Chicago Tribune, August 5, 1876. There was a time I wrote lots of cranky letters to the editor, so I recognize Susan here as a kindred spirit to some degree. I understand her impulse, for example, to write in and correct the printer’s error that so distorted the meaning of her last missive–that would make my brain itch too until I did what I could to set the record straight. I know, I know: I am plainly not a well man.
But that, as the saying goes, is neither here, nor, to complete the cliché, there. The real issue here is, as always, mince.
Anyway, as anti-mince pie discourse goes, Susan’s letter lucid, powerful and comprehensive. She’s working the temperance argument, but her objections neither begin nor end there. A “Grahamite,” for those who don’t know, is a follower of dietary reformer and sick, tormented bastard Sylvester Graham. I kinda love the way she distances herself from the dean of puritanical sex-and-diet cranks in hopes of buying herself a little credence. Memo to self: Stay vigilant for opportunities to preface strong opinions with “I am no Grahamite, but. . .”
“Aunt Lucy,” by the way, was not the byline of a Tribune staffer but another reader who regularly obliged the paper with recipes, domestic tips and other free content. Here is her letter from the issue of June 29, 1876, that inspired Susan’s response: