Today in American history…Louisa May Alcott was born in 1832. If you are ever in Concord, MA please stop by The Orchard House. It is the home of the Alcott family and is where Louisa wrote the beloved ‘Little Women.’ More information about The Orchard House is here: http://www.louisamayalcott.org
While researching on what to make in the kitchen today – I came across a delightful (and easy!) recipe for Gingerbread that was used during the Civil War era. If they could, families of the Union soldiers would often send small care packages of gingerbread, socks, soaps and other food items from home. Since Gingerbread required molasses, it was a popular staple to make being that molasses was much cheaper to purchase than sugar in the Civil War era. This is why Molasses Cookies were also a popular item back in this era.
1 tablespoon of butter (used for greasing the pan)
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 cup of butter
1 1/4 cups of molasses*
1 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon of allspice
1 cup of very hot water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ square baking pan with the butter (1 tablespoon). In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, soda and spices, and cut in softened butter to the four mixture with a fork. Combine molasses, egg and water in a small mixing bowl. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well. Pour the batter into a baking pan and bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes 9 servings. (Source: http://www.totalgettysburg.com)
*It seemed as if everyone in town was making something with molasses this weekend and after going to 3 stores…I relented and looked online for a molasses replacement (who knew that molasses was so popular in my small town??!!) Here is what I used as a replacement for molasses in this recipe:
1 1/4 cup dark corn syrup (you can also use honey or maple syrup)
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword: His truth is marching on…
A song that has been sung over and over again in our Nations history and is truly timeless. I remember as a child singing these words with my small hand over my heart while gazing at the American flag. It has always been my favorite patriotic song – the words are so meaningful and beautiful.
In later years, the words to the song had a stronger meaning to me when I was at the Pentagon a week after the horrific day on September 11, 2001. I attended a ceremony with thousands of others, as we all gathered to try to make sense of what had transpired the week before and to mourn our fallen comrades. President and Mrs. George W. Bush were on the stage during the ceremony when this song was played and all began to sing the words, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…” and I will never forget the looks of sorrow and anguish on President and Mrs. Bush’s faces and how the tears streamed like waterfalls down their cheeks. This is something that I will never forget for the rest of my life and I felt that the words were relevant on that day as it was back in 1861 when Julia Ward Howe penned the famous lyrics.
Let’s just take a moment out of our day today and be thankful for our Republic – which is still marching on. Regardless of what transpires in the world and within our own borders – we should cherish our country and one another and always remember the lyrics to this song that was penned many years ago by the wonderful Julia Ward Howe.
We wanted to do something special tonight in the kitchen to honor and remember the wedding anniversary of Abraham and Mary Lincoln who were unitedin marriage on November 4, 1842.
I have read ALOT of books about the lives of both Abraham and Mary Lincoln and what has always seem to peak my interest about these two is how they both came from such diverse backgrounds – she grew up with servants and living in a beautiful home in Lexington, Kentucky while he was born in a log cabin in the backwoods of Kentucky. Somehow they simply found one another and with the trials and tribulations of courtship (their previous engagement was broken off and her family was not thrilled about her marrying someone “beneath” her) they decided that in the end, they simply wanted to be together.
Mary Lincoln made a white cake for Abraham Lincoln while they were courting and it was one of his favorites after they were married. So, with yesterday being their wedding anniversary, I felt it was very fitting to make something that was dear to both of their hearts (and their taste buds!)
The recipe that I used was from the book, Lincoln’s Table, by Donna D. McCreary and was adapted by Janice Cooke Newman.
Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake
1 Cup blanched almonds, chopped in a food processor until they resemble a coarse flour
1 Cup butter
2 Cups sugar
3 Cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 Cup milk
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan.
Cream butter and sugar. Sift flour and baking powder 3 times. Add to creamed butter and sugar, alternating with milk. Stir in almonds and beat well.
Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Stir in vanilla extract.
Pour into prepared pan and and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Turn out on a wire rack and cool. When cool, sift confectionary sugar over top.
A basic white frosting sprinkled with almonds was also popular.
There have been so many books that have influenced by life and most of them have been written before I was born – like before my grandparents (early 1900’s) time. I find that reading ones thoughts and words from a time so long ago allows me to almost time travel to an era that is so foreign to me but yet also so familiar. One of the books that has heavily influenced my life is Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by the wonderful author Harriet Beecher Stowe. In a time that our country was in an upheaval and the whispers of war between the states were kindling, Harriett Beecher Stowe did something that was extremely brave in writing a book about the detriments and heartbreak of slavery. When the book was published in 1852, it went on to become the best selling novel of the 19th century – and then it went on to become the second best selling book of the century (the Bible, of course, was the first). Some say that Harriett Beecher Stowe’s book even “fanned the flames” for the Civil War. To learn more about Harriett Beecher Stowe and her remarkable life, you can visit the Harriett Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
(Engraving by Francis Hall after the original by George Richmond n.d.)