Virginia Waffles

I found this recipe in a cookbook that makes me uncomfortable. The Southern Cook Book of Fine Old Dixie Recipes was published in 1935 by Lillie S. Lustig, S. Claire Sondheim and Sarah Rensel. Chances are good that I would have enjoyed meeting these ladies and tasting some of the dishes they cooked from recipes in this little book.

If our meeting had occurred in the 1930’s I doubt that I would have thought the authors were prejudiced against blacks or that the drawings and snippets of poetry that accompany the recipes were racist. However, when I read

“There was a little Alabamy coon
An’ he ain’t been born very long:”

illustrated by a sketch of a black baby held by his mother, I think that most Americans today would agree that calling a human being a coon is disgusting.

I have met and interacted with people in states formerly part of the Confederacy who were racists, but I also know southerners who sent their children to public schools rather than Segregation Academies. We have elected Presidents who fought for civil rights for all citizens and used their bully pulpit to denounce racism. Four of them were from states that fought to preserve slavery—Missouri, Texas, Georgia and Arkansas.

Our country is a better place today than it was eighty years ago because thousands of brave people have risked their lives to fight racial injustice. I have known one of them personally. Ed Ketcham, a former minister at our church in New Richmond, was one of the freedom riders in Alabama. Before our evenings of duplicate bridge in Woodbury, Ed shared some of his memories of that summer in 1965.

There are people like Ed still fighting to make our country even better. They are women like Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer. They are young athletes like fifteen-year-old Anthony Borges who was shot five times while blocking the door to a classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They are the thousands of students demonstrating to make our schools and country safer in spite of the insults and threats from people who disagree with them. Fifty years from now, our great grandchildren will shake their heads when they learn about the things we think are important today.

We are all part of the times we live in. Understanding this, I can appreciate the genius of the founders of our country, even though many of them owned slaves; the courage of the pioneers who settled the wilderness, though they stole the land from its native inhabitants; and the poetry of T.S. Eliot in spite of his anti-Semitism.

Thus, I think that we need to recognize the contributions of all Americans, even those from people whose prejudices we find objectionable. Blacks, whites, reds, browns and people of every shade between have enriched our country and our lives, and that includes the ladies who compiled the Southern Cook Book of Fine Old Dixie Recipes. Here is a tasty variation on waffles from their book.

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup white corn meal
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 T sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
4 T melted butter

PROCEDURE:

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and stir the corn meal in gradually. Cook it for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.

Bring the eggs and milk to room temperature while the corn meal is cooking, and melt the butter. Preheat the waffle iron.

Transfer the cooked corn meal to a mixing bowl and stir in the milk. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the liquid ingredients by thirds, stirring well between each addition. You can add a little extra milk if the batter is too thick.

Separate the eggs. Stir the yolks and butter into the batter and beat the whites to stiff peaks in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Fold the beaten egg whites into the batter.

Bake the batter in your waffle iron until each waffle is puffed and golden brown.

Serve with butter and maple syrup.

NOTE: If you are looking for a waffle recipe that doesn’t include corn meal, here is one for Mennonite Waffles.

Esther’s Pflaume Brei

German Hausfrauen tell their busybody husbands “Viele Köche verderben den Brei” while wives in the United States remind theirs that “Too many cooks spoil the broth” or depending on what their mothers taught them, they might say “the soup” or “the pudding.” All these words refer to something good to eat if made by a cook who can concentrate on the recipe.

Change the genders if you will, but I learned this proverb from my mother who shooed me out of the kitchen with it if I was in her way, so I think of it as something women say to men. “Brei” is the standard or High German word for this kind of food, but in Low German, people say “Prei” or use an entirely different word, “Mus,” which is often translated as mush, but which also describes foods that we would call soups, though probably not broths.

“Pflaume” is easier, since the same word is used in both High and Low German for the purple fruit we call a plum. Thus, “Pflaume Brei,” “Pflaume Prei” and “Pflaume Mus” mean the same thing: Plum Soup. This is a German version of a sweet soup that is very popular in the Scandinavian countries. Anyone living in northern Wisconsin or Minnesota must have tasted or at least been offered Swedish “Fruktsoppa,” Norwegian “Sot suppe” or Finnish “Hedelmäkeitto.” In the United States fruit soups are usually served as desserts, but in Europe you will also find them on breakfast buffets in good restaurants.

Since Jerri’s Mennonite grandparents came to the United States from the Ukraine but spoke a dialect of High German, Jerri’s mother, Esther, made Pflaume Brei. Jerri’s versions of Pflaume Brei varied from time to time because she never wrote down the recipe. However, her sister-in-law Joyce gave us a copy of Esther’s recipe that Jerri found in one of her recipe boxes, so we can share it with you.

Think of Pflaume Brei as a Mennonite comfort food. Esther’s grandchildren loved it. Tricia, one of her granddaughters, once told Jerri that it was her favorite food. Fruit and dairy are both good for you, so here is how to make something that tastes good and is also good for you.

INGREDIENTS:

1 30 oz. can whole purple plums in heavy syrup
1 cup water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar
Enough sour cream to make a pourable liquid

PROCEDURE:

Drain the plums into a three quart saucepan. Remove the seeds and mash the fruit. Stir the mashed plums into the syrup and add one cup of water. Bring the pan to a boil over moderate heat while you make the thickening.

Use a fork to blend the flour, corn starch and a half cup plus one tablespoon of sugar together in a small bowl. Stir a quarter cup of sour cream into the dry ingh redients, then add more sour cream by heaping tablespoonfuls until you have a thick mixture but one that you can pour into the plums.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool for about a minute, then stir in the thickening. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring the Pflaume Brei back to a boil, stirring continuously with a fork.

Continue cooking and stirring for about three minutes to make sure that the corn starch is thoroughly cooked. Taste and add a little more sugar if necessary.

Serve warm or cold.

NOTES: Add sugar to suit your taste. Kids like it sweeter than we do.J