12 September 2014

A Good Heart and A Light Hand

This is a wonderful African American cookbook from 1968.   It was compiled as a fundraiser for the Fund for Alexandria, Virginia.  The recipes are from the Ruth Gaskins' Collection of Negro Recipes.  Like so many women, Gaskins learned to cook from the women in her family, her mother and grandmothers and the other women of the community.

Gaskins writes:

There is something special that every negro knows that I can only call "the Negro Welcome."  In Alexandria, Virginia, where I have always lived, I can go into any Negro home at any time and know that I am wanted. I don't have to phone first and I don't have to wait for a special invitation.  If I feel like seeing a friend, I'll go, and it it's meal time, I'll draw up a chair and eat. There'll be enough food, because we always cook for the friend who might drop by.

While the language might seem old, the sentiment is one we should all try to live by, the ability to welcome people into our homes and to always have food on the table.

The recipes in this book reflect many old Southern recipes, including a favorite of the Duchess of Windsor, Pork Cake. In addition to the cake, there is a nose to tail approach for the pig. There are vegetables and pickles and a potato wine.

A favorite accompaniment to pork or chicken is the sweet potato.  Baked is good, but fired is better!  According to Gaskins, these are served at special occasions.

Spiced Sweet Potato Balls
3 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon each: nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts
fat for deep frying

Scrub potatoes to remove all dirt.  boil them with the skin on until tender.  Peel and mash.  Beat in butter, salt and spices until fluffy. fold in the nuts. Shape into balls. Roll in flour. Fry in deep fat until browned.

These sweet potatoes would welcome anyone.


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