“Judith” is a chapter from “Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany” by Broude and Garrard. In this chapter, Garrard entails the subtelties of the discussion we started last night. If you’d like to know more about the story of Artemisia Gentileschi and the heroic/monumental women in her paintings.
The Triple Negation of Colored Women Artists by Adrian Piper, orginally published in Next Generation: Southern Black Aesthetic, 15–22. Winston-Salem, N.C.: Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, 1990.
A respondent asked me about the recipe I reprinted on the Survey of Cook Book Habitry. The original recipe, dated April 1968, is long lost, I think. This version of the recipe has been around for decades, since the early 1990s. I’ve been carrying this copy around since I was Patty Blasko and living in Oakland California. It has traveled thousands of miles, crammed into my first edition Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book.
You can see evidence of my mom’s kitchen on this recipe. She cut it out, like other recipes that worked for her, then imparted her own notes on the original. Her perfect cursive 8″ rounds hangs over the teaspoon of vanilla. Mom stapled the original magazine copy to a sheet of letterhead from our family store “Mary Jo’s Grocery,” then 3-hole punched it for her blue binder. Mary Jo’s 1-inch binder is what I’d call an auxiliary cook book, unpublished, unique and variable. Boxes of index cards fall into this category of cook book, too. There are often wonderful handwritten recipes in auxiliary cook books.
Mary Jo with two of her daughters Patty and Mary Grace, in front of our family grocery store. This photo was taken in 1969, less than year after The Big Occasion Cake recipe was published by Better Homes and Gardens.
Growing up, The Big Occasion cake was as regular as April. It was my father’s favorite birthday cake, he loved anything with pecans. When they were oven toasted in butter, like for this recipe, it was decadent to him, almost sinful.
Mom would bake The Big Occasion Cake other times, too. I can remember chopping the dusty pecans and closely monitoring them in the oven. My job was to toss them three times, making sure to cover every nut in some melted butter. Then I’d gauge when to pull them out, judging by the smell of them toasting… to just the right doneness.
I could never understand why dad would choose nuts over chocolate or banana. But I would enjoy eating The Big Occasion Cake and making it for him when I lived within baking proximity. Baking proximity can be hundreds of miles, by the way. I recall once baking The Big Occasion cake in my Queens New York apartment and driving through the night to deliver it in Johnstown accompanied by a surprise song.
Of course we’re looking at a digital scan of the photocopied recipe. The actual recipe is on my dining room table. I baked the Big Occasion cake last weekend, with walnuts. Dad would have tolerated but not approve of my substitution, as ever.
Cook books are not just tools in a kitchen. They are repositories of memories, evidence of meals consumed long ago, and promises to cook again. Time escapes us in an inherited cook book through the suggestion of future gatherings around our grandmother’s foods. Cook books hold tried and true recipes, while also posing the possibility of making something new. They entertain and educate through histories, geographies and substitutions. Cook books can be regional, about one food pathway, collective efforts, or of a restaurant.
The Survey of Cook Book Habitry seeks to enrich our appreciation of cook books by inviting conversations about how we use them
Cook Book Habit: Her cook books hold recipes she’s collected from different places including ones torn from product labels, cut from magazines and written on index cards. This one is torn from a magazine, stapled to a piece of stationary from the family grocery store, then photocopied.
The Survey of Cook Book Habitry will be administered live at Classic Elements in Johnstown PA on May 28, 2021 from 10am to 2pm. There are two other ways to take the survey if you can’t join me in the shop.
First, and this is my preference, download and print out the PDF version of the survey. Respond to the questions by hand and mail it to The Habitorium c/o Classic Elements, 345 Main St, Johnstown PA 15901. If that doesn’t work for you, reply electronically; take the Survey of Cook Book Habitry online.
The Survey of Cook Book Habitry closes on June 17, 2021 for reporting purposes. Responses received by the close date will be distilled into a Report on Cook Book Habitry. Provide your address, electronic or postal, to receive a copy of the report. Survey replies received after June 17 are very welcome, but will not be included in the report.