Made With Love

Museums tell history of a people’s journey ... so does my kitchen

The doors of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture will open for the first time this weekend on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., 13 years after it was established by an Act of Congress.

There will be personal items of notable African-Americans and 12 exhibits, covering slavery to present day. One exhibit will display desks from the Hope School where African-American children were educated in Pomaria, S.C., during the mid-20th century. A wooden knife and fork belonging to Harriet Tubman will also be on display.

A few years ago, Penn Center teamed up with the Smithsonian Institute for a preservation project. People were encouraged to bring in heirlooms to learn how to preserve items that might be important to their family history.

I brought in the Bible of my great-grandparents, a neighbor’s doll and a picture of the anvil that belonged to my paternal grandfather. I learned that the Bible needed to be placed in library-quality archival material, as paper tends to thin as it ages. The doll was not as historical as I thought, but I was told to keep it because it shows how dolls have changed over the years.

The anvil told the story of my grandfather, who was a blacksmith and shoed the horses for deputies in Richland County.

Take me to a museum and I can get lost in this kind of history. I love to learn about how people used to live and compare that to today.

History is the story of a people’s journey.

I think about history a lot when I’m in my own kitchen.

I set my table with flatware given to me by my mother. I use a tablecloth from a paternal aunt. The pots and pans, the cast iron skillets, the baking pan are all from Mama’s kitchen. My mixing bowl is from Aunt Bell and the mixing spoon is from Aunt Carrie. I use the recipes of Aunt Sug, who often said there wasn’t a woman in the Cook family who could not cook.

Today’s recipes are from the files of Willie Moore Brown, my Aunt Sug, the eldest of nine children born to James and Georgianna Cook Moore.

Apple Cake

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, soda and salt. Add cinnamon and sugar. Mix beaten eggs and oil; add vanilla. Add apples that have been peeled and chopped. Mix well and pour into a 9-inch-by-13-inch Pryex dish that has been well oiled. Bake for 45 minutes.


1 cup cornmeal

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1/4 cup margarine

1 teaspoon vegetable oil, to grease pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cornmeal, flour, sugar and baking powder. In another bowl, combine buttermilk and egg. Beat lightly. Slowly add buttermilk and egg mixture to the dry ingredients. Add margarine and mix by hand, allowing all ingredients to blend. Bake in an 8-inch-by-8-inch greased baking dish for 20 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting.

Biscuits Pasadena Style

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. In a small bowl, stir together buttermilk and oil. Pour over flour mixture; stir until well mixed. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough gently for 10 to 12 strokes. Roll or pat dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a 2-inch biscuit or cookie cutter, dipping cutter in flour between cuts. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.