Universal Translator

Monday, 15 December 2014

Heaven and Earth (the book)

“As proud Southerners, we don’t take kindly to being told by Yankees what we are doing wrong. It might be the wrongest of the wrong, but we prefer that you didn’t correct us. Don’t come down here and think you know what’s going on. Heck, even we don’t know what’s going on here half the time.” --from "The Squirrels of Sypsamulga"

A collection of mostly humorous short stories 
about the American South

[The wedding has started and two cows have died from being poisoned outside the church hall, which has been decorated for the wedding reception. Sam and Arliss have to figure out how to get rid of the dead cows. They decide to gut ‘em and cut ‘em to make them easier to remove, but a pocketknife is too small…]

      “It’s going to take forever to do this with a pocketknife, Arliss.”
      “Don’t Cousin Silas have one of them little chainsaws in his pick-up truck they use to cut branches off trees? I bet it’d slice right through that meat.”
      “He does but won’t a chainsaw, even a little one, be too noisy?”
Arliss thought for a second and said, “Well, I’m not that smart but I think that if the cow’s gutted and bled then we could pull him into the church hall to cut him up with it. I think that’d muffle the sound. They ain’t that noisy anyways. They’d never hear it with the doors shut way up there in the church sanctuary.”
      “Arliss, you’re brilliant. Now run go get that saw out of Silas’ truck!”
      Sam started to pull the gutted carcass up the steps of church hall. Arliss pulled up his pants and ran up the hill to the church parking lot. He rubbed his nose on his sleeve and smiled to himself because he was so brilliant.
---Excerpt from the story “Luther and Wynelle’s Wedding” from “Heaven and Earth”

Click here to purchase on Amazon
 (In the UK, click here.)

Click here to purchase at Barnes and Noble

Also available and Powells and other retailers.

ISBN: 9781500599027

The Alien History of Earth: Novaterra

Some people believe aliens exist. 
History knows they do - 
and you'll never believe who they are. 

 Ty and Ash Edwards, twins recovering from a family tragedy, are taken to live with a distant family member. An adventure beyond belief begins –and they discover that their lives are more complicated than they could ever imagine.

Click here to purchase at Amazon  (In the UK? click here)
Click here to purchase at Barnes and Noble
  • ISBN-10: 1503356787
  • ISBN-13: 978-1503356788

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Sugar Rush (poem)

photo by Elisa Azzali CC by 2.0

I wish funnel clouds were funnel cakes,
And thunderstorms blueberry pies.
I wish rain were made of sweet iced tea,
Lemon drops would be the sun.

I wish clouds were only fluffy cakes
Near mountains made of fudge,
Encircling an ice cream desert
With an oasis of butter rum.

Trees made full of gingersnaps
Pouring hot chocolate for fun.
Oh, for a world of spun sugar -
I couldn’t eat just one.

But the world’s not made of sugar
So chew a piece of gum
Keep the sugar in my dreams
Or I’ll just weigh a ton.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

"Teach Yourself." (poem)

My maternal grandmother (we called her Nanny) was a smart lady without a complete formal education; she only went to the fourth grade in a very rural Alabama schoolhouse.  Besides the experiences that life gave her, she read books bought at second-hand shops to educate herself.  This included the set of encyclopedias that she read for enjoyment each evening (I do that too!).   She thought there was nothing limiting you from learning something new - the sky is the limit!

Mary sits in her chair.
She’s worked all day.
She stretches to the shelf,
Grabs an encyclopedia,
Begins to read.
A fourth-grade education,
Then the cotton fields.
A bakery worker
And then a housekeeper.
She smiles as she reads.
Her eye follows her finger,
Her finger leads the words.
The nation of Finland,
The lifecycle of a fly,
Flowers of the Amazon,
The French Revolution.
She stops to think.
She gives herself a gift,
No one can take it away.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

"Sour Cream Apple Cake"

       In the South, family transcends everything else – it is the structure of the South.  It is the foundation of everything. There is also the Southern trinity of religion, football and food – you can decide for yourself the order of things; but that trinity still comes second to family.  Families start churches. Food is ever-present at family get-togethers and reunions.  Families and familial football teams define communities.  Families spread over miles have a closer relationship than neighbors right next door (although may times in the South, your neighbors are your family). But indeed foundations can also break. 
Apple blossoms
       Family relationships in the South can die easily when it comes to one of its greatest poisons -- money.  Many fights over wills, or lack thereof, of a loved one have broken many a Southern family.  Greed and misunderstandings coupled with money or the vision of money are some of the greatest poisons within Southern families.  A family dynasty of a hundred years can be undone over the slightest with a drop of one of these poisons.  It doesn’t take much to facilitate the first bit to be dropped.  Something as even as simple as a valuable, prize-winning recipe can be the catalyst.

       The recipe for Sour Cream Apple Cake has never really been publicly known.  Guesses have been made for decades as to the ingredients and it continues to be the topic of many a gossip session.  Most people understand that whatever the recipe, the same basic ingredients are used.  Everyone knows there are apples and sour cream in it, as well as the usual cake ingredients like flour and sugar.  However, every year, many people still hear discussions and arguments on the specifics used. What kind of spices? What type of flour? Fresh apples or not? Some have heard less controversy over sections of the Holy Bible Itself than the recipe of Sour Cream Apple Cake.  But as long as the Edwards sisters live, they have vowed the original recipe would remain mysterious.  They eventually released “simple’ versions of the recipe during interviews, but the original “from-scratch” recipe remains a secret.
       Mattie Sue Edwards was the first person in Chester County to cook Sour Cream Apple Cake.  The tale Miss Mattie would tell was that the recipe for the cake came from her encounter with the cook of a famous Southern household in Georgia on a visit to a Piggly Wiggly.  The recipe had been written in barely legible handwriting on butcher paper, according to Miss Mattie, and was unceremoniously destroyed on one frosty Southern morning as she was trying to light the pilot light to bake the famous cake – how poetic!  She never wrote it down again.  Some say she didn’t want the recipe to fall into the wrong hands, as the cake went on to win countless awards and ribbons for Miss Mattie. As the years passed, she would repeat from memory the recipe to her granddaughters who themselves would also win countless baking competitions with the recipe.
       There has never been such devotion for food as the devotion of rival sisters Mildred Edwards Davis and Martha Edwards Phillips toward their grandmother’s Sour Cream Apple Cake. Ever since their paternal grandmother Mattie Sue Edwards passed, the two sisters have been fighting.  And it’s usually about Sour Cream Apple Cake, or at least that’s where it begins.

Mildred (Milly) Sue Edwards Davis

 Mildred Edwards Davis’ Original Sour Cream Apple Cake

1 stick oleomargarine
1 (18 ½ oz.) yellow cake mix (Betty Crocker)
½ cup coconut
2-½ cup applesauce
1 cup Breakstone sour cream
½ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, beaten

Cut oleo into cake mix, add coconut.  Put in an ungreased 13x9x2 inch pan and build up edges a little bit.  Bake 10 minutes in 350-degree oven.  Spread applesauce over top of warm crust.  Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top.  Mix beaten egg with sour cream and drizzle over applesauce and sugar.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

       “I think I was about six years old when Momma Sue first let me help her bake her famous apple cake.  I loved staring at all the awards and ribbons she kept in the kitchen on a high shelf up above the refrigerator.  She always kept her kitchen sparkling white, because according to her ‘the white walls made the blue ribbons sparkle’.  When cooking she’d always wear a blue apron on which was written ‘first-prize chef’ given to her by Papaw Sam.  I remember that I had a stool that I would stand on and watch every move she made.  I think that’s why my cake is so better than those trying to imitate, like that sister of mine.
        I’m trustin’ you to remember what it takes to make this cake.  I want you to be able to continue on after I go on to be with the Lord.  It’s all up to you, Milly Sue,’ she would say to me as she carefully added ingredients to her old gray mixing bowl.  I still use that old mixing bowl every time I make her cake.  It just adds that little bit of love to it, you know.  I promised her that I would, cross my heart, every time she told me that.  She’d always smile and touch my nose, leaving a little smear of batter. I’d reach up and wipe it off, then taste it. I still use a taste of batter to confirm I’m doing it right.  My sister all this time was running around looking in the cupboards or making some unruly noise.  She’d make Momma Sue stop and scold her.  Momma Sue would just shake her head every time a pan or spoon would hit the floor, she wouldn’t get a switch to her little bottom unless she heard china breakin’.  That gal never really listened to anything Momma Sue would say.  Many times I’d hear Momma Sue complaining about my sister under her breath.
       ‘I wish they’d send her to her Yankee grandmother,’ she’d say through almost clenched teeth.
       My sister had been named after our maternal grandmother who was from Kentucky.  Momma Sue considered every one north of Tennessee to be a Yankee and despised them.  She was never close to Mother, and Mother went out of her way to be argumentative with her.  Momma Sue said that Mother never lost her Yankee ideals or mannerisms.  I think Momma Sue thought it was her job to rid Mother of them, and that’s why she was so hard on Mother all the time.  I don’t ever remember a good word said between them.
       When Mother first got sick, we went to stay with Momma Sue.  I lived with her until I graduated high school.  I would go with her to competitions and events.  She’d always tell me how much she depended on me helping her – that I really helped her to win all her awards.  She’s always say that someday it would be up to me to keep up the winning streak, that’s the reason I do what I do.  We always had the best time during competition days.  It was sad when she got older and I had to go to them alone.
       That sister of mine, Molly, has come up with some kind of cake that she calls Sour Cream Apple Cake, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Momma Sue’s original recipe.  She’s always been like that, trying to outdo and to show-off.  She tells people that hers is the real Sour Cream Apple Cake; but I know for a fact that Momma Sue didn’t tell her the recipe.  She’s got this recipe using a boxed cake mix she copied from me.  I created it so busy folks could whip up an easy version of the cake; it was for an article in the local paper.  Then she comes along with her “version” of it a week later.  She tells folks that Momma Sue gave her the original recipe after I left home, but that’s a big lie.
       She’s won a few awards for what she calls the “original recipe”, but it has always been like a county fair or such.  She could never win a big-time award with it.  She did enter a big event one year – it was the year she came up to me hollerin’ and screamin’ about some craziness.  I don’t even remember much about it anymore.  I did see her talking to the judges afterwards, probably trying to tell them I cheated.  She was always trying to pull something like that over me.
       When Momma Sue got sick right before she died, Molly called and said she couldn’t come home for some reason.  Me and my husband ended up have to take care of Momma Sue all by ourselves.  Molly finally came home, but Momma Sue died a few days later.  She was absolutely on help and then she tried to steal everything not nailed down. After the funeral, all my sister wanted to do was to clean out the house and get away as fast as she could with as much as she could.  She wanted everything in Momma Sue’s kitchen and her cookbooks, and I wasn’t about to let that happen.  Haven’t talked to her much since that fiasco.”

Martha (Molly) Ann Edwards Phillips

Martha Edwards Phillips’ Heirloom Sour Cream Apple Cake

1 stick oleomargarine
½ cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 No.2 can applesauce
1 pkg. yellow cake mix (Duncan Hines)
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1-cup sour cream
½ cup Angel Flake coconut

Cut oleo into cake mix.  Add coconut.  Put in ungreased 13x9x2 inch pan, building up edges a little.  Bake 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven.  Take out of oven and add applesauce over the top of the warm crust and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top of this.  Mix beaten egg with sour cream and drizzle over applesauce and sugar.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes more.  Do not overbake.

       “When Mom passed on, I remember us going to live with Momma Sue.  I think I was about four years old.  I definitely remember her baking and the smells from her cooking was a comfort to me.  Smelling something baking still relaxes and calms me.  When my sister Milly was at school and before I started going, Momma Sue and I would make cookies or gingerbread.  We didn’t make much and would end up eating most of it before Milly got home. 
       I loved those days in the kitchen with Momma Sue.  I think it helped me deal with Mom’s death when I was so little.  I was always rambunctious as a child and couldn’t sit still for long; but when I was in the kitchen with Momma alone, I was settled and very quiet.  I listened to every word she would say.  I can still hear her calm melodious voice talking to me when I get anxious nowadays.  She told me my first teachers marveled on how well I paid attention once I settled down.  I think it comes from my time with Momma Sue in the kitchen.    
       Momma Sue would mix everything up in that old blue enameled bowl that she said Mom gave to her one Christmas.  I still use that old bowl when I make the apple cake.  I feel it connects me to Mom and Momma Sue both.  My sister was going to sell it at the estate sale and was determined to not let me have it.  It meant nothing to her but she was bound and determined not to let me have it.  She was that way with a lot of Momma Sue’s things, acting as if it all belonged to her after Momma Sue passed.  What she couldn’t use, she tried to sell for cash.  The only things I have that belonged to our mother are a little charm bracelet and a jeweled flower pin because my sister kept or sold everything else.  But I do have the memories of what Momma Sue told me about our mother.  My sister would never listen when Momma Sue would talk about Mom.
       Momma Sue told me that Mom wasn’t a very strong person and that she was always doing exactly what her mother wanted to do.  This caused all kinds of friction especially since Mom’s mother lived hundreds of miles away in Kentucky and didn’t always know what was going on.  Our maternal grandmother never wanted us kids to visit her alone.  Momma Sue always said she wished we could go stay with our maternal grandmother and allow her to have the same chance to enjoy us as much as she herself did.  But I think Momma Sue knew that that would never happen.  I really loved being around Momma Sue and learning everything she could teach me.
       When we went to live with Momma Sue full-time after Mom passed, my sister, Milly, started to spend more time in activities like the Girl Scouts and other clubs.  I myself preferred to just stay with Momma Sue helping with chores and cooking.  I learned so much during that time and believe it is why I choose to go into a career that dealt with food.
       I remember my sister always entering all kinds of baking contests and generally winning many of them.  We both entered a baking contest once.  The other contestants started telling me that my sister was talking it up that I sometimes cheated. I had the judges approach and question me about it.  Milly had written a grievance to them about me stealing her recipe and she wanted me barred from the competition.  After a long talk with all the judges, they let me stay.  As soon as I left them I went straight to my sister and gave her a piece of my mind.  I stayed pretty calm and collected, but I told her a thing or two.  Yes, I pitched a fit.  She couldn’t stand that I was there, but I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of leaving or dropping out.  She ended up winning, but one of the judges had a talk to me before I left after the competition. Her name was Eleanor Beardesley and she said that I showed a real talent and the judgment had nothing to do with my sister’s grievance or the rumors.  She even gave me contact information of one of her friends who was a food editor at a regional newspaper.  She said I had great poise and professionalism throughout all that had transpired doing the event.
       Momma Sue got sick just as I was starting my first job as a food editor.  I talked to her when she first started to get sick and she told me that whatever happened, she wanted me to put my nose to the grindstone and not worry about her.  She said that I had her dream job.  She told me that Milly and Jack were taking good care of her and I didn’t need to worry.  At the first opportunity though I did go back home and spent some time with Mommas Sue.  I didn’t have much time with her before she passed.  She wasn’t able to really eat much but she’d want to talk about recipes and dishes featured in the different articles I had worked on.  She wanted to know about food I’d eaten at different restaurants.  She was a “foodie” long before the word was invented!
       After the funeral, I wanted to just clean up and get on with life.  However, Milly fought me at every turn.  Momma Sue had always promised her cookbooks and recipes to me.  She had thought I’d get more use out of them.  I figured the fair thing would be to share them with my sister, but Milly wanted them all.  I think she hid several of the antique cookbooks even before the funeral, just to keep me from them. I finally made copies of most of the recipes I wanted and just let her have most of the cookbooks, but it still remains a contentious subject between us today.  It’s sad we fell out over all this.  I still haven’t really talked to her since.”

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Thursday, 24 April 2014

"Symphony of Night" (poem)

Only the Lord knows their numbers,
I’d guess in the thousands.
From my porch, it’s like a million
frogs, bugs, and birds.
You may believe it a cacophony.
But each takes its solo,
Then mixes with others.
Sounds overlap sounds.
Millions of years of practice
 to perfect it,
the natural symphony
of night.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

"My Southern Food Memories, 1979" (poem)

file photo courtesy of Evan-Amos

Hoop cheese, Vi-enna sausages,
and saltine crackers
Eaten on the back of a pickup truck;
RC cola and peanuts,
Pawpaw’s treat at the feed store;
Eating a big Twix ‘n Tween burger
goin’ to Aunt Sue’s.
Fried cornbread, fried Spam and
a pot of black-eyed peas
Mama made in her kitchen.
Fried catfish with hushpuppies
Fryin’ at church on  Saturday.
Granny’s big breakfast with
grits, eggs, and sausage,
and Pawpaw asking
 for sawmill gravy on biscuits
the size of a cat’s head.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Easter Recipes from the South

Southern Baptists never acknowledged Lent in the 1970s but they loved a tooth-grittin’ly sweet dessert anytime.  Christians observing the Lenten season was as foreign to these parts as the Chinese language.  It was planting time down here in the South, and you couldn’t plow a cornfield or plant a garden fasting on fish or giving up fried foods – that’s what they did up in the big cities and the North. 

Girdle-Buster Pie 

20 Oreo cookies, crushed
¼ cup melted butter
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
1 small can evaporated milk
2 TB butter
½ cup sugar
2 squares bitter chocolate
½ tsp vanilla
Whipped cream
Toasted slivered almonds

Combine cookie crumbs and melted butter; pack into pie pan to make a crust, then freeze.  Spoon in vanilla ice cream; store in freezer.  Combine milk, butter, sugar, chocolate, and vanilla in a saucepan; cook over low heat until sauce is smooth, stirring frequently.  Let cool.  Serve pie topped with sauce, whipped cream, and slivered almonds.

(Source: New Holiday Cookbook: Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1974, Mrs. Sara Martin Conkle, Chelsea HS, Chelsea, Alabama)

I remember when I was young if there was a get-together in the South, there was a three-congealed-salad minimum.  During Easter, it sometimes went up to five or six. And our ladies in blue hair religiously enforced it.

Sunshine Salad

1 3-oz. Package lemon gelatin
1 3-oz package orange gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1 ½  cups cold water
1 no.2 can crushed pineapple
2 bananas, diced
40 miniature marshmallows
2/3 cup sugar
2 TB flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup whipped cream

Dissolve gelatins in boiling water; stir in cold water.  Chill until thickened.  Drain pineapple; reserve juice.  Add pineapple, bananas, and marshmallows to gelatin; mix well.  Place in shallow, oblong baking dish; chill until firm.  Mix sugar, flour, egg, and I cup reserved pineapple juice in double boiler; cook until thickened, stirring constantly.  Cool; fold in whipped cream.  Place on top of salad.  Grate cheese on top of dressing, if desired.

(Source: New Holiday Cookbook: Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1974, Kathleen Burchett, Area Supvr of Home Economics, Jonesville, Virginia)

Ham was the usual meat dish for Easter in our South.  Some folks say that lamb is an alternative Southern meat for Easter, but that has to be a recent thing.  Lamb was a practically unknown dish in my part of the rural South.  As my Granny would say, “Them’s what they eat up North, that’s why they wear them fleece coats.”  Ham was the traditional dish because hogs were killed in the fall; and by Easter, the hams were smoked and cured to perfection. Anyway, we farm folks would eat plain ham, but some folks – those in the Southern part of the county, the descendants of the plantation people would sometimes serve ham with Jezebel Sauce.

Jezebel Sauce

1/3 to ½ small box dry mustard
1 large glass apple jelly
1 large glass pineapple preserves
½ small jar horseradish
2 tsp coarsely ground pepper

Mix mustard and apple jelly well.  Add remaining ingredients; mix thoroughly.  Place in decorative jars; tie ribbons on jars.  Tie on recipe card and serving suggestion for ham, roast pork or sausage.  Store in refridgerator; will keep indefinitely.

(Source: New Holiday Cookbook: Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1974, Mrs. Emely Sundbeck, Manor HS, Manor, Texas)

Saturday, 12 April 2014

"Great Uncle Clarence in the Springtime" (poem)

Great Uncle Clarence sits on the porch,
The evening sun has set the sky a’fire.
He rocks back in his chair.
“The pecan tree’s a’leafin’ out,
time to put tomatoes in the ground,”
He swats at a spring mosquito.
“The dogwood’s a’bloomin’ too, time for my bath.”
Aunt Minnie smiles, first time since fall.

Friday, 11 April 2014

"A Spring Evening"

 The woodpecker barks,
This knothole is his.
The cardinal calls her mate,
He’s fighting with his twin.
Sparrows chirp frantically
 in the magnolia tree.
The oak tree is budding,
And yellow pine dust
Floats in the air,
The early moon shines silver
in the evening gold of the sun.
A spring day is ending.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

"The Earth"

The great oak rises from the regal earth,
Its huge branches reaching, twisting and turning toward the sky like slow lightening. 
Ancient lightening from the earth bursting forth,
A slow green spark lit by the earth herself.
Through the eons, the steady earth goes gently with seasonal rhythm.
And hard rock melts into tears of sand,
While the sky moves with wild abandon; its wind, its lightening and storms,
A warrior in a constant war whose battles change daily;
The earth, an aged queen,
Repeats herself, quietly retelling her story forever.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Old Gardening Superstitions of the South

Plant corn when the dogwood blooms but never on May first, second and third; those are barren days.

Plant root vegetables in the dark of the moon and plant leaf vegetables in the new moon.

The first thunder of spring wakes up the snakes and tells you winter is busted.

You are sure of a rough winter if the grape or nut crops are heavy.

Snakes will not come around a place where gourds are growing.

Weeds won’t grow back if cut in March during the dark of the moon.

Ninety days after the first katydid is heard, there will be a frost.

To make peppers grow, you must be hot and mad when you’re planting them.

When it rains on June 2nd, there will be no blackberries.

Plant cotton among your cucumber plants and insects will not attack your cucumbers.

It is bad luck to haul off or burn sassafras wood.

Never point at a watermelon with your first finger or the watermelon will drop off the vine.  Point at it with all your fingers.

Slips from plants should be stolen, only the stolen ones will grow.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Interesting Southern Heirloom Cake Recipes IV: Lady Baltimore Cake

Lady Baltimore Cake
Lady Baltimore cake is a popular Southern cake believed to have originated in South Carolina. It is a white layer cake, made light with beaten egg whites, filled with raisins and nuts (and sometimes figs) and iced with a fluffy white frosting (typically a 7-minute frosting, or meringue frosting). A Lord Baltimore cake, similar to a Lady Baltimore cake, uses egg yolks in the cake rather than egg whites with added crumbled macaroons and almonds in the filling.

According to Cassie L. Damewood at the website Wisegeek.com: “The story of how the Lady Baltimore Cake got its name varies. Since there is no mention of it in literature or evidence of it being a recipe prior to 1906, it is unlikely it had anything to do with the real Lady Baltimore. Ann Arundel, who died in 1649, was called Lady Baltimore because she was married to an Irishman man who inherited the whole state of Maryland in the United States (U.S.), including its large city of Baltimore, from his father. Interestingly, she never visited the North American continent, just as Lord Baltimore never did.
The most likely origin of the Lady Baltimore Cake was a romance novel entitled Lady Baltimore, written by Owen Wister and published in 1906. Legend has it that prior to writing the book, Wister had been given a cake by a southern belle from Charleston, South Carolina, named Alicia Rhett Mayberry. The confection so impressed him that he included it in his novel…Wister’s description of the cake’s appearance and taste was so appealing that readers of the novel were desperate to get the recipe. Since it had not been created, bakers set out to create a cake that mimicked Wister’s excited yet vague description from the book.”
 In his novel, Wister wrote:

"I should like a slice, if you please, of Lady Baltimore," I said with extreme formality. I returned to the table and she brought me the cake, and I had my first felicitous meeting with Lady Baltimore. Oh, my goodness! Did you ever taste it? It's all soft, and it's in layers, and it has nuts - but I can't write any more about it; my mouth waters too much. Delighted surprise caused me once more to speak aloud, and with my mouth full, "But, dear me, this is delicious!"


The first printed recipe is said to have appeared on December 24th 1906 in the Daily Gazette And Bulletin newspaper of Williamsport, Pennsylvania (shocking!):

Lady Baltimore Cake (1906)
Beat the whites of six eggs. Take a cup and a half of granulated sugar, a cup of milk, nearly a cup of butter, three cups of flour and two teaspoonfuls of good baking powder. Sift the flour and baking powder together into the other ingredients, adding the eggs last of all. Bake in two buttered pans for fifteen or twenty minutes.

For the frosting: Two cups of granulated sugar and a cup and a half of water, boil until stringly, about five minutes usually does it. Beat the whites of two eggs very light, and pour the boiling sugar slowly into it, mixing well. Take out of this enough for the top and sides of the cake, and stir into the remainder for the filling between the two layers, one cup of finely chopped raisins and a cup of chopped nuts. This is delicious when properly baked.

Lady Baltimore Cake (1952)
Quick-Mix Method
Rich, fruit-nut Lady Baltimore filling and frosting decorate this queenly three-egg-white cake. Blend shreds of coconut right into the batter, for a change, to give you a rich, chewy treat.
BAKE at 350° F. for 25 to 30 minutes.
MAKES two 8-inch round layers.
All ingredients should be at room temperature.
Sift together . . . 2 cups sifted Pillsbury Sno Sheen Cake Flour
2 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
Add . . . 1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk
Beat . . . for 2 minutes, 300 strokes, until batter is well blended. (With electric mixer blend at low speed, then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.)
Add . . . 1 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites, unbeaten
Beat . . . for 2 minutes.
Pour . . . into two well-greased and lightly floured 8-inch round layer pans, at least 1 1/4 inches deep.
Bake . . . in moderate oven (350° F.) 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and frost with Lady Baltimore frosting, page 51.
Prepare Lady Baltimore Cake, folding in 3/4 cup shredded coconut (chopped slightly if shreds are long) before pouring into pans. Frost with almond frosting, page 51.

(SOURCE: pg. 20, “Kate Smith chooses her 55 Favorite Ann Pillsbury CAKE RECIPES” published in 1952 by Pillsbury Mills, Inc.)

Lady Baltimore Cake (pre-1980)

For cake
8 oz. butter, softened to room temperature
14 oz. sugar
¼ oz. vanilla extract
¼ oz. almond extract
13 oz. cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
8 oz. milk
7 oz. egg whites
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and almond extract, scraping down the bowl often.
Sift together dry ingredients.
Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix to smooth consistency.
In clean bowl, whip eggs whites and cream of tartar. Slowly add sugar. Whip to soft peaks. Fold whipped whites into reserved batter.
Divide mixture into three 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cakes cool on wire rack.
For icing
16 oz. sugar
6 oz. water
pinch of cream of tartar
6 oz. egg whites
¼ oz. vanilla extract
Combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in saucepan. Use a candy thermometer to cook the sugar to 265 degrees F.
Whip egg whites on high speed to medium peaks.
Very slowly pour cooked sugar into whipped egg white. Whip to slightly cool. Add vanilla.
For filling
3 oz. pecans, lightly toasted
5 oz. dried fruit, chopped
(raisins, figs, currants, candied cherry)
Combine ingredients. Reserve for cake assembly.
Assembling Lady Baltimore cake:
Transfer one-third of the frosting to a medium bowl. Stir fruit-and-nut filling into the frosting.
Place one cake layer on a serving plate, and add half the frosting-and-filling mixture. Add a second cake layer on top. Spread second layer with remaining frosting-and-filling. Place third layer on top. Frost top and sides of cake with plain frosting.
Garnish with dried fruit and nuts.

(SOURCE: Recipe by Chef Jan Bandula, Stratford University's Baltimore campus; via http://chesapeaketaste.com/index.php/recipes/665-recipe-lady-baltimore-cake )

Seven Minute Frosting (1949)

2 unbeaten egg whites
1 ½ cup sugar
dash of salt
5 TB water
1 ½ tsp light Karo corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in top of double boiler.  Mix well.  Place over rapidly boiling water; beat constantly with rotary egg beater and cook 7 minutes or until stands in peaks.  Re move from the water. Add 1 tsp vanilla and beat until thick.  Makes enough to cover tops and sides of two nine inch layer cakes or one loaf cake.  Orange juice can be used instead of water and add grated orange rind and yellow coloring.  This makes a good orange frosting.  Coconut can be added in plain white.

(SOURCE: Recipe by Maebelle F. Stokes, from Favorite Recipes Tried and True, compiled by Wesleyan Service Guild, Methodist Church, Reform, AL, 1949)

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Complete Banana Pudding; or, as we say, the Whole Nanner Puddin'

There is one dessert in the South that reigns as the quintessential Southern dessert, even surpassing the venerable Red Velvet Cake –it is the Banana Pudding, or as it is pronounced here in the South, Nanner Puddin’.   There was a time when this wasn’t the iconic Southern dessert, but then there was also a time when biscuits were limited to only the rich folk’s kitchens.  However, as bananas became more available, like wheat flour, recipes trickled down from society kitchens to our grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s kitchens creating things that define us in terms of our food.
       Banana pudding has been in the South for over a hundred years, but it wasn’t as popular as when Nabisco printed that iconic recipe on its box of Nilla Wafers.  The Southern Living Dessert Cookbook from 1967 listed only one recipe for banana pudding, while listing twelve recipes for rice pudding.  That’s changed a whole lot since then:

home made banana pudding. Photo courtesy of Stu Spivack

Banana Pudding (1967)

2 ¼ cups milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
3 or 4 bananas, mashed
1/8 tsp salt
Vanilla wafers

Combine all ingredients except the vanilla wafers and cook in double boiler until thick.  In deep casserole, alternate vanilla wafers and bananas until you have 3 layers of each.  Pour cooked mixture on top.  When cooled, put whipped cream or dessert topping mix on top and serve.
 (SOURCE: Southern Living Dessert Cookbook, Southern Living Magazine, 1967; recipe by Nancy Stillwell, High Point, NC)

You can find what most food historians agree is the first recipe for a “banana pudding” in Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book by Sarah Tyson Rorer from 1902.  The following year, Mary Harris Frazier published The Kentucky Receipt Book, which contained the following recipe:

Banana Pudding (1903)

Take a half dozen bananas, peel and cut in pieces an inch thick, put in baking dish and pour over custard made in the following manner:  Custard-one pint of milk, 3 eggs, beat the yolks light, add milk, also two tablespoons of granulated sugar. Have the milk boiling, add the eggs and let it cook until it thickens; when cool pour over the bananas. Make a meringue with the whites and granulated sugar, put on top of custard, set in oven a few minutes to brown.  Serve at once.     

The following is another recipe I have found for  the banana pudding we Southerners would recognize as banana pudding like our grandmothers made.  Instead of vanilla wafers, it uses cake, but it does use meringue as a topping as many will remember on top of Granny’s “nanner puddin’”

Banana Pudding (1913)

Slice very thin, crosswise, three medium size bananas, sprinkle thickly with sugar, then add to a batter made by beating up four egg-yolks and two whites, with one cup crumbled rich stale cake, half-cup sugar, cup very rich milk, and the juice of a large lemon.  Mix smooth, pour into a deep pudding dish, and bake in a quick oven, then cover with meringue made from the egg-whites left out, beaten up with a pinch of salt, two teaspoons cold water, and six tablespoons of sugar.  Return to the oven and let barely color.  Serve hot or cold.
 (SOURCE: Dishes and Beverages of the Old South by Martha McCulloch-Williams, McBride Nast & Company, New York, NY, 1913}

Momma’s mother, Nanny, had a recipe for banana pudding that most closely represents what I myself consider to be a proper banana pudding; however the base pudding is a recipe that has come down from those before her.  It is basically a soft custard and can be adapted to any flavour, not just banana.  My mother adds natural banana extract  to it and pours it over vanilla wafers to make a banana-less banana pudding – our family doesn’t like real bananas in our banana pudding (weird, huh?) Note: I don’t have a date for Nanny’s recip eand since it is still used, I just date it as ”heirloom”.

Nanny’s Pudding (heirloom)

Put two cups milk on to boil.
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 T butter or margarine
1 T flour

Mix sugar, eggs, vanilla, oleo or butter, flour well and pour into hot milk. Stir until thickened.  For banana pudding, pour over wafers and bananas.

At the turn of the century the National Biscuit Company (or Nabisco) began to market vanilla wafers.  In 1968, the name of the wafers became Nabisco Nilla Wafers.  However, the most important part of all of this is that a recipe on the side of the box became the standard by which all banana pudding would be judged forevermore.

Original Nilla Banana Pudding (from the back of the box) (1968)

3/4 cup sugar, divided 
1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
Dash salt 
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 NILLA Wafers, divided 
5 ripe bananas, sliced (about 3 1/2 cups), divided
Additional NILLA Wafers and banana slices, for garnish

1. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water, stirring constantly for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. 

2. Reserve 10 wafers for garnish. Spread small amount of custard on bottom of 1 1/2-quart casserole; cover with a layer of wafers and a layer of sliced bananas. Pour about 1/3 of custard over bananas. Continue to layer wafers, bananas and custard to make a total of 3 layers of each, ending with custard. 

3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Spoon on top of pudding, spreading evenly to cover entire surface and sealing well to edges. 

4. Bake at 350°F in top half of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Cool slightly or refrigerate. Garnish with additional wafers and banana slices just before serving. 

Makes 8 servings


Just in case you want to do it all from scratch…

Vanilla Wafers (1886)

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter
4 tbsp milk
1 egg
1 tsp  cream of tartar
1/2 tsp  baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 tbsp  pure vanilla extract
5 cups  flour (or as needed)

Preheat the oven at 350°F (180°C).
Cream the butter, then add the sugar and mix well. Add the egg and beat until well incorporated, then add the milk and vanilla and mix well. Sift 4 cups of flour with the
salt, the cream of tartar and the baking soda, and add these to the butter mixture. Mix well and then add enough extra flour until the dough holds together and is firm and supple, easy to roll.
On a very lightly floured surface roll the dough very thin (1/8 inch–3 mm), and cut with a cookie cutter. Using a thin metal spatula transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake for about 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer the cookies on a rack to cool–they will be soft just out of the oven but will become crisp as they cool. Keep in an airtight container.
NOTE: The original instructions do not specify the exact amount of flour, they just say to add enough flour to roll the dough very thin. Begin with 4 cups of flour and then add as much as needed to make a dough that is easy to roll. Adding too little flour will make the dough too soft and sticky, adding too much will make it dry and brittle–in both cases it will be very difficult to roll. If you realize you added too much flour, add some more milk (1 tbsp at a time), until the dough is again supple and easy to handle.
 (SOURCE: The Woman Suffrage Cook Book, edited by Mrs. Hattie A. Burr, c. 1886, recipe by Mrs. B. M. Frazier; via http://www.wythenotes.com/2010/11/19/a-puddin-fit-for-a-king)

Homemade Vanilla Wafers

7 ounces all-purpose flour (almost a cup)
3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1 Tablespoon ground golden flax 
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar (regular will work too)
1 large egg
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whole milk

Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 F.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.
Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.
 (SOURCE: http://amomknowsbest.com/2011/05/homemade-vanilla-wafers-easy-

The easiest way to make banana pudding (the po’folks version) is the mix up a box of Jello Banana Cream Instant Pudding and throw in some Nilla Wafers; however, if you had a few more minutes and a bit more money, you could try this (I myself would rather do without than do this, but to each his own):

Easy Banana Pudding

3 small boxes instant vanilla pudding mix
5 cups cold milk
12 ozs. whipped topping (Cool Whip)
1 cup sour cream
1 large box vanilla wafers
5 to 6 large bananas

Follow package directions for pudding, using the 5 cups of milk. Fold in half of the whipped topping and all of the sour cream. In large bowl, layer wafers, bananas, pudding mixture. Top with remaining whipped topping. Refrigerate. 
 (SOURCE: http://southernfood.about.com/od/bananarecipes/r/blbb693.htm)

FYI: The National Banana Pudding Festival is held at the Hickman County Ag Pavilion and Fairgrounds at Grinder's Switch just outside of Centerville, Tennessee.  For more info, go to http://bananapuddingfest.org