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By April 30, 2021 Read More →

Back in Time for Dinner with Ralph Waldo Emerson


Before Covid forced many museums to temporarily close their doors, I had the chance to visit Ralph Waldo Emerson’s home in Concord, MA.Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson and his second wife Lidian lived with their four children in their Concord house for 47 years. Upon purchasing the house in 1835, he wrote to his brother that he chose the house because it had the “best cellar in Concord.”

I was enchanted by the children’s rooms in the house with their books, journals, and wonderful old toys. I was also thoroughly impressed by a story about Lidian, Emerson’s second wife. At Lidian’s suggestion, the Emersons named their oldest daughter Ellen after Waldo’s first wife who had died of tuberculosis. That, in my mind, was an impressive gesture and could only have come from a woman with a big heart. Waldo often referred to Lidian as “Queenie” or sometimes “Asia.” She fondly referred to him as Mr. Emerson.

My docent for the house tour was very familiar with Emerson’s personal journals. When she heard I was from the Monadnock Region, she told me Waldo (as he was known by family and friends) made several trips to the region and was particularly fond of Mt. Monadnock.

As I was leaving Emerson house, I came upon a quote by this scholarly thinker and lecturer that’s as relevant today as it was in the 1800s, “Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any.”

Here’s what we know…

In 1846, Ralph Waldo Emerson completed his rather long poem entitled Monadnoc. (Not sure why the “k” was dropped off.) In the poem, Emerson uses the mountain to explain the Transcendentalists’ view of Nature as our teacher. He was such a noteworthy poet, essayist, and philosopher that I’m sure his poem drew some of his contemporaries to the mountain. Many of them would create their own literary and artistic pieces while vacationing at the Mountain House (called the Half Way House after 1916). Emerson returned to the region on several occasions while on his famous lecture and lyceum tours.

My daughter, who has climbed the Mt. Monadnock many times, told me there’s a large flat rock on the mountain called “Emerson’s Seat.” His friend and colleague, Henry David Thoreau, also has a rock “seat” on the mountain.

Here’s what I imagine…

Suppose during one of Emerson’s later visits to the area in the 1860s, I dined with him at the Mountain House on Mt. Monadnock. He would have arrived by train from Boston at the Troy depot and then traveled by coach to the hotel.

I know six-foot tall Emerson had a good appetite but he was never overweight. He was quite fond of minced turnovers for breakfast, especially if were made of minced duck. For our Mountain House dinner, I am sure Waldo would have enjoyed a meal of a lamb and spinach followed by a bread and jam pudding served with a glass of port wine. Our dinner conversation might have included him sharing with me how he was inspired by the mountain to write Monadnoc. After the meal, he might read one of his poems to me and the other hotel guests. 


Here’s what we would eat…

Lamb Dressed with Spinach

Bread and Jam Pudding

Click for the recipes.


Read Emerson’s Monadnoc


Next week we will be Back in Time for Dinner with Julia Child!


Lorraine, the Monadnock Center's Resident Culinarian  

Lorraine Walker is the Monadnock Center’s resident culinarian. When she isn’t serving up tasty treats from the Phoenix Mill House hearth, she can be found poring over historic cookbooks and local history documents in the archives.