Kate Hoyle is a poet and visual artist from Moraga, California. Her work has been published in Tupelo Press 30/30 Project, The AUDACITY and Smokelong Quarterly. Her five poem series, On America, is currently touring the US and South America on exhibit in U2’s Joshua Tree World Tour. You can see more of her work at katehoyle.com
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A note from curator Rozanne Gold: There are few more poignant daughter-and-father rituals than this evocative memory shared by Anne James, an Associate Professor of Voice and Movement in the Department of Theatre & Dance at California State University, Fullerton . Anne heard me on Heritage Radio on “A Taste of the Past,” a popular program hosted by culinary historian Linda Pelaccio. Afterward, Anne wrote, “I was so moved by your project that I wondered how I would go about contributing a handwritten recipe that my grandmother passed on to me?” That, of course, goes right to the essence of this column: The reawakening of memory through the swerves and curves of a penned recipe. And her writing is beautiful… “When he popped open the tin, the sweet, distinct aroma caught him off guard. My father looked at me, stunned. As he unfolded the tissue paper, he tossed back his…” We are grateful to have Anne’s original recipe and wonderful photos of the story’s compelling characters.
Anise Cookies by Anne James
My beloved grandmother, Florence “Flo” James, was a good old-fashioned English cook. The knee-buckling aromatics of roasted potatoes, sage, and braised meat permeated every corner of my grandparent’s Yucaipa, California home. The upholstery smelled like pastry. Baking was her true love.
Flo was stout, with a fluff of white, curly hair and flushed cheeks, and resembled Mrs. Claus. Her cookie preparation for the holidays began as early as mid-October. Clad in her favorite pink gingham apron, she’d happily hand-beat batch after batch. By Christmas Day she would have plated over a dozen different delicacies: Ginger Snaps, Date Balls, Hazelnut Puffs, Walnut Stars, Coco Krispy Crunches, and Wedding Cakes (with her signature whole maraschino cherry tucked inside!). Don’t even get me started on her Fruit Cake.
And then there were her signature Anise Cookies. Flo baked these just for her son, George (my father). These particular sweets were a maternal gesture that began in the mid-1930s and stretched into my Dad’s adulthood. One whiff of their licorice scent transformed my father, an internationally renowned watercolorist and professor, into a giddy, little kid. Holding up a precious nugget as if to expose its facets to the light, he would annually rhapsodize on the elements of the perfect Anise Cookie; the separation of the milky white meringue from the caramelized, caked bottom; the bouquet released with each bite; their miraculous transformation as they aged into a delectable granite-like shard.
Often at my Grandma’s hip, I would be mesmerized while she prepared English staples; steak and kidney pie, Cornish pasties, Yorkshire pudding. She compiled her favorite recipes into a small, handwritten cookbook that she gifted to me, her only granddaughter. Thankfully, all of her cookie recipes were included. Then thirteen, I cradled the micro-tome in my hands, awed that she had entrusted me with her culinary secrets.
Grandma passed away in the late 1980s. Our family stumbled to fill the void left by our own Mrs. Claus. A decade later, as a graduate student crafting inexpensive Christmas gifts, I remembered the cookbook.
Flipping through the pages, there it was: her Anise Cookie recipe. The words, “Dad’s Favorite,” were carefully written in my teenage script at the top of the page. Grandma’s swirly, red-penciled handwriting talked me through it. Anise liquid was an exotic splurge. Beat the eggs “until fluffy for 45 minutes.” She mixed these by hand? “Let stand overnight”— I opted to chill them instead. That was my first handwritten contribution to her recipe.
Christmas morning, I presented my Dad with the tin. Though eye-ing his toddling granddaughter, he accepted it and distractedly popped open the lid. That sweet, distinctive scent escaped. His attention snapped back to the metal box.
He looked at me stunned.
Unfolding the tissue paper, he tossed back his head and let out a soft sob. Carefully, he picked up one of the creamy gems. He marveled at it for a moment and then took a bite.
With a deep exhale, he slowly chewed and grinned. The chaos of Christmas morning swirled on. But, there he sat, the open tin perched on his lap, blissfully transported: A son unexpectedly basking in the spirit of his mother.
I baked Anise Cookies for my Dad every Christmas after that. Before the mayhem of presents, I’d find a quiet moment to slip him his stash. It became one of our favorite father/daughter rituals. He’d pop a cookie into his mouth and hum with delight. We’d study that year’s batch, noting the subtle differences in texture, color, and fragrance. Then, he’d happily scurry away to hide his cookie booty.
I built on Grandma’s recipe, finessing her instructions with each pass; noting the impact of egg size, humidity, and parchment paper vs. aluminum foil. I tracked them, year by year, on attached Post-It notes. My last comment was dated December, 2014.
My Dad passed away in March of 2015. Though his appetite was diminished from years of chemotherapy treatments, he managed to nibble a cookie a day that final holiday season. It was a touchstone of a well-lived life; one that began simply enough, as a holiday treat baked by a young mother for her cherished first born and, unwittingly, setting into motion an unbroken streak that spanned over fifty years.
I didn't bake this last Christmas. It is still too painful. A well-meaning friend, however, knowing of our tradition, baked me a batch of my father’s beloved cookies. I graciously accepted, but waited until I was alone to open them.
One whiff of that licorice scent triggered a searing ache of grief. Too soon. Maybe next year.
Florence James’ Anise Cookies
My notes are in italics – A.J.
2 eggs – cold
1 c. sugar
1 ½ cups of sifted flour (I used organic flour)
¼ t. cream of tartar (bought fresh every year – found made a significant difference)
½ t. Anise Extract (ordered yearly from Spice House in Chicago, IL)
(Sometimes I added a touch more. But not too much or else it makes the dough droopy)
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Beat eggs until fluffy. (Until really fluffy-at least 10 min or so). Add sugar gradually. Beat for 45 minutes.
Sift together flour, baking powder and cream of tartar. Fold into egg mixture. Drop by teaspoon onto a greased and floured cookie sheet (I used parchment paper). Dough will be sticky.
Let stand overnight – Do Not Cover (I chilled in my fridge overnight uncovered). Chill for at least 10-12 hours.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. A cake forms on top if made right. I’d say the top is crunchy with a cake bottom. I used to make a double batch that my Dad would ration through January. But this is my Grandma’s original recipe. These measurements make about a dozen
A Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: This fascinating article by Kari Macknight Dearborn comes just in time for Canada’s huge 150th birthday party celebration on July 1st. Canada Day festivities take place throughout the country and wherever Canadians live abroad. Here, Kari shares her own glorious family history, and that of Canada’s edible icon. Her step-by-step photos for making the country's beloved butter tarts are at once mouthwatering and instructive. Kari, a senior producer at the Toronto advertising firm, Zulu Alpha Kilo, Inc., is a board member of Slow Food Canada and is currently studying for her WSET Diploma. She lives in Ontario with her husband, Paul, and two Hungarian Puli dogs, Luna and Tisza. Many thanks to Allison Radecki for securing Kari’s memories for us...and just in time for the party! Happy Birthday, Canada.
BUTTER TARTS BY KARI MACKNIGHT DEARBORN
As so many of my fellow Canucks count down to July 1st, and to what probably will be the largest national party of my lifetime — Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration of Confederation — we are daily bombarded, and in every conceivable medium, with Canadiana.
This fervor has never been seen in our land of quiet pride and polite patriotism, and it’s odd and awesome at the same time. Images of beavers and moose, maple leaves, hockey, and all other symbols of my native land, are everywhere this year. The entire country is red, white, and bleeding nostalgia.
Canada officially came into being July 1, 1867, in case you were wondering what the fuss is about, by being granted a confusing level of freedom from the British Empire. It’s complicated. Americans went about it slightly differently, I know. Canada’s separation from Britain was a lot less bloody, and our connection to the ‘Empire’ is still strong today as a result.
We remain a country with very British and French influences because these countries created Canada. We have two official languages and we’ve raised a bunch of the funny and talented famous people you love. But my story is not exactly meant to be a lesson in Canadian history.
Instead it is a story about a singular confection; a quintessential Canadian dessert, made with basic pantry staples — the butter tart. How it came to be such a part of Canada’s cultural identity, and my own, is at the heart of my handwritten recipe.
I was raised in Northern Ontario on the North Shore of Lake Huron, as a consequence of my father’s employ in the mining industry. My grandmother was an English war bride who married my Canadian soldier grandfather and came to Canada shortly after the end of the Second World War. They settled very close to what would become my hometown of Elliot Lake.
My mother comes from hard-working Scottish Hebridean farmers of the Presbyterian persuasion, many of whom were displaced by the Highland Clearances. They ultimately settled in the rich agricultural areas north of Toronto that resemble, topographically at least, their ancestral homeland, minus the blasting winds from the North Atlantic.
It was in these enclaves of fellow immigrant Scots, and other erstwhile Brits, where these folks baked for weddings, picnics, and church events with the humble ingredients they could most easily procure.
Canadian food historians claim the butter tart’s certain influences from the Scottish Ecclefechan tart and early Québecois pie recipes made with maple syrup and maple sugar, as well as Southern recipes for pecan pie. These reasons all make sense given our country’s history and the oral tradition of sharing recipes. The main difference with the butter tart seems to be the individual serving size. Additionally, butter tarts are runnier than pecan pie given the lack of cornstarch.
The earliest published recipe for the butter tart is from Barrie, Ontario, from 1900 in the Women’s Auxiliary of the Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook, attributed to one Mrs. Malcolm (Mary) MacLeod. Since my mother’s Aunt Marion was part of the auxiliary in Barrie in the post-war era, the written recipe here, in my mother’s hand, naturally resembles it.
These tarts were a precious part of my childhood at family gatherings but contained many (to me) vile raisins that I would meticulously remove one by one, wiping my hands on my clothes. For my wedding in 2008, since I am not fond of cake and my husband adores my mother’s version, I asked my mother to make dozens of mini butter tarts for my guests. Some of the tarts were even made sans raisins just for me, making it easier to keep my dress free of the gooey filling. My stance on raisins has since softened. And if the trend of butter tart wedding cakes ever takes off, you know where it began.
This recipe is classic, unfussy, and consistent but with a slightly loopy script. It’s sweet, and it has that nothing-extraneous Scottishness about it that I rely on. It’s my mum in pastry form.
My mum, a retired nurse, mailed me the original recipe to use for this piece, but I also have the email she sent me years ago when she transcribed it. Her recipe for the pastry dough (pate brisee) isn’t written down because it’s burned into her memory, and is also used for her amazing apple pies and much-beloved tourtière.
Butter tarts have become big tourist draws. We have a Butter Tart Tour in the Kawarthas area near where my mum grew up, and a Butter Tart Trail near the city of Guelph. Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival and Contest is held in Midland, Ontario, annually. Whether you add raisins or not, walnuts or pecans, nobody can really agree. Maple bacon versions and some containing coconut are popular variations on the traditional. Since I am a purist, I prefer mine with walnuts since pecans are not native to Canada, and would not have been cheap or easy to find here 100 years ago.
Happy Canada Day!
Butter Tarts (yields 12 tarts)
Note: You can use your own pastry dough recipe or purchase pie crusts.
Pastry for 2 pie crusts
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp white vinegar
½ cup melted butter
¾ cup raisins
¾ cup chopped walnuts
1. Set oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Grease 12 – 3” pie pans (muffin tins)
3. Roll pastry and place in pans
4. In a large bowl, beat eggs. Beat in brown sugar. Stir in vanilla and vinegar. Mix well and stir in melted butter. Fold in raisins and walnuts.
5. Spoon mixture into pans. Place pan on cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce to 350 and bake for another 25-30 minutes. Let cool.
A note from Curator Rozanne Gold: In this beautiful story about a memorable lemon cake (and Brunswick stew), Kelly shares her experience as both a pastry chef and as a devoted member of a tight-knit family. Kelly’s love of food led her to drop out of graduate school where she was pursuing a Master of Fine Arts to study baking (a girl after my own heart, I also dropped out of grad school long ago to pursue a career in New York’s food world. I later went back to get an MFA — who knows — so might Kelly). After ten years as pastry chef, Kelly now works at a specialty coffee roaster and coffee bar in Memphis, Tennessee, while she researches and writes about the history of baking and pastry in the south. Southern food ways are so in vogue that I await her gorgeous prose.
In the South, our relatives are our people.
My people come from North Carolina. They were farmers and owners of a general store. They lived in Northampton County, almost at the border of Virginia, where the pine trees were just as much a commodity as the peanuts and cotton.
My grandmother, Elizabeth Braswell Spivey, was born in Northampton County in 1925. She lived on a farm very far out in the country.
On the property was a long, rectangular cook-house and an adjoining family room with a fireplace, couches, and games. The cook-house had a large wood-fired brick oven that housed two large cast iron pots, and a cast iron, gas-fueled fryer that only was used for cornbread.
Starting somewhere in the ‘30s or ‘40s, my family has held a Brunswick Stew every year in the Fall. We would wake up early for an hour drive to my grandparents’ house, usually arriving around seven. The men hauled firewood to the brick oven and lit the fire. The women gathered in the cookhouse family room to peel pounds and pounds potatoes, and to empty huge cans of tomatoes into the cast iron pots.
Generally, the men did all the stirring with wooden paddles the size of boat oars, but as a defiant teenage girl, I refused to peel potatoes and insisted on stirring instead. I would sit on top of the warm bricks, next to the cast iron pots, and stir for hours. After three hours it was time to “take up the stew” and fry the cornbread.
I loved how we all came together and took hands as we gathered in a large circle. The head of the family (my grandfather and after he passed, my father), would lead us in giving thanks and each joined hand would gently squeeze the other before letting go.
Finally, we could reap the rewards for our work. Plates were filled with Brunswick stew, pulled pork, slaw, and fried cornbread. Then they filled again with brownies, pig pickin' cake, lemon pound cake, thick slices of pie, and occasionally, ice cream.
We made between 200 - 250 quarts of stew each year, to be shared with family and friends. It was kept in the freezer and sustained us all winter.
After my grandmother's death in 2013, I received boxes of her cookbooks and recipes jotted down on envelopes or advertisements for fertilizer. Some were just newspaper clippings. I received all of this during a time when, as a pastry chef, I was beginning to delve into my own history and re-create the desserts of my people.
The earlier recipes are written in cursive so neat you can almost see the lines of the grade school primer it was practiced in. The later recipes become smaller, cramped, and more hurried, making them illegible to the untrained eye. Sometimes there were just notes denoting "good" recipes.
As I worked my way through the scraps of paper and fragile books, I put the ingredients together in my head, tasting every dessert on the sideboard at Christmas and every contribution from my aunts at the annual Brunswick stew. But it was my grandmother’s lemon pound cake that was in evidence at every gathering.
The first bite was so good — the tart-sugary glaze on the pillowy, yellow-tasting cake. The second bite was to make sure that yes, you can taste yellow. To this day, it is the only cake my brother will eat.
My assumption that this cake was a made-from-scratch triumph was quickly shattered when I asked my mother for her copy of the recipe and saw that a box of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix and instant yellow pudding were two of the key ingredients. I wanted to make the legendary cake for my brother's birthday. This was years before my grandmother had passed and I was at the very beginning of my pastry career. (I’m now 33).
I tried to reverse-engineer it — omitting the instant pudding and cake mix (the horror!) and adding in real lemon zest and juice — but the results were never as good. Some things are best left alone. My grandmother understood, after all, that a cake is just a reason to gather together.
Lemon Pound Cake
Note: Kelly says that she often uses a Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment and beats the batter for 8 minutes. Her grandmother did it by hand for 10. Pour the batter into a large loaf pan that has been brushed with oil and lightly floured. Although the handwritten recipe does not include instructions for icing, Kelly prepares a thin glaze made from 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar and 2 to 4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.
1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1 box instant lemon pudding
2/3 cups water
1/2 cup Mazola oil
Lemon flavoring to taste
Put in mixing bowl and beat for 10 min.
Preheat oven at 325. Cook for 1 hour
Does better if you do not open the oven door until the hour is up.
Makes 1 cake
Kelly Spivey (left) and her grandmother, Elizabeth Braswell Spivey (above)
A note from curator Rozanne Gold: It is Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, 2017 and I am missing my mother terribly. It is especially poignant, then, to be writing this curator’s note. I am grateful to Allison Radecki for conducting this interview with me about my beloved “Ma.” Always, “Ma.” Marion Gold, my best friend, soul mate, guiding light. She died in 2006 and never got to meet my daughter, Shayna, whom we adopted at age 11-1/2 less than a year after my mother died. They would have loved each other deeply. My mother’s love of food was infectious, but it was another level of nourishment — of a more spiritual, humanistic nature — that fed me best. It is also meaningful to write this today (our 30th feature) on the first-year anniversary of “Handwritten Recipes."
ALLISON RADECKI: Since the first handwritten recipe profiled in this column was one that you penned and framed as a gift to your own mother, Marion Gold, for Mother’s Day in 1980, it seems fitting that we feature one of her own recipes today. Which handwritten recipe of your mother’s were you drawn to as you approached this holiday weekend?
ROZANNE GOLD: I have a recipe for my mother’s Garlic Broiled Shrimp — with a debatable “s” at the end. She really never said “shrimps,” but she might have questioned herself while writing the title. Her handwriting is as elegant and finum (a Hungarian word for refined that she often used) as she was.
I was excited about the clarity and straightforward simplicity of this dish. Although I never follow a recipe — ever — I followed this one with great results. Michael (my husband) and I ate the whole thing standing up at the counter and were almost giddy from its clean, pure flavors, its stunning plainness. The second time I made it, I embellished a bit — a bit of tarragon and a splash of wine — and ruined it.
That day, with great intention, I summoned her up so that I could see her standing in her kitchen in Queens. There was a smile at the edge of her lips, her shoulders gently sloping, like the curve of her “m” in minced. She minced fresh garlic with her small, favorite knife that was never sharp enough. Would she peel and de-vein the shrimp? I imagine her long piano fingers delicately removing the black vein along the curve of each shrimp’s back. And there was all that curly parsley, meant to be finely chopped. I mean, curly parsley! When was the last time I bought curly parsley? This was a dish for company meant to be served with rice. A box of Carolina Rice was as iconic to me as a Warhol soup can.
RADECKI: Where did your Mom keep her recipes? And where do you now keep hers?
GOLD: My mother kept her recipes in a blue kitchen binder decorated with simple and colorful illustrations of kitchen utensils and ingredients. It has large yellow envelopes as dividers in which you could stuff too many recipe cards. After she died, I found a stash of additional recipes in an old-fashioned tin, filled with blue-lined index cards all in her graceful handwriting festooned with her beautiful swoops and swishes: chicken cutlets, fresh string beans, sour cream coffee cake. The binder and tin now nestle together in the drawer of my pine kitchen table.
RADECKI: Did your mom like to cook? Did she cook often? What do you remember about her cooking?
GOLD: Every night. She cooked every night and made the things we loved. Cabbage and noodles, another dish of stunning simplicity, was my comfort food growing up. Mornings were made special with her apricot-filled ultra-thin crepes called palascintas; meatloaf was always in the shape of a heart.
My mother also made something she called “Tunk-a-lee,” soft scrambled eggs with tomato, pepper, and onion — very Hungarian flavors — but every culture seems to have a version. Another dish I loved was a stew of hot dogs, cut on the bias, with potatoes and onions in a ketchup-y broth. And pot roast. She made the most fabulous pot roast with so many onions, a bay leaf, and splash of dry vermouth. She made it all the time and later revealed that she hated pot roast.
My mother loved to entertain. She’d take white bread, cut the crusts off, and roll it paper-thin with a rolling pin — so thin, it became like pastry. She’d then cover each slice with creamy blue cheese spread and put a fat canned asparagus on it. They would get rolled up tight, brushed with melted butter, and baked. Oh, how many of these I used to eat before company came! Lethal.
RADECKI: How would you describe your relationship with your mother?
GOLD: Ours was an amazing love story. It would be impossible to describe all the joys in our life together, but there was lots of sadness and loss, turmoil and drama, too. But there was also lots of happiness that we shared in big and small ways. I liked the small ways best. Laughing until we cried, playing scrabble; cooking, doing things to please or surprise each other, or just talking ten times a day on the phone. There were trips and travels and innumerable nights of splendor at The Rainbow Room and Windows on the World. There were victories and milestones to celebrate. And I got a chance to write about her in many of my books and magazine articles, too. She was modest and never believed in "tooting her own horn,” and told me never to toot my own. But, nothing came close just to being together.
RADECKI: You have often said that your mother was “More Zsa Zsa than Julia.” Can you paint a picture of the mom you see in your mind’s eye?
GOLD: My mother was a seeker of wisdom and beauty. She was such a beautiful woman. She loved people. She loved children. It always felt like she was doing something special, wanting to please.
She grew up in Florida in a tiny town called Belle Glade, near Pahokee. It was just her, her mom, and her dad. They were poor, but she didn’t know it. She grew up happy. She was always a tall drink of water, though her bosomy mother was only four foot ten.
Mom escaped to the University of Miami, back when it was just one building. Her parents died in her early thirties within six weeks of each other. My mother told me that when her mother died, she felt as though her heart had broken. She carried a lot of sadness. There were deep feelings.
She was a teacher, a hospital volunteer and a medical assistant, but I think she wanted to be an actress. She could be the most glamorous person; a bit like Zsa Zsa.
On her 80th birthday, three weeks before she died, it took her quite a while to get ready. We weren’t going anywhere but she wanted to make it a special occasion. She was so weak but spent hours in her bedroom getting ready. When she finally came out, there were high heels, a mink jacket, and sequined glasses. She could hardly breathe, but she dressed up like a movie star. This is how she wanted us to remember her.
RADECKI: You and I often talk about how recipes — especially handwritten ones — ignite connections. In the spirit of sparking a memory or two, let’s play a quick game. Tell me the first thing that comes to mind about your mother when I say:
Scent: Onions and her own sweet perfume. We each had our own scent. I wore Rive Gauche. She was a sexy, sensual woman.
Sight: It’s summertime, and she’s in the backyard drinking an iced cold Heineken. It’s so out of character, but that’s what I see.
Sayings: "Kickups." If I acted out, she would say, "kickups." As in, "Watch out. You’re about to head into trouble."
Right before she died my mother said the most amazing things. Look deep inside your heart and you will find the answer. Have the courage of your convictions, even if you are wrong. Have more faith in life. Have fun! And love and care will make everything all right. That one is most important. I still keep them with me: in my wallet, handwritten down.
RADECKI: When, do you think, was your mom proudest of you?
GOLD: One night, we had a real New York City evening planned. She came to meet me in the city to hear Michael Feinstein at the Regency. She came in by taxi from Queens. It was a real moment, to see us together in that way, dressed to the nines. We became elegant and adult together. Yet it was a moment of exquisite recognition of our separateness.
RADECKI: When were you proudest of your mom?
GOLD: Although we could get so angry with one another, there was never a time I was not proud of her. That may be my deepest connection to her. I always felt so proud of her.
RADECKI: You’ve credited your mother for recognizing that you had a future in food, and urging you to pursue that passion, even at a time when women were not prominent in professional kitchens. How did she see your path and encourage you to do what you loved?
GOLD: When I was in college at Tufts, I got a phone call from my mom. She had just heard an interview with the Hungarian restaurateur George Lang. That was the very first time I heard the idea of a restaurant consultant. I was a dual major in psych and education, but the food, she knew. I mean, she let me become a bartender at age sixteen, when she knew it wasn’t legal.
My mother was the one to see that I was spending more time cooking in the kitchen than working on my Masters degree. I dropped out of graduate school and became the first chef to New York Mayor Ed Koch when I was twenty-three. She enjoyed visiting me at Gracie Mansion, but felt bad about the grueling hours.
Again, always wanting to please. There was a restaurant, Villa Secondo, in Queens where my parents would always go. But, one day my mother called me to say, “Rozanne! Secondo, it’s gotten so much better!” Years later, I found out who the new chef was. It was Lidia Bastianich. She knew! My Mom just knew. She had that food sense.
RADECKI: In 2009, a few years after your mother’s death, you bought and saved over six thousand cookbooks from the library of Gourmet Magazine and donated them to the N.Y.U. Fales Library in your mother’s name. What does it mean to you to see her name Marion Gold on the nameplate of every book in that Gourmet collection?
GOLD: It felt so full circle…so right.
Garlic Broiled Shrimp
Note: You can buy large cleaned, deveined shrimp. Reduce cooking time depending on size of shrimp. Do not overcook.
Two lbs. raw shrimps
½ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tsp. salt
½ cup chopped parsley
Arrange shrimps in shallow baking pan. Sprinkle with olive oil, garlic, salt, and half of parsley.
Broil about 4 inches from source of heat for 5 to 7 minutes on each side – Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
To see the rest of Rozanne Gold's "Handwritten Recipes," click here.
A Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: This dreamy essay comes from food writer and fabulous home cook, Allison Radecki, who describes her recent trip to Sicily in such a way that we experience an intimacy with her. Through her eyes we taste the pleasures of food and friendship, and get an up-close view of one of the world’s largest religious processions, La Festa di Sant’Agata, celebrated annually in Catania (Sicily’s second largest city) from Feb. 3rd-5th with the heart and soul of an entire community. Sant’Agata, the city’s patron saint, is also lovingly known as “La Santuzza” — the little saint — in the local Catanese dialect. Allison’s beloved friend, Mario, whose family home is in the Canalicchio neighborhood, teaches cooking at Catania’s“Piazza dei Mestieri,” preparing high school students to enter the restaurant world. They met while attending The University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy’s Piedmont region, years ago. Pasta alla Norma, Sicily’s quintessential dish is something Mario and Allison make every time they are together — a ritual they share whether in New Jersey or in Italy. I, too, remember eating Pasta alla Norma every day when my husband and I travelled to Sicily — an island of volcanic pleasures. Grazie mille to Allison for her beautiful handwritten recipe, and for the joy that accompanies it.
BY ALLISON RADECKI
All you needed to see were the words “Flash sale to Europe” in your e-mail inbox, and you started to daydream. In a swirl of logistics and calculations you manage to free up a few days of freedom and click on two words that always forecast adventure: BUY TICKET.
And you’re off.
The plane goes up and down and up and down again until you land at Catania-Fontanarossa Airport. And there he is, your brother from another mother, who just happened to be born in the shadow of Europe’s largest volcano, beside the sea. You stare at each other, in disbelief; with excitement; with love. After all, you have just made the seemingly impossible possible (at this particular moment in your life) and have three of the world’s greatest gifts before you: Friendship. Time. Sicilian food.
You are really here, on this island kicked into the Mediterranean by the toe of Italy’s boot. Mario’s car winds through the port, past freighters and petrol tanks. Soon, you are offered a taste of this new place, at a kiosk that overlooks a bobbing fleet of docked boats. With a press, a squirt, and a stir, you sip your first glass of “selz, limone e sale.” It tickles your lips and tastes like the marriage of a lemon grove and the salt water before you.
At home in New Jersey, you wrapped your neck in a heavy scarf and scattered salt on your steps to stop from sliding on the ice. But here, the sun is strong. You sit and sip espresso together in the shadow of stone buildings as Mario attempts to explain what you are about to experience. You contemplate what this street will look like for the next three days as the city stops to honors its patron saint, whose bones will be pulled on a silver carriage — up hills and down thoroughfares — drawn by an endless ribbon of white-clad devotees, as it happens every year. That very night, you twirl your fork in a bowl of spaghetti, cooked al dente, in an attempt to catch every creamy bit of sea urchin that remains in your bowl.
The next day is electric. Brass bands chase towering candelabras through crowds. Velvet curtains hang from high balconies. The saint’s face is visible everywhere, on street corner magnet stands and balloons that fly overhead. Amidst the call of trumpets and the shouts of candle sellers, you duck into a crowded bar and are handed “la raviola,” fried half-moons filled with sweetened ricotta. Powdered sugar snows down on your shirt and sleeves and you laugh.
The following morning begins at 4 a.m. with a long walk to the Piazza Duomo (parking during the Festa di Sant’Agata is — as you can imagine — a holy mess). And though the city is still in darkness, the streets are alive with footsteps, voices, and the whirr of the milk frothing for cappuccinos to be sipped by men and women dressed in white. At the mass at dawn, handkerchiefs wave and a city sings out to welcome its protector. That afternoon, you watch from a high perch, surrounded by Mario’s family and friends — Giogió, Saro, Claudia, Daniele, Daria — and nibble fat, golden arrancini, as the saint sails past on the street below.
That night, at his family table, Mario, an exemplary teacher, cooks “La Norma," the pasta dish of his city, named after the operatic masterpiece of Bellini, another jewel in Catania’s crown. And, even though he regrets that it is not eggplant season, (“when they will be sweeter and more delicious”) you try to memorize the way in which the slices are bathed in salty water to release their bitterness, and how he unites the pasta, tomato sauce, basil, fried eggplant and shavings of ricotta salata, so that the result seems to echo Mt. Etna, which smokes in the distance.
After a night where massive candles, like tree trunks, line the sidewalks of the city, the saint says her final farewell. That is, until next year, when it will all begin again. And soon, with a final coffee and a bear hug of an embrace, you board the plane to return home.
Domani. You wake up to a snowstorm which cancels work and offers you an unexpected day of rest. You are thankful. And, though you can hear the scrape of shovels on sidewalks as you slowly acclimate to the new time and your old life, you dream of eggplants and basil and start to think about dinner.
PASTA ALLA NORMA
Adapted from a recipe by J. Kenji López Alt
Note: The ricotta salata sold in the USA is not aged anywhere enough for the true flavor of this dish. Seek out an imported ricotta salata from Italy at a specialty market or combine equal parts sheep’s milk feta with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
• Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying and more for drizzling
• 2-3 small Italian or Japanese eggplants, the skins roughly peeled, tops and bottoms trimmed, cut lengthwise into ½ inch thick slices
• Kosher salt
• 3 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly crushed with the side of a large knife
• 1 (25 oz.) jar passata (tomato puree)
• 1 pound dry rigatoni or penne rigate
• A large handful of fresh basil leaves (for the sauce), as well as another handful of roughly torn large leaves for garnishing.
• Aged ricotta salata, finely grated
1. Place eggplant slices in a large bowl and fill with cold water. Add enough salt to the water and swirl with your hands so that the water tastes like the sea. Allow the eggplant to soak in the salted water for half and hour. This will both flavor the slices and allow the eggplant’s bitter flavors to drain out into the salted water. Drain the slices and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Heat a thumb’s thickness of olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add as much eggplant as fits in a single layer without overlapping. Cook until the eggplant is browned on both sides (but not dark brown or burnt). Transfer eggplant to a plate and set aside. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding olive oil as necessary, until all eggplant is browned.
3. Heat remaining oil until it shimmers. Add garlic cloves to the oil and cook, until fragrant, but not browned. Remove cloves from the oil and discard.
4. Add the tomato puree to the oil and cook, stirring constantly until evenly incorporated. Bring to a boil, and add a large handful of basil (stems and all) to cook into the sauce.
5. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is thickened into a sauce-like consistency, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt. When no one is looking, add a tsp. of sugar to add sweetness, if necessary. Remove the cooked basil from the sauce and discard.
6. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the ‘al dente’ package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Return pasta to the pot.
7. Add the sauce to pasta and toss to coat, adding reserved pasta water if necessary to thin sauce to desired consistency. Add eggplant slices and toss to combine.
8. Serve pasta immediately, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and garnished with grated ricotta salata and a handful of torn basil leaves. Serves 6
9. Think of Sicily.
Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: What a lovely surprise to receive this beautiful story all the way from New Zealand. Psychologist Charlene Beinart learned about “Handwritten Recipes” while listening to a podcast of “A Taste of the Past,” hosted by culinary historian Linda Pelaccio. The show, recorded in a hip studio at Roberta’s restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn, managed to tickle the tastebuds of a childhood in Durban (South Africa.) How I love that connection! Teiglach (also spelled taiglach) is a sweet treat eaten on Jewish holidays, but most popular for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). This recipe is particularly fascinating to me because the teiglach of my youth were small balls of pastry boiled in honey and stuck together in pyramids with bits of candied fruit. Gwen’s teiglach are, instead, large, oval rings of pastry afloat in amber syrup. Who needs to wait for a holiday?
BY CHARLENE BEINART
My mom, Gwen Beinart (nee Sackstein), born in 1936, has always been the heartbeat of my love for baking. Over her lifetime she gathered a collection of recipes handwritten onto small cards — some her own, and others gathered from family and friends, tested, tasted, and kept as part of her core repertoire.
Of Lithuanian and German Jewish heritage, I am the second generation born in South Africa, and the youngest of three girls. A typical Jewish immigrant history, my grandparents on both sides came to South Africa looking for a better life. They were very poor and my parents wanted nothing more than to give us the best possible life and education. My father was a self-made businessman and my mother was a very creative homemaker.
Of all of her recipes, there’s one that brings back the most vivid memories of delicious family time: Teiglach. Syrupy, crunchy, chewy donut-shaped biscuits, these sweet offerings were at the centre of every gathering and a symbol of the importance of the occasion being celebrated. This recipe was what my mother was best known for. My emotional attachment to it was so profound that it took me more than 20 years after her death to make them.
I am remembering, from my childhood in Durban, all the many conditions needed to make perfect teiglach. First: the weather. It must be a humid-less, sunny day, because the teiglach got dried out on my parents’ brick-paved patio before being boiled in syrup. Next: the equipment. You had to have the right pot, with a heavy metal lid and a brick placed on top to make it completely airtight. Then: no draughts! My sisters and I knew to never open the kitchen door and let in a draught when the teiglach were boiling on the stovetop!
I was always excited when my mom made them because it meant something important was happening! Most likely, we were going to Johannesburg to be with my aunts, uncles, and cousins for Rosh Hashanah or Pesach. Huge round Tupperware containers would be filled with my mom's teiglach and offered as gifts. Everyone made a fuss: teiglach were considered a great delicacy. Best of all, the containers were never returned empty — my aunts filled them to the brim with treats for our long car journey back to Durban.
After my mom passed away in 1991, we (my husband, three sons, and I) moved to New Zealand. Naturally, my mother’s treasured box of handwritten recipe cards came with us. But making teiglach felt far too daunting (emotionally and otherwise) to do on my own. Good results never seemed attainable.
Just a few years ago, when my sister Kerry visited from London, we agreed to set aside a day to (finally!) make my mom’s teiglach. We had her Kenwood mixer, the right heavy-lidded pot, her lengthy handwritten recipe, and we felt her loving guidance — along with that of our other sister Elona, supporting us from England.
The family was well briefed: no opening the kitchen door, no draughts!
Kerry and I put our memories together and got started. Kerry remembered the teigel shape and we molded the dough before setting them out to dry in the sun. I remembered the three-step process to stir the teiglach once they were boiling in the pot: lift the lid, wipe off the condensation, and stir. Do this all quickly (remember, no draughts!) Of course this resulted in many hot syrup burns — scars I wear with pride!
While I always knew making teiglach was far more than following a recipe, I was not prepared for the overwhelming feeling I experienced when we opened the pot of the boiling treats for the first of six stirs. The sweet, syrupy smell flooded me with lifelong memories of love, happiness, and of our beloved mom.
Mommy’s Teiglach (Gwen Beinart)
Note: Adjustments for gas stove made by Charlene
1 Tablespoon Oil
1 Tablespoon Brandy
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
½ teaspoon baking powder
Flour: 3 cups to start
Syrup: 2 lbs or 1 kilo tin golden syrup,
3 cups sugar, and 2 ½ cups water
1. Slightly beat 6 eggs with oil, add brandy, salt, orange rind and then baking powder.
2. Add 3 cups flour sifted (one at a time).
3. Take a little bit on a small heap of flour and work in flour until dough is soft, slightly sticky but pliable. Roll into shapes in floured hands.
4. Put into floured tray to dry – preferably in sun for approximately 20 minutes, s turning over after 10 minutes
5. In the meantime, put syrup, sugar and water on to boil in large heavy pot (or weighted lid).
6. When boiling fast add teiglach. Close lid and boil on high for 5 mins
7. Then turn down to medium/high (low to medium on gas) to boil for 30-35 mins (26 – 30 on gas) before lifting lid. (Very important to weigh down the lid!)
8. Wipe lid and stir in quick motion every 5 mins until done (an additional approximately 20-30 minutes, or six stirs). Total time on the stove is 1 hour 10 mins according to Mommy but on gas probably a total of 55 mins)
9. Special note for gas : after 1st 5 min fast boil move pot to medium size plate on medium gas for 30 mins. Then do the lid/wipe/stir @ 5 min interval either 5 or 6 times in total.
10. When done take off 1 ½ cups of syrup for next batch
11. Then put in 1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger andhalf to ¾ cup boiling water down the side of the pot.
12. Stir until bubbling stops and take out teiglach onto damp board or plate. Leave to cool.
13. Can roll in chopped nuts if desired.
14. Store in plastic air tight container.
15. If making further batch add ½ used syrup and ½ new to same other ingredients – usually better
Charlene Beinart works as a psychologist in private practice and her husband is a university lecturer. She writes, "Our sons have turned out to be far better cooks than me, and their interest in food history has captured my own. We are regular listeners of Linda Pelaccio's podcast, A Taste of the Past. Our oldest son is currently a MA student at Hebrew University, researching the lives and stories of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants to South Africa through the cookbooks they created and the recipes they passed down to their children."
BY BRETT RAWSON
Overcome by the idleness of a windowless office job, I grabbed a sheet of 8x11.5 paper from the printer tray. It was nine or so at night, late October, and my legs still burned a little. Two weeks earlier, I had completed the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R2R2R) — a forty-seven mile run in the Grand Canyon — with three other wild hearts. I had a hard time explaining the experience to people. The best I could come up with was, "It was brutal and beautiful." That's what I sent in an email to my parents, brother, and girlfriend when I finished. They were waiting to hear we'd made it out.
As I started to draw the route, I let the pen drift, while my mind recollected some of the twists and turns. There'd be no way to remember it all — in addition to the 47 miles, we experienced 20,000 feet of elevation change. There were plenty of times when, for lack of a better phrase, I was "out of it." I do remember the moment we could see the Colorado River. It was sunrise. The canyon was just beginning to wake up.
The South Rim sits at 7,000 feet, and to the base of the canyon, it was a 5,000-foot descent. My thighs felt the decline, but my left big toe felt like a flaming rod. After we crossed the Colorado River, we took a short breather to adjust our layers of clothes and do a "systems check." Only six miles in, a blister was bad news. I could feel the burning liquid swish back and forth in the newly-formed bubble. I mentioned this to one of my Grand Companions, Martin. An elite runner with a 100-mile race under his belt, he was quick to point out a simple solution — something I'd never considered in five years of distance running — lace my shoes the top hole. Otherwise, it's like being buckled into a seat that doesn't stay in place. How I've never encountered this issue before was beyond me, but at that moment, I was thinking of what was ahead of me: in ten miles, we'd the North Rim, ascend and then immediately descend, adding another 11,000 feet of elevation change.
"Want to take care of that blister now?" Martin asked.
"I'm ok for now," I replied. Suit yourself, Martin's eyes warned, and as the canyon thawed, I briefly contemplated the healing power of cutting off my big toe.
Anais Nin once said, "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect." The same could be said for mapping. I map to experience land twice, in the moment and in reflection. I find so many similarities between the two — writing and mapping — that I sometimes can't tell which I am talking about. I usually begin both without a plan. On a run, I never know how far I'll go. Sometimes, I end up running a single mile, stop, and call it quits. Other days, I am able to run 27 miles across bridges and through rush hour in Manhattan. While there are some days that I need to get in a certain number of miles — if I am training for a run — I view quantity in a macro-way: it's not about how far I run each time, but it's about how many times I run.
People that tells me my pace or distance, though I will wear one that tells time; I don't wear headphones or have a playlist at the ready; and I hardly ever set out with a plan. I just tie my shoes, head out the door, and within a few blocks, I usually have a pretty good idea how far I'll run that day, though I today will be a short or long run. Sometimes, I turn around a mile in. Other times, I take a few turns and end up linking together fifteen miles. And on a few occasions, what was supposed to be an ordinary four-mile run turned into a twenty-seven mile run around Manhattan or Seattle. These things — watch, statistics, expectations — get in the way of listening to my body. And I'm not trying to be some yogi here. I've hurt myself plenty of times because I pushed myself too far. I've snapped my ACL, rolled ankles, and broken bones. If anything, it was distance running that has taught me how to run shorter runs better.
To add photos of WomensMarch in just this post.
BY CARLY BUTLER
Seventy-one years ago, these two lovebirds — my maternal grandparents — were celebrating the month of love and St. Valentine himself. After getting married just after WWII, my grandfather and the rest of the Canadian soldiers were sent home to Canada, leaving the 40,000 British warbrides to patiently await passage to their new life, new country, and new love. This letter is one of 110 that changed the course of my life and sent me on my own quest of love.
Handwriting is often pegged for its romantic appeal. There's no denying the heart-tug of a handwritten letter. It contains an untouchable spark between two people that emojis simply cannot express — even though they are getting closer to our core feelings (how about that new happy drooling face, amirite?). In the spirit of love, we're getting sappy and happy with the hashtag #handsmitten. Starting right now, we want to hear all about the loves of your lives: the past, the (im)perfect, the messy, and the meaningful. Send us your handmade valentines, little notes of love, letters you've latched onto for years, or heirlooms that celebrate the communications of the heart. Don't be stupid in love; be cupid in love. #handsmitten
You can send them to email@example.com, or simply tag us on social media @handwrittenwork, and did we mention? Bring your hashtag game: #HANDSMITTEN
“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.” - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Handwritten Recipes and A Taste of the Past • A Radio Interview with Linda Pelaccio of Heritage Radio Network
"When was the last time you cooked
from a recipe from a handwritten card or paper?"
On February 2nd, we were invited to Linda Pelaccio's radio show, A Taste of the Past, which is a weekly journey through culinary history. It's housed in the back of Robertas, a true palace of pizza, and is the permanent home to Heritage Radio Network, which hosts over 35 weekly shows from their little wooden den.
Linda caught wind of Rozanne Gold's column, Handwritten Recipes, which does something similar to her radio show: exploring the connections between food and language. For forty-five minutes, we chopped it up about handwriting, recipes, and secret ingredients. To date, Rozanne has curated 28 of these Handwritten Recipes, and we have no intentions of slowing down. This living cookbook has a life of its own.
A note from curator Rozanne Gold: Anna Freiman, native of Lithuania, speaker of nine languages, and devotee of Russian literature, herself sounds like an elegant character in a Dostoevsky novel. After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust, she joined her older brothers in South Africa, and later emigrated to Israel. Her grandson Jonathan, a writer (and creator of a Jewish historical cooking blog), found Annushka’s recipe for pumpkin fritters in a red binder his mother has kept for thirty years. With great affection he says, “As a teacher, my grandmother’s handwriting in both Latin and Hebrew scripts was crisp and exact; the fluidity of the cursive was unmistakably correct and undoubtedly all her own.” Jonathan, whose roots spread from South Africa, Israel, Chicago and New York, expresses his cooking “as deeply Jewish and totally unboxed” — just like his exceptional grandmother. You can enjoy more of his writing and extensive research at www.flavorsofdiaspora.com
BY JONATHAN PAUL KATZ
Every fall and winter, I see advertisements and signboards for pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattés, pumpkin doughnuts — but none for the pumpkin dessert of my childhood: Pumpkin fritters — a popular dish from my native South Africa. This recipe, lovingly written by my late grandmother Anna “Annushka” Freiman (née Smit), is at the heart of this story.
Annushka died in 1999, but her legacy lives on in the tales about her and in the recipes she left behind. In the 1980s, she typed out a cookbook for the family — including her famous dill soup, fish curry, and the meat stews she learned to make in South Africa. In addition, she blessed everyone dear to her with dozens of handwritten recipes. Those given to my mother on her visits to Annushka in Israel, were gathered in a treasured red binder — one that would forever sit alongside the typed recipe book. These tastes of my childhood became a priceless link to the life of an extraordinary woman.
My grandmother was born in Panevezys, Lithuania in 1917, in the famous yeshiva town known in Yiddish as Ponevezh. She was one of nine children in a well-off family who made their living as bottlers of Pilsner beer. Like many well-educated Lithuanian Jews, she grew up in a multilingual environment — High German, Hebrew, Lithuanian, and Russian were spoken at school, while Yiddish was spoken at home. And she learned English and Polish at some point along the way. Annushka survived the Holocaust in the Kaunas Ghetto and Bergen-Belsen, but tragically lost her first daughter, her first husband, and most of her siblings. After the war, she moved to South Africa, remarried and had three children, including my mother. In the mid-1960s, she moved to Israel and taught Hebrew.
Soon enough, Annushka became well-known for her prowess in the kitchen. The dishes she made were hardly traditional — she had a love for Middle Eastern cuisine and the Afrikaner and Indian specialties she learned in South Africa. Other recipes harkened back to her roots: Gefilte fish — peppery, in the Lithuanian tradition — or her aromatic dill soup.
She brought many recipes from Lithuania, but mostly enjoyed the black rye bread and farmer’s cheese that were the mainstays of the Lithuanian Jewish diet for centuries. I am certain that the tastes of her childhood carried over into her cooking — hence her pumpkin fritters are less sweet than many of their counterparts among other South African communities. They are also far more elegant — befitting a literary woman who could read, write, and speak nine languages and was known for her elegant demeanor. (As a young woman, she was also known as “Annushka di Sheine,” Annushka the Beautiful, for her elegance and beauty.).
My grandmother spoke in allusions with frequent references to Dostoyevsky. Ten hours of her mellifluous words are available at the Yale University Library as proof. Her descriptions of the detritus of everyday life recalled the great works of Yiddish and Russian literature, imbued with a folk wisdom all her own. But her recipes begged for a bit of wisdom of one’s own — be it the dollop of sour cream to add to the dill soup, or ingredients, or measurements, which had been omitted or simply “forgotten.”
My grandmother died when I was a child, but I distinctly remember making her pumpkin fritters with my mother in our family’s cramped New York City kitchen. (I “helped” by putting things into the bowl). My mother was always looking at the recipe on the counter as she mixed the batter, and the smoke from the cooking oil filled the apartment with a sweetly burnished smell that I still associate with autumn. On one very rainy day, I remember how the smoke looked like an extension of the cloud outside the window.
When I was 20, I spent a few months in South Africa doing archival research in winter which, in South Africa, takes place June through August. While there, I had the chance to eat pampoenkoekies – Afrikaner-style pumpkin fritters — at a coffee shop in the Cape Town neighborhood of Rondebosch. And though they did not taste exactly the same as the dish of my youth — they were a good deal sweeter, with a touch of clove — the bite pulled me into a Proustian reverie.
Poignantly, I, too, have just discovered that Annushka had “forgotten” an ingredient — and I struggled to make the recipe as written, watching the fritters disintegrate before my eyes. My mother advised that my grandmother always included flour in the mixture, but alas, there was none in the recipe. I marveled to find this omission and Annushka immediately came to life. (Handwriting is so often indicative of what is not written.) And as I slowly stirred the flour into the bowl, I felt a small nudge, and heard her whisper “Enjoy in good health.”
The recipe, as written in Annushka’s teacher’s hand, with my additions in parentheses.
Pumpkin Fritters • Your loving “Sheine”
2 pounds raw pumpkin
[1-1/2 cups sifted flour]
1 heaped tablespoon sugar
½ level teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence [author note: vanilla extract]
1 level teaspoon cinnamon
2 [level teaspoons] baking powder
Peel and slice pumpkin. Cook slowly in very little water till soft (about 20 minutes). Strain off water and mash up very well into a pulp. Cool it completely.
When cool, add slightly beaten eggs (just with a fork) and then add the balance of the ingredients, but the baking powder is added last.
Drop tablespoonful[s] into shallow oil (not too hot, as they burn quickly). Fry till golden brown on both sides. Makes 40-50 fritters.
Note: The fritters make a delicious dessert and can be served with cinnamon and sugar. They keep well in the fridge for quite a few days – if not eaten up immediately.
Bete’avon ulabri’ut! [Bon appétit and to your health!]
Instead of cutting and pasting articles, we literally cut and pasted letters and images from magazines, ripped card stock to usable parts, squeaked magic markers across poster board gloss, put thought to ink, which we'll take to the streets tomorrow. This felt worlds apart from the self-congratulatory slacktivism I've worried I've become prone to. This was taking action–and this is what handwriting can do. It is personal. It is political. It is individual. It is community.
Handwriting speaks in our voice, and our voices are speaking up.Read More
Edyson King Julio teaches creative non-fiction writing class at Rikers Island. For his students, the pen and paper is their only outlet. It's less about the actual writing they produce, he told us, but more so how they experience the process, and how the process helps them understand decisions they've made in their lifetime. During the two-hour classes, he prompts discussions for his 13 students around politics, community, and identity. The students carry the conversations in directions unimagined. Edyson sits down, listens, and just writes. The above are a few of the things his students said in a recent class.
In the fourth grade hallway of St. Stanislaus Kaska Catholic Academy in Williamsburg, there is a row of handwritten dreams.
Written inside a cloud, each one begins at the edge of the historical echo: I have a dream...
The dream above? It starts with a call to stop littering in parks. "If you see trash on in the park, don't just look at it, pick it up and throw it in the trash!" And then it expands: "Another example of how to stop pollution is to ride bikes or walk more because cars create carbon dioxide." These kids dream big, but that's because they see the larger picture.
Are some of these dreams political? Yes, but only because they are personal:
"I have a dream that everyone can have equal rights. For me equal rights means all girls will have the opportunity to get the same education as boys which is still not possible in many countries. It means the same pay because we all work equally as hard as should be paid fairly. It means people, no matter the color of their skin, will be included and not discriminated against. I Have a Dream that we will stand together as one."
The thing about these dreams, and this handwritten project, is that it's not just some thing these students do once a year. And it's not just an activity to keep kids busy, or to check off a curricular box. At St. Stan's, handwriting is core to the curriculum because it is fundamental to a student's growth, development, and understanding. It is through the act of writing by hand that students come closer to themselves, our history, and each other.
"The MLK writing assignment was a way for students to envision a world where all people of all backgrounds and ethnicities could live in peace and harmony," says 4th Grade Teacher Mrs. Zito. "The writing assignment was followed by a film clip of a young MLK and the beginning of the civil right movement."
On our visit, we had the chance to meet and talk with the driving force of the academy: Principal Christina Cieloszczyk.
"We believe that even in these times of increasing dependence on internet and social media," says Mrs. C, "connections between people, handwriting — namely script — is definitely not a lost art. Our students are taught script beginning in 2nd grade. They polish up the skill in 3rd grade so that by 4th grade, the expectation is that the majority of their work is done in script."
Each hallway is evidence of this. Handwriting, and not just in script form, is everywhere.
We know education is the key to unlocking doors. We know handwriting benefits the brain on neurological and physiological levels. We know an understanding of the past strengthens our ability to understand the present. And we know that engaging students with the issues of today prepare us, and them, for those that lie ahead. We hope the selection of letters below will bring you a little bit of energy, and re-ignite your dreams, if they're not already on fire.
With thanks to St. Stan's Board Advisor Tatiana Serafin for telling us about this lovely project, and for inviting us in to take photographs, and get to know one school that takes handwriting to the heart.
A Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: Allison Radecki first met Safiya Oni Brown during a baby-wearing workshop for new moms with wriggly infants in their arms. Allison, with her newborn Tabitha, sat in a circle while Safiya, a holistic health counselor and child whisperer, demonstrated how baby-wearing could calm even the crankiest kid into a happy state. Years later, their paths crossed over a kombucha drink that Safiya had prepared, and Allison asked for a healthy recipe for the New Year. Gramms’ banana bread was reborn. Her original is here (prepared and photographed by me), along with Safiya’s update. I love the verve of Safiya’s powerful penmanship, and of the story told.
BY SAFIYA ONI BROWN
This recipe was given to me by my Gramms, Cecilia Sylvester Jett, who, after my husband, was my favorite person in the world. Gramms, my mother’s mother, was an amazing cook. But after becoming a vegetarian, she focused more on health and less on aesthetics, and in later years was known for her nut and celery loaf (a holiday favorite), and her famous banana bread.
Gramms was born in Detroit and enjoyed clipping recipes from the Sunday Detroit Free Press. Because we are a family of foodies, she often invited me to her room to explore a recipe she found in the paper. I remember going through the Betty Crocker Children’s Cook Book, from which I made every recipe that did not involve meat.
My parents became fascinated with health and nutrition after visiting a Seventh-day Adventist Church in the early 1970s. They switched their diets almost immediately, and when they returned to Michigan, my Mom was glowing with all the knowledge she had accumulated. It made sense to both of my uncles who were in the medical field, and they became vegetarians, too.
Gramms was beautiful. She carried herself with authority and lent a helping hand to many people, whether they were renters at her different properties or just folks in her neighborhood. She was a social worker while raising her seven children. She cherished everything involving her grandchildren. Until I was ten, she gathered all thirteen of us to enjoy at least a week together as a family, going on trips and spending holidays at her house.
For decades, I kept her recipe for banana bread on top of my fridge, hidden, so that it didn’t get lost. The original recipe, from the Detroit Free Press, is scribbled in my own writing. I took it down during a phone call to Gramms before one of the many dinner parties I loved to throw in high school and college.
This banana bread was the spark-plug for a small business idea that generated extra money after college. I also used her recipe as a base for zucchini-and-carrot spice bread that became a great seller as part of a line of all natural, organic sweet breads. I sold them to juice bars, cafes, and all-natural eateries. Eventually I gave this up because it was lots of work and barely profitable, but it was fun, and certainly a wonderful connection to my grandmother. It spurred me to study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
In addition to the intoxicating perfume of the wonderful banana bread that would waft from her kitchen, I am reminded of another favorite fragrance as I write this: that of sun-warmed tomatoes, straight from her garden. We would eat them sliced in sandwiches, lightly salted and peppered, with a farm-fresh egg on Ezekiel bread. No doubt, these vivid memories informed my career choice later on — linking food and well-being.
Gramms died when my son, who is now 8, was just six months old. She was on her deathbed when I got a frantic call from my mom. She feared Gramms would die before I could see her. That night we drove nine and a half hours to Detroit to share her last moments. As I gently performed reiki on her frail body, I could feel all of the hurt and gnarled memories evaporate. She died in peace seven minutes later.
I now make Gramms’ banana bread during winter holidays but also whenever I want to bring an edible gift somewhere. The reaction is the same every time: “OMG this is so good, can I please have the recipe?”
Here it is. And, Happy New Year.
Safiya’s Banana Bread
½ cup whole wheat flour or spelt flour
½ cup flax meal
½ cup oat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup organic butter (at room temperature)
8 tablespoons date sugar
1-¼ cup mashed bananas
¼ cup organic yogurt
8 tablespoons date sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In one bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together first five ingredients. In another bowl blend together the butter, date sugar, and egg. Mash bananas, measure yogurt and set aside. Alternate mixing the creamed sugar mixture, mashed bananas, and the yogurt into the flour mixture until the batter is incorporated. Pour mixture into an ungreased 9 x 5 x 3 in. loaf pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes. For muffins, bake 30 minutes.
Suggestions: Add 1 cup of crushed walnuts. When bananas become too bruised, throw them in the freezer for your next batch of banana bread.
Safiya Oni Brown is a Quantum Healer, Whole Food Family Counselor, Child Whisperer, Universal Life Minister, Baby-Wearing Aficionado, Fermentation Expert, Holistic Health Counselor and the Co-Owner of Quantum Kombucha & Dr. Brown’s Healing Water. She specializes in stress reduction, illness recovery, and natural family rearing through whole food preparation, fermentation, and Quantum healing. For more information on Safiya visit www.radiantalchemy.org