Friday, October 1, 2004
A brief, bogus history of the Sixth-Grade Spaghetti Supper
Carlisleans will attend next week's Sixth-Grade Spaghetti Supper with remarkably high expectations for a meal prepared by volunteers and served by students themselves. And they will not be disappointed. Yet, as other amateur Carlisle historians will attest, the event has not always been the same finely tuned, town-wide testimonial to quality education and half-decent pasta that we have today. Just like Old Home Day, the Spaghetti Supper tradition has experienced false starts and restarts, smoky stoves and smoldering entrees, while dishing out a sizable portion of local color along the way.
The origins of the Spaghetti Supper coincide with the very advent of organized schooling in Carlisle, when the land itself was still a district of Concord. Laws passed in 1647 required districts of more than 50 families to erect and manage a school unto themselves. While most of the school funding was raised by new taxation, legend has it the first school supper, the Possum Potluck, made a substantial contribution of $7.23. In 2004 dollars, according to some calculations, this would be the equivalent of $859,743,008. Unfortunately, it was impossible to spend 2004 dollars, or any dollars, back in 1647, before the dollar had been created.
Whatever the financial success, the first school supper was clearly beset by culinary controversy. "Possum is a fair bit easier to trap than she is to digest," commented one resident attendee, Josiah Eldred, a blacksmith, farmer and trapper. "Next time, we best mind the wolves when cooking critter."
In colonial times, menacing packs of wolves normally gathered on the periphery of any meat-related preparations. Yet, tellingly, wolves took a pass on the possum potluck, "As we might best have done," added Eldred, en route to the Concord Apothecary.
The precursor of the Supper Raffle, held in auction style, also brought forth some unsavory aftertaste. It was later discovered that nearly all the livestock contributed to the event had some form of disease and, likewise, most donated lands were infested with mosquitoes and back taxes.
At this time, Carlisle, like many surrounding districts, drew teachers from Harvard College. This, too, spawned a Carlisle tradition still in force today. James Whisten, that year's Harvard teacher-in-residence, wrote in his journal, "I have ne'er seen such fuss created 'round me as by parents inquiring whether I held sway with Harvard College admissions, and if rumors of business, medical and law schools might hold truth. 'Fore I had sawed into my first helping of moose meat, they extracted promise of 60 letters of recommendation, one for every pupil!"
By contrast to past events, next week's Class of 2007 Spaghetti Supper will be a smartly polished affair, on a par with any of Carlisle's fine eateries and soirees. Residents of all ages now await that coveted first sitting without displays of muskets and hunting knives impatiently brought forth in centuries past. Despite appealing smells, the wolves of yore will be nowhere in evidence, long since replaced by domesticated begging breeds. The event has come a long way and yet, by and large, retained its pioneering ethos: a love of learning, the spirit of community, a sense of infinite — for lack of a better word — "possumability."
The most important fundraiser for each sixth-grade class, the Spaghetti Supper will be at the Carlisle School Cafeteria on Tuesday, October 5, from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets for adults are $7, children and seniors $4. Tickets went on sale September 10 and sell fast, so don't delay.
Add to the fun by purchasing raffle tickets, $1 each, or buy a packet of six raffle tickets for $5. There is a limited supply of Golden Raffle tickets at $20 each. Golden Raffle prizes include an EMS ocean kayak, tickets to The Lion King, a weekend on the Cape, an Apple iPOD, and much more. Tickets can be purchased from all Class of 2007 students, or at Ferns Country Store. For ticket information call 1-978-287-4718.
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito