Mary Beekman is a four-year-old ghost who resides in The Beekman Mansion, and considers Brent and Josh her “imaginary friends.” Follow Mary Beekman’s Diary to learn what it’s like to be a young child in early 19th century America

Father and the boys went fishing this fine morning.  Mother gave them jugs of water and some bread and butter with slices of ham for their lunch.  They returned by midmorning with a full catch.  They had placed some wet leaves around the fish in Father’s creel to keep them fresh until they returned home to clean them.  They were shimmery and silver with sad eyes.  In one of my story books, there was a drawing of a mermaid.  Her eyes were sad too.  They took a wide plank for a cutting surface from near the barn and carefully cleaned the fish.  Father was teaching the boys how to clean the fish without losing much of the good flesh.  I asked Father if they had come from the sea, but he laughed and said they had been in the pond.  Someday I hope I can look upon the sea and learn about the sea shells and the creatures that swim there.

Mother enjoys fresh fish chouder and said she would make some for our supper.  We have some crackers that are not freshly baked and she thought that would be a fine way to put them to use.  She does not like to waste our food.  We try to use everything we have grown in the garden, everything we have fresh or preserved because Mother and Father remind us of our good fortune in having enough good food to eat.  It is good to live on a farm and not in the city.  I like fish chouder too.  But I am very careful to chew for bones.  I do not want to have a fish bone become caught in my throat.  Josh did not like to watch the fish being cleaned but Brent thought it was interesting.  The knives must be very, very sharp.

Take a bass weighing four pounds, boil half an hour, take six slices or raw salt port, fry them until the lard in nearly extracted, one dozen crackers soaked in cold water five minutes; put the bass into the lard, also the pieces of pork and crackers, cover close, and fry for 20 minutes, serve with potatoes, pickles, apple-sauce; garnish with green parsley.


Fish Chouder from 1800 American Cookery by Amelia Simmons

by Mary Beekman

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sue tolbert

Dear Mary, It is such a blessing that the pond at your home has fed so many people. Josh and Brent will continue to serve these fish to their family and friends. You can tell them other ways your mother cooks the fish. Enjoy your summer, my sweet friend. sue t.


Mary, as an adult who has lived through both the bringing and that taking, I suggest that while we love the taste of the fish and we love the hands that brought it to the table, sometimes it is still hard to think about how it came about. Being hard keeps it a genuine and true belief for us. I believe that we must both respect the fishes given to us for sustinance and the hands that brought it to our table. We give thanks for both.