil.
Those Edwardians made meals complicated, but the result was a tableaux of beauty. Why not take a page from their book? Salt cellars and sugar tongs are arguably more interesting than their modern counterparts.
Watch Downton Abbey Sundays at 8 p.m on NPT through March 1 (check our schedule for re-airings through the end of March). The Manners of Downton Abbey airs Tuesday, March 10, at 7 p.m.
Karen Parr-Moody has worked for Women’s Wear Daily, Young Miss, In Style and People magazines. Her humorous “Delusions of Glamour” column was a popular feature in Clarksville’s Leaf-Chronicle newspaper. Parr-Moody now writes monthly fine arts features for Nashville Arts magazine, and about art and antiques for her blog, Bunnatine Dreams.
Did you miss A Golden State of Mind: The Storytelling Genius of Huell Howser? Or wish to see it again? We’ll re-broadcast this documentary Sunday, March 8, at 3:30 p.m.
Huell Howser’s California’s Gold magazine show highlighted areas and people of interest in his adopted state. The show ran for more than 30 years with Howser’s folksy charm endearing him to legions of viewers. (And you can still catch episodes on NPT2).
Howser’s cousin, Hugh Howser, is also involved with public television—he’ll provide the design inspiration for NPT’s Big Yellow Bird Bash again this year. Read about Hugh’s memories of his California-based cousin and Hugh’s plans for the March 7 party here.
Jason Ringenberg of Jason and the Scorchers fame created his pastoral alter-ego to teach children about farm life and the wonders of nature. The character is based on his own farming background.
The concert at the Belcourt Theatre will be a mix of sing-alongs and dancing. It’s just Farmer Jason performing solo with just his acoustic guitar, drawing from folk, country, and rock ’n’ roll with a dash of DIY punk rock. He’ll also discuss nature appreciation, ecology and farm animals.
Children ages 2 to 8 are the target audience for this spontaneous, high-energy event, but of course everyone is invited to get involved—so join us!
Farmer Jason has three records and a DVD to his credit, as well as “It’s a Farmer Jason,” an Emmy-winning short video shown on several public television stations around the country. His records have won numerous awards, including the Parents’ Choice Gold Award and the Los Angeles Times’ Children’s Record of the Year list.
Tickets are available through the Belcourt Theatre (615-846-3150) or click here. Proceeds benefit Nashville Public Television and our efforts to provide educational and engaging children’s programming.
Thursday at 9 p.m., we’ll air A Golden State of Mind: The Storytelling Genius of Huell Howser, about the Gallatin native whose folksy charm endeared him to legions of television viewers.
Huell Howser’s California’s Gold magazine show highlighted areas and people of interest in his adopted state. The show ran for more than 30 years and aired locally on NPT.
Hugh Howser of H Three Events reminisced about his famous cousin and looked forward to this year’s Big Yellow Bird Bash (March 7 at Houston Station), for which H Three Events will provide design services.
Though Hugh didn’t grow up traversing California with his cousin, he did see him on trips out to Los Angeles—and he can do a near-perfect imitation of Huell Howser’s famous drawl. Hugh didn’t contact the elder Howser before a 2013 trip, however, and it was on that visit that he learned of his cousin’s death at the age of 67.
“He passed away and it was all over the LA Times and friends of mine were taking pictures of the LA Times, of billboards and texting me,” Hugh Howser said during a recent phone conversation. “I was like, what is going on? I went to the memorial service, everybody in the world was there, [then-governor] Arnold Schwarzenegger, everybody. It really was a great homage to him; they really loved him.”
Did you watch California’s Gold?
Oh, yeah, we always tuned in. And Huell would mail us hard disks of episodes. He was my dad’s first cousin so he was really close to my grandparents and he was constantly sending new episodes to make sure that they saw them.
People often assumed he’d created a persona just for the camera.
Oh, no, no, no—he would be excited about a rock in the yard. He loved anything old, anything historical, so if there was a bridge somewhere, he’d say—this is like a Huell Howser joke—he’d say ‘that’s the oldest bridge,’ and he’d repeat it. And he would be so excited about the littlest thing. That’s exactly how he was about anything, like a great sale in the grocery story, he’d say: ‘This is the best deal I’ve ever gotten in my whole life.’
You got a sneak preview of A Golden State of Mind—what did you think?
Oh, I thought it was so great. He just made a lifetime out of happy news.
Speaking of happy news, what do you have planned for this year’s Big Yellow Bird Bash? Will you be wearing yellow?
Of course! We’re going with more of a gold-mustard color this year. In year’s past I’ve hung chandeliers, I’ve hung feathered chandeliers, I’ve brought in trees, I’ve done all sorts of stuff—I’ve always transformed the space. It’s perfect for this time of year after all this doom and gloom.
Many of you have joined conversations about Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Independent Lens series A Path Appears on Facebook, Twitter or through our Jan. 26 Community Cinema event. You can continue this engagement by viewing, sharing and commenting on five original NPT videos available on our YouTube channel.
Four of the videos focus on Oasis Center, the YWCA’s MEND program, End Slavery Tennessee and Thistle Farms-Magdalene House–local organizations helping at-risk populations avoid or recover from some of the issues discussed in A Path Appears. The fifth video in our series features author/series co-creator Kristof.
NPT producer Greta Requierme said working on the videos impressed upon her that sex-trafficking, abuse and teen endangerment are “happening right here, that’s it’s not an issue that’s being dealt with just in big cities.
“There’s a lot of need in our community, a lot of people who are in bad situations because they’ve been dealt a bad hand in life. The good news is there are great organizations in Nashville meeting people where they are, offering hope, compassion and a helping hand,” Requierme said.
NPT’s A Path Appears video shorts are available online and will also be shown on air over the next few months.
If anyone knows how to celebrate, it’s the attendees of our annual Big Yellow Bird Bash. We’re returning to Houston Station in flying yellow style! Mark your calendars for March 7 from 7-11pm. Don your smart yellow pinstripe tie or your sunny skirt to the party and stroll down the yellow carpet in vogue. Prepare to dance, socialize, and partake of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
New this year, we are offering yellow feather boas for an additional $20 per person. Who doesn’t need a little more yellow in their life? Buying a boa will show extra support for NPT!
It’s gonna be a celebration to remember! To purchase tickets, visit wnpt.org/bybb today!
Use #BYBB in all references to the event on social media—especially the day of the event!
Still not convinced of the awesomeness of this party? This collage should wipe away any doubts you still have:
A big yellow thanks to our sponsors:
NPT Productions ArtQuest: Art is All Around You and Children’s Health Crisis: Food picked up Emmys when the 29th Annual Midsouth Regional Awards were announced January 31, 2015, at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
ArtQuest: Art Is All Around You won for best Children’s Program, with statuettes going to producer and writer Linda Wei, editor Matthew Emigh and CEO Beth Curley of NPT; educators Samantha Andrews and Anne Henderson of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts; and co-host Dajiah Platt.
Children’s Health Crisis: Food won in the Public Affairs category, with awards going to NPT producer Will Pedigo and editor Matthew Emigh.
NPT productions went into the awards with 5 nominations.
From left: Matt Emigh, Shawn Anfinson, Ken Simington, Joe Elmore, Beth Curley
and Linda Wei at the 29th Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards, Jan. 31, 2015.
ArtQuest: Art Is All Around You, produced by Nashville Public Television in collaboration with educators from the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, is a series of short broadcast segments focusing on developing children’s creativity and fostering a love for the visual arts through an interdisciplinary approach. Titled after the Frist Center’s interactive learning gallery for children of all ages, the segments are geared toward viewers ages 7-9 and air on NPT between 4-6 p.m. around the popular children’s programs “Arthur,” “Wild Kratts,” “Odd Squad,” “Martha Speaks” and “WordGirl.” You can watch all the series segments at the ArtQuest website or by visiting the NPT Arts Youtube Channel.
ArtQuest is made possible by the support of The Frist Foundation.
The Children’s Health Crisis project is a multi-year initiative built around a series of nine documentaries hosted by Kimberly Williams-Paisley on the state of children’s health in Tennessee. The project launched n 2009 in response to the increased number of children facing risks from poor or non-existent prenatal care, the rising epidemic of childhood obesity, misinformation about vaccinations, mental health issues, and adolescent sexuality. Learn more about Children’s Health Crisis: Food and the other documentaries in the series by visiting the Children’s Health Crisis website.
Children’s Health Crisis: Food was made possible by the support of the Healthways Foundation, the Nashville Health Care Council and The HCA Foundation.
For a full list of winners please visit the NATAS-Nashville Chapter website.
NPT is observing Black History Month with a number of exciting programs celebrating the lives and accomplishments of African Americans. Here’s an overview of February’s offerings:
Friday, Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. & 9 p.m. Shakespeare Uncovered features Morgan Freeman investigating the origins of The Taming of the Shrew. Freeman was the star of a Wild West staging of the play 1990. Following that episode, British actor David Harewood—the first black actor to portray Othello’s title role at London’s National Theatre—discusses the play with Adrian Lester, the most recent Othello. Watch a Preview
Monday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. An Antiques Roadshow compilation show includes items related to the history of African Americans. Watch a Preview
Monday, Feb. 16 at 9 p.m. Thomas Allen Harris’ Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People premieres on Independent Lens. The critically acclaimed documentary presents photographic portrayals of African Americans by African Americans spanning the advent of the medium to the present day. Watch a Preview
Playwright August Wilson (1945-2005)
Friday, Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. American Masters honors Pulitzer- and Tony-award-winning playwright August Wilson. August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand includes rarely seen interviews with Wilson, new dramatic reading of his works and interviews with celebrated actors who’ve appeared in Wilson’s plays.
Monday, Feb. 23 at 9 p.m. This week, Independent Lens presents American Denial, a film that uses Gunnar Myrdal’s innovative research into the Jim Crow-era racism as a starting point for a look at how unconscious biases affect race relations in the U.S. Join us Saturday, Feb. 21, for a free Community Cinema event at Nashville’s main library for a screening of American Denial followed by a panel discussion. Watch a Preview
Black History Month programming on NPT is made possible through the financial support of Baker Donelson.
NPT Reports: ‘Aging Matters: Economics of Aging,’ a new documentary exploring the challenges of financing retirement, premieres 9 p.m. Thursday, January 29
How will Boomers pay for retirement? It’s a question that has been grabbing headlines locally and nationally since the first Boomers began turning 65. Now, with pension funds endangered and medical costs rising, financing a comfortable retirement is becoming more and more of a challenge.
The statistics are sobering.
The good news is we’re living longer: The average person turning 65 this year will live to be 85 years old. However, the median retirement account for Americans ages 55 to 64 holds $111,000 and roughly one-third of us will rely on Social Security as our only source of income during retirement. Almost 70 percent of us will need expensive long-term care at some point during our lifetime.
“Economics of Aging,” the latest installment of the “NPT Reports: Aging Matters” series, hosted by Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Kathy Mattea, discusses the costs and financial impact of aging and how people are navigating crucial financial decisions. This documentary draws on the knowledge of financial advisors, advocates and healthcare providers, as well as seniors who are living with these decisions right now.
Produced by LaTonya Turner (“Translating the Dream,” “Looking Over Jordan: African Americans and the War”) and Will Pedigo (NPT’s “Children’s Health Crisis” and “Next Door Neighbors” series), “NPT Reports: Aging Matters: Economics of Aging” will premiere 9 p.m. Thursday, January 29, on NPT.
“It’s not exaggerating to call it a crisis,” Turner said. “There’s no way to sugar-coat the message that a lot of people will not have the financial resources needed to last as long as they live after stopping work. That doesn’t mean they haven’t made smart choices about financial planning, the playing field has shifted greatly but some of the strategies haven’t.”
“NPT Reports: Aging Matters: Economics of Aging” is made possible by the generous support of Cigna-Healthspring, the West End Home Foundation, the HCA Foundation and the Jeanette Travis Foundation.
About Nashville Public Television:
Nashville Public Television, Nashville’s PBS station, is available free and over-the-air to nearly 2.4 million people throughout the Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky viewing area, through its main NPT and secondary NPT2 channels, and to anyone in the world through its stable of NPT Digital services, including wnpt.org, YouTube and the PBS video app. The mission of NPT is to provide, through the power of traditional television and interactive digital communications, high quality educational, cultural and civic experiences that address issues and concerns of the people of the Nashville region, and which thereby help improve the lives of those we serve.
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What better way to ring in the New Year than with the Crawley family? At Two O’Clock Tea with NPT, we did just that, celebrating together the thrilling start of the fifth season of Downton Abbey drama. We gallivanted about in 1920s-era clothing. We posed at the castle with friends and champagne glasses. We dined on decadent hors d’oeuvres and sipped on lovingly-prepared loose-leaf tea. Best of all, we viewed the premiere of Downton Abbey Season 5 with eager expectations, and we were not disappointed!
We can’t wait to get together with all of you again. Be on the lookout for Downton Abbey events in the future. And in the meantime, consider gracing us with your presence at our upcoming party! Get ready to get all decked out in yellow!
Can’t get enough of Downton Abbey? Consider supporting NPT and add Downton Abbey Season 5 or all five seasons to your collection by pledging here.