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.


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


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.

Cuban Bread

If you are one of those people who avoids complicated bread recipes and hates to knead dough, this recipe is for you. You stir four ingredients into water, let the dough rise, roll it out and bake yourself an absolutely delicious bread that reminds me of loaves we bought and devoured when a friend and I spent a week in Paris, France, many years ago. It is so simple to make and so good to eat that this bread should be in every cook’s repertoire.

I found the recipe by chance while browsing through The James Beard Cookbook which I found at a thrift shop several years ago. The book appeared in 1959, and our paperback copy was printed in 1964 when it sold for seventy-five cents. It is in perfect condition and probably cost me a quarter. This recipe alone makes it worth twenty times as much.

The five-hundred-plus pages of this little book are filled with at least a thousand recipes for everything from angel food cake to sautéed zucchini. The section on meat alone (excluding fish, shellfish and poultry) is one hundred twenty-two pages long. If you want a compact book to guide you through recipes for almost any standard western European cuisine, this little book would be a good choice. It is out of print, so you may have to hunt for a copy, but it’s worth it.

Meanwhile, here is how to make James Beard’s Cuban bread.


2 cups water
1 T sugar
2  1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. yeast
4 – 6 cups flour
Corn meal to sprinkle on baking pan


Heat two cups of water until it is lukewarm and pour it into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, salt and yeast and allow the yeast to proof. Add a cup of flour when the yeast starts to bubble and stir thoroughly.

Add more flour a cup at a time until you have a smooth dough. Add the flour in smaller amounts when the dough begins to stiffen. When the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball, cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set the bowl in a warm draft-free place until the dough has doubled in volume.

Start a tea kettle of water heating when the dough has raised nearly enough and sprinkle corn meal generously on a baking sheet.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Deflate the dough and divide it into two equal parts. Turn the parts to coat the surfaces with flour and use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a ten by sixteen-inch rectangle. Roll the dough into loaves about sixteen inches long and place them on the baking sheet.

Slash each loaf with a sharp knife in two or three places, paint the loaves with cold water and put the baking sheet on the center shelf in a cold oven.

Turn on the oven and set it to 400º. When the oven heat has reached two hundred twenty-five degrees, pour a half inch of boiling water in a nine by thirteen-inch baking pan and set the pan of boiling water on the lower shelf in the oven.

Bake for thirty-five minutes. Check for doneness with an instant- read thermometer. The loaves are done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a loaf reads 195º. If you don’t have a thermometer, tap on the bottom of a loaf. If it sounds hollow the bread is done. If it is not, bake it for another five minutes.

NOTES: Beard does not specify any particular type of flour. I suggest starting with two cups of bread flour and adding enough all-purpose flour to finish making the dough.