Archive for the ‘Historical Figures’ Category

Happy Birthday, Miss Anthony!

9 February 2009
Susan B. Anthony (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Susan B. Anthony (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

 
A Note to Readers:
 
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
  
Tinky

 

February is chock full of holidays and commemorative days. My second grade class staged a presentation in which our teacher, Miss Asman, asked each of us to represent one of these days. I was assigned a few words about Charles Dickens, who was born on February 7, 1812.

 

A ham even at that early age, I made the most of my role. Nevertheless, I was secretly jealous of the person who talked about Susan B. Anthony, born on February 15, 1820. I had read a book about Miss Anthony’s life and her participation in the struggle for women’s rights. I thought she was an inspiring person to talk about. I still do.

 

Born near Adams, Massachusetts (not far from my home in Hawley), Susan B. Anthony was brought up Quaker. Well educated and articulate, she became active in abolitionism and the temperance movement. In her early 30s she found her true calling as one of the strongest voices this country has ever heard arguing for women’s rights and suffrage.

 

Along with her friend and colleague Elizabeth Cady Stanton she formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. She also wrote and lectured extensively. She actually cast a vote in 1872, although she was arrested and tried for violating the law. She responded to her sentence with an eloquent speech in which she said, “It was we, the people, not we the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the union.”

 

Susan B. Anthony died 14 years before women achieved the right to vote. She is nonetheless remembered as a pioneer in that effort and as a remarkable person, both an indefatigable warrior and the beloved “Aunt Susan” of younger feminists. Just before her death in 1906 she gave her final speech, which ended with the rallying cry, “Failure is impossible.”

 

Last week my friend Peter suggested that as a food writer I should pay culinary tribute to Miss Anthony’s birthday. I called the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, New York, and asked whether the people who worked there had any idea what she liked to eat. To my delight I was informed that they had just been discussing this topic. Sue Gaffney kindly sent me the text of a letter draft from 1898 in which Miss Anthony was responding to a group of college juniors who wanted the recipe for her favorite cake.

 

Miss Anthony couldn’t find the actual recipe. (It’s reassuring to know that someone of her stature could have trouble finding things since this is one of my own more frustrating habits.) Instead she gave her correspondents a sponge-cake outline:

Dear Junior Girls: My favorite cake is the old-fashioned sponge, made of eggs, the whites lashed to a stiff froth, the yolks beaten thoroughly with cups of pulverized sugar, a pinch of salt, a slight flavor of almond. Into these stir __ cups of flour – first a little flour, then a little of the white froth – and pour and pour the foaming batter into a dish with a bit of white buttered paper in the bottom. Clap into a rightly tempered oven as quickly as possible and take out exactly at the proper minute, when it is baked just enough to hold itself up to its highest and best estate. Then don’t cut, but break it carefully, and the golden sponge is fit for the gods . . .

 

Well, the dickens is to pay – I can not find the old cook book – so just put in any good sponge cake recipe for me, and then add: “It matters not how good the recipe or the ingredients may be, the cake will not be good unless there is a lot of common sense mixed in with the stir of the spoon.”

 

My helpers and I didn’t quite follow Miss Anthony’s formula, but we came close. We substituted vanilla for almond extract since one of the kids in the neighborhood is allergic to nuts. It seemed a little odd making a feminist’s birthday cake with boys, but I was impressed that these young males had actually heard of Miss Anthony (two of them had coins with her face on them). And after all part of feminism is part of making sure that the traditional “feminine” arts like baking are open to both genders. So I offer kudos to Michael Weisblat, Carson Carr, and Sam Duffett.

 

We topped our sponge cake off with a little raspberry sauce and whipped cream. It was indeed fit for the gods. I guess we must have blended a sufficiency of common sense into the bowl.

 

The Susan B. Anthony House is hosting a birthday luncheon on Wednesday, February 11. Journalist Lynn Sherr, author of Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words, will be the featured speaker. At the time of this posting tickets were still available on the house’s web site. If you can’t attend the celebration, feel free to make this cake at home. 

 

Sam, Michael, and Carson take turns lashing egg whites to a stiff froth.

from left to right: Sam, Michael, and Carson take turns lashing egg whites to a stiff froth.

Susan B. Anthony Sponge Cake

 

Ingredients:

 

5 eggs at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1 pinch salt

1 cup flour

raspberry jam or sauce for garnish (optional)

whipped cream for garnish (optional)

 

 
 
 

We ended up with ONE girl. Michael's friend Anna Capper stopped by in time to help break off pieces of cake.

We ended up with ONE girl. Michael's friend Anna Capper stopped by in time to help break off pieces of cake.

 

 

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut a piece of wax paper to fit the bottom of a 9-inch tube pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the egg yolks and extract until they lighten. Gradually beat in half of the sugar.

 

Wash your beaters thoroughly. Beat the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks. Gently and gradually beat in the remaining sugar. When the peaks are glossy and beginning to stiffen, remove the beaters from the bowl.

 

Fold a quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Pour the remaining egg whites on top, and sift the flour on top of them. Gently fold the flour and egg whites into the batter.

 

Delicately pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake until it is a golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Invert the cake over a cooling rack and let it cool completely before coaxing the cake out of the pan. This will probably involve running a knife delicately around the sides of the pan and the tube. Peel off the wax paper.

 

Gingerly break off pieces of the cake. Serve with or without jam and whipped cream. (With is better!) Serves 10.

 

cakeweb1

mandaweb1

 

A Cake Called Hope

18 January 2009

cakeweb2

 
A Note to Readers:
 
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
  
Tinky

 
 

I’m not traveling to Washington for the Inauguration this week. My mother, the animals, and I will be huddled next to the electronic hearth for the next couple of days, however, absorbing as much televised inaugural coverage as we can.

It’s an exciting event. Even people who aren’t Obama girls and boys can’t help hopping on the hope bandwagon. We all want to do our part to put the country on a new path.

My brother is going to an inaugural ball. Not to be outdone, I have prepared an inaugural cake. I wrote to the folks at Wilton to ask for some red, white, and blue sprinkles. They generously threw in some writing gel, star-shaped icing decorations, and a star-shaped pan. (They offered me a flag pan, but I was afraid that it would present too much of a challenge to my limited decorating skills.)

The resulting confection is not only delicious but beautiful as well. I started out trying to outline the star with the gel. When that didn’t work (did I mention my limited decorating skills?), I decided to revert to my usual free-form style. I ended up with a cake that is cheerful and-yes-hopeful.

In tribute to our incoming president’s message, HOPE is in fact the name of this cake, which includes honey, orange, pineapple, and eggs, among other delicious ingredients. It’s easy to make and even easier to eat.

“Hope is a recipe …. For a country that is looking for a brighter future, hope is the main ingredient.”

                                                    —  Donna Brazile

tinkydecoratesweb

HOPE Cake

Ingredients:

for the orange-pineapple pound cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple (including its juice)
the grated zest and finely chopped pulp of 1 orange (everything in fact but the seeds and the bitter white part)

for the honey-cream cheese frosting:
1 8-ounce block cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
2 generous tablespoons honey
confectioner’s sugar as needed
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan (or a star pan from Wilton).

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, followed by the vanilla, baking powder, and salt.

Gently stir in the flour until it is incorporated, and fold in the fruit and zest. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The timing will depend on your pan. With my star pan and my gas oven, it took 45 to 50 minutes.

Let the cake cool in its pan for 10 minutes. Gently loosen the sides and turn the cake out of the pan onto the rack and allow it to cool completely.

When the cake is cool, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and honey. Beat in confectioner’s sugar until you have a soft, spreadable, delicious icing. Beat in the vanilla, and spread the frosting over your cake. Decorate with abandon. Serves 10 to 12 inaugural guests.

hatweb

Red Beans & Rice

14 January 2009

soaking-beans-web2

 
A Note to Readers:
 
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
  
Tinky

I have a bean.

Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 80 this January 15. In his honor I’m preparing Red Beans and Rice.

Making food to pay tribute to a civil-rights icon may seem frivolous. The choice of Red Beans and Rice for Dr. King is not entirely inappropriate, however. It was one of his favorite dishes.

 

mlk-web

Moreover, in an odd way, red beans are suited to the civil-rights movement.

Like that movement, they take long preparation and patience. Like many of the ordinary heroes of civil rights, these commonplace beans get together and over time manage to accomplish something quite wonderful.

The combination of the beans and rice, like the combination of races in our nation’s history, is complementary. When they finally join forces at the end of the cooking process, neither loses its identity. Together, however, they form a complete protein, just as the diverse races in the United States form a whole culture.

This particular Red Beans and Rice recipe is adapted from the formula used by my graduate-school friend Mike Mashon, now a Super Curator of Moving Images at the Library of Congress. In school we called him “Mike the Pirate” as a tribute to his extensive collection of videos of old movies, which came in handy as we studied film history. (Since the Library of Congress is one of our nation’s temples to copyright I should probably add that his videos were all legally duplicated for private use.)

Mike is from Louisiana, where I understand children learn about cooking Red Beans and Rice along with their times tables. I fondly recall his pots of this warm, hearty dish as ideal student fare–cheap, yummy, and nourishing.

Mike prefers Camellia brand beans and Rotel tomatoes with chiles. I was unable to find either here in Yankeeland so I used Goya beans and Whole Foods 365-brand canned tomatoes with chiles. Many of the flavorings are optional; I added the onion, garlic, and Creole seasoning myself. If you are a vegetarian, you may want to try the alternative suggested at a web site called www.gumbopages.com.  Instead of using meat, add a little vegetable oil to the mixture to replicate the fat in the meat, plus 1 teaspoon liquid smoke.

Mike cooks his beans in a large Dutch oven. He says they can take from 4 to 8 hours to cook that way. I used my slow cooker because it makes this easy dish even easier-no stirring involved!

 

red-beans-and-rice-web

 

 

 

Red Beans and Rice

 

Ingredients:

 

1 pound red beans

1 can (14.5 ounces) tomatoes with green chiles

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

extra-virgin olive oil as needed to sweat the vegetables

salt to taste (I used a generous teaspoon)

1 pound spicy sausage, cut into small pieces and quickly sautéed to release flavors

(Mike’s mother likes to use half sausage and half cubed ham)

Creole seasoning or hot sauce to taste

 

Instructions:


Thoroughly wash the red beans. Drain them; then soak them overnight in at least 4 cups of water.

 

Pour the beans and their soaking water into a slow cooker. Add the tomatoes and chiles, plus enough fresh water to cover the beans if needed. Quickly sauté the onion, celery, and garlic in a little olive oil until they are translucent. Add them and the salt to the pot. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours.

 

At the end of the 3 hours, add the sautéed sausage pieces and a little Creole seasoning or hot sauce. If you’re not sure how spicy you’ll want your beans (remember, the chiles and sausage both add some kick), save the extra heat for the end product.

 

Continue cooking on high heat until the beans are soft (Mike likes to mash them almost to a paste), another 3 to 5 hours. Serve over rice. This dish is even better the next day.  Serves at least 8.

 

 
 
 
 

Mike the Pirate (left) with another darling from grad school, Dan Streible (Courtesy of NYU)

Mike the Pirate (left) with another darling from grad school, Dan Streible (Courtesy of NYU)