KITCHEN POETS – PART 3

KITCHEN POETS
PART THREE

A few rhymed recipes turned up in Massie’s ‘WALNUT PICKLES AND WATERMELON CAKE” published in 1990 (an excellent book, by the way), chronicling the history of Michigan church and club cookbooks). One of these recipes, Buckwheat Griddle Cakes, in rhyme, was taken from an Ann Arbor cookbook published in 1884, and like a rhymed recipe for doughnuts has often turned up in other cookbooks. To make Buckwheat Griddle cakes (or to recite the recipe for them:

If you fine buckwheat cakes would make
One quart of buckwheat flour take;
Four table-spoonfuls then of yeast;
Of salt one-tea-spoonsful at least; (sic)
One handful of Indian meal and two
Good table-spoonfuls of real New
Orleans molasses, then enough
Warm water to make of the stuff
A batter thin. Beat very well;
Set it to rise where warmth do dwell.
If in the morning it should be
The least bit sour, stir in free
A little soda that
Is first dissolved in water hot,
Mix in an earthen crock and leave
Each morn a cupful in to give
A sponge for the next night, so you
Need not to get fresh yeast to renew.

In weather cold this plan may be
Pursued ten days successfully,
Providing you add every night
Flour, salt, molasses, meal in right
Proportions, beating as before
And setting it to rise once more.
When baking make of generous size
Your cakes; and if they’d take the prize
They must be light and nicely browned,
Then by your husband you’ll be crowned
Queen of the kitchen; but you’ll bake,
And he will, man-like, “take the cake”.
**

Also from “Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake”:

BEATEN BISCUIT
By Miss Howard Weeden, from Bandana Ballads

Of course I’ll gladly give de rule
I meks beat biscuit by,
Dough I ain’t sure that you will mek
Dat bread de same as I.

‘Case cooking’s like religion is—
Some’s ‘lected an’ some ain’t,
An’ rules don’t know more mek a cook
Dan sermons mek a saint.

Well, ‘bout de ‘grediances required
I needn’t mention dem;
Of course you knows of flour an’ things
How much to put, an’ when;

But soon as you is got dat dough
Mixed up all smoove an’ neat,
Den’s when youh genius gwine to show
To get dem biscuit beat!

Two hundred licks is what I gives
For home-folks, never fewer,
An’ if I’m ‘spectin’ company in,
I gives five hundred sure!

*Sandy’s Cooknote: Definitely not politically correct in today’s world! I would love to find a copy of Bandana Ballads though! Spellcheck almost had a nervous breakdown over this!
**
Another from Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake. Contributor was a Mrs. Josie Morris, Berrien Springs, and is dated 1923:

BILL COOKIES
(Perhaps named after a spouse?)

Bill Cookies—and rightly they are named,
If they are gone in a jiffy, no one can be blamed.
Take one cup of sugar, a half cup of lard;
Cream these together, add 2 eggs and beat hard.
One scant teaspoon of soda, now put in a cup,
Add a mite of hot water, and now ‘twill foam up;
Sift 3 cups of flour and place in a bowl,
Mix smoothly and swiftly, and then neatly roll;
If dough is too soft, a little flour add,
I’ll assure better cookies your husband ne’er had.

Also found in Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake:

STEWED KNUCKLE OF VEAL

No name but dedicated to the Rev. W. H. Osborn and dated Battle Creek, 1903:

Take a knuckle of veal;
You may buy it, not steal;
In a few pieces cut it
In a stewing pan put it;
Salt, pepper, and mace
Must season this knuckle;
Then what’s joined to a place—
With other herbs muckle,
And lettuce and beets
With marigold meet.
Put not water at all
In a boiling hot kettle
And there let it be,
(Mark the doctrine I teach)
About—let me see—
Thrice as long as you preach.
So, skimming the fat off,
Say grace with your hat off.
Oh, then with what rapture
Will it fill Dean and Chapter!

Sandy’s Cooknote: I have never seen a knuckle of veal, much less cooked one—and aren’t the ingredients of lettuce and marigold interesting? Old cookbooks have far more recipes for veal that one encounters today. And, I am old enough to remember a time when the butcher would give a housewife soup bones—free of charge. My mother often made a thin soup with soup bones; afterwards my father and brother ate the marrow on crackers.
**

Larry and Priscilla Massie, authors of Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake, comment that Joseph Bert Smiley was one of Michigan’s most eccentric rhymesters and he offered his poetic opinion of onions in his first book “MEDITATIONS OF SAMWELL WILKINS” published in his home town of Kalamazoo in 1886;

ONIONS

There is no perfume that I love so well
As onions, fragrant onions.
Creation’s most odoriferous smell
Is onions, fragrant onions.
Nature is beautiful, calm, and bright.
From fruitful valley to lofty height.
She would show good sense if she’d only blight
These onions, fragrant onions.

Sometimes when walking the street you say,
“Onions, fragrant onions!
Somebody’s cooking for dinner to-day
Onions fragrant onions.”
No flower’s pure essence as sweet as they.
No fifty-cent odor could longer stay.
You can smell ‘em a couple of blocks away.
Onions, fragrant onions.

I wonder how Providence came to invent
Onions, fragrant onions.
On what dire mission hath nature sent
Onions, fragrant onions?
It seems too bad that an earth so fair
Should nourish and foster with so much care
A plant with a smell that will raise your hair—
Onions, fragrant onions.
**
I can’t resist the temptation to insert, next, a poem that I wrote about onions quite a few years ago:

Waste not your tears in weeping over
The onion–that hyprocrite!
It mealy-mouths its way around
Begging us to pity it!
It spends its whole life
In sham tears and strife
Begging for some consolation…
Because of the lily, the onion you see,
Is merely a dirt-poor relation.
The onion’s behavior is simply uncalled for
Actually, I think
It’s really quite silly..
Because, after all,
Who’d go to a restaurant
And order steak smothered
With lily?
–Sandra Lee Smith

Onions appear, also, in a short verse that has appeared in many community cookbooks, generally in an introductory page for vegetables:

The onion strong, the parsnip sweet,
The twining bean, the ruddy beet-
Yes, all the garden brings to light
Speaks of a landscape of delight.
(Author unknown)

But while I am on the subject of vegetables including onions, someone had this to say in the Fortnightly Cook Book, Winchester, Mass, in 1922:

I would I had time to the merits rehearse
Of squashes and corn, which I find not in verse,
I wish I could give the potato its due,
In the finest of rhymes and the most tuneful lays.
Cucumbers and cabbage, I also would praise
Or sing of tomatoes, served hot in a stew.
But onions! Oh, onions! Dear me, I suppose,
They should not be mentioned except in dry prose.
(You’ll excuse me for putting my hand to my nose).
While as for that homely old family of beans,
There’s nothing much lower, unless it is greens.
I’ll except that patrician branch from Lima
Than which, in succotash, what could be finer?
Others there are, but we must go on to receipts
If it were not for that, I’d at least speak of beets,
But space is precious, so no more will I write,
Merely wishing you health, and a good appetite.

Also from the Fortnightly Cook Book, pages of which were sent to me by someone back in the 1990s, was a poem about PIES—specifically OLD Virginia Mince Pies, written by a Mrs. Roger Pryor:

PIES

Our much respected Uncle Sam
Loves pies—of pumpkin, fruit or jam;
Potato, apple, lemon, cherry,
Peach, plum, and every kind of berry.
These are but courtiers to the prince
Of pies—the “Old Virginia Mince.”
There is but one right way to make it,
Ere in its flaky crust you bake it;
Use neither tongue nor other meat
(As some cooks do), but boil the feet
of calf or pig, then softly press
through colander the pearly mess.
Of this fill cup with dainty touch,
To mix with fruit and spice and such.
A cup of raisins, stoned, prepare;
A cup of currants then wash with care
(for things that grow in foreign lands
may have been packed by germy hands)
a cup of apple chopped—no rind;
a cup of sugar—heaping, mind!
A cup of finely shredded suet,
A dash of pepper from the cruet;
A pinch of salt, of nutmeg, mace,
Of cloves—to give a zest and grace;
One lemon, orange, juice and rind
(only the yellow grated fine).
Some citron shavings, crisp and thin;
Then pour a glass of brandy in.
Glass large or small, no matter which,
Enough to make all moist and rich.
(Should Uncle Sam object, thus meet it:
”He isn’t asked to drink, but eat it.”)
Line a deep dish with pastry, light
As feathers, soft and creamy white.
Cover as simply as you will
For worth and beauty need no frill.
Five minutes slowly bake, then heat
Your oven three hundred Fahrenheit.
Watching, you rest upon your chair,
And festive odors fill the air!
You almost see the mistletoe!
You almost hear the fiddle-bow!
The rhythmic tap of little feet,
The rippling laughter, low and sweet;
As perfumed incense rises high
From Old Virginia’s own mince pie.
The old-time Randolphs made these pies
For Christmas dinners. They were wise.
They made other things, they tell
Tobacco, laws and made them well.
Our Independence Declaration,
The prop and bulwark of our nation
Standing today, as then it stood
Was writ by one of Randolph blood.
That Democratic son of yore–
Ate a mince pie—the day before.

From “A BOOK OF PRACTICAL RECIPES” compiled in 1907 by the Ladies of the South Side Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh:

CHEESE RELISH

Six Boston crackers split and dried,
And buttered well upon one side,
One pound of cheese, be sure it’s nice—
Cut first in slices, then in dice,
One pint of milk, if fresh use cold,
But scald if it’s a little old.
A baking dish to hold a quart
One of the round and shallow sort.
Now first put in some bits of cheese,
Then crumble cracker over these,
Then cheese, then cracker,
And when you stop
Be sure the cracker comes on top.
With salt and pepper season lightly,
Also with cayenne very slightly.
The milk add last, bake half an hour,
And serve it hot, if in you power.

The following is from Favorite New England Recipes , but I don’t have a date or any additional information as someone copied the page and sent it to me a long time ago:

DOUGHNUTS IN RHYME

1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of milk;
two eggs, beaten fine a silk;
salt and nutmeg (lemon will do)
of baking powder teaspoons two.
Stir enough of flour in
To roll on pie board, not too thin;
Cut in diamonds, twists or rings,
Drop with care the doughy things
Into the fat that swiftly swells
Evenly the spongy cells.
Watch with care the time for turning,
Fry them brown, just short of burning.
Roll in sugar, serve when cool,
This is the never failing rule.

The following recipe is from a community cookbook published in either 1912-1913 in Poughkeepsie New York—the cover and front pages to the cookbook were missing. Author is listed as a Mrs. L.V. Strong:

CORN BREAD IN RHYME

Two cups Indian, one cup wheat,
One cup sour milk, one cup sweet,
One good egg that you well beat,
Half cup molasses, too,
Half cup sugar, and thereto,
With one spoon of butter, new.
Salt and soda each a spoon,
Mix up quick and bake it soon,
Then you’ll have corn bread complete
Best of all corn bread you meet,
It will make your boy’s eyes shine,
If he is like that boy of mine.
If you have a dozen boys
Double then the rule I should
And you’ll have two corn cakes good.
**
And a short recipe for Saturday Night Boston Brown Bread (which I love!) appeared in Jane & Michael Stern’s “Coast to Coast Cookbook – Real American Food” published in 1986 b Alfred A. Knopf:

Three cups of corn meal,
One of rye flour;
Three cups of sweet milk,
One cup of sour;
A cup of molasses
To render it sweet,
Two teaspoons of soda
Will make it complete.

The Sterns note that brown bread goes back three centuries to when it wasa brick oven recipe cooked on a bed of oak leaves and called ‘ryanijun’. A contraction of rye (flour) and Indian (cornmeal). Graham (whole wheat) was a later addition that became an essential element in the dark moist loaf we all know as Brown Bread. The Sterns also noted that the non-brick oven method required a pudding mold – but the mother of my high school girlfriend, Mary, baked brown bread in tomato soup cans.
**

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