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Fugitive Waves – King’s Candy: A New Orleans Kitchen Vision

Fugitive Waves – King’s Candy: A New Orleans Kitchen Vision

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Robert King Wilkerson (aka Robert Hillary King) was imprisoned at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana for 31 years. Twenty-nine of those years he was in solitary confinement. During that time he created a clandestine kitchen in his 6×9 cell where he made pralines, heating the the butter and sugar he saved from his food tray over a tiny burner concocted from a Coke can and a toilet paper roll. King and two of his friends started a chapter of the Black Panthers in Angola Prison during the 1970s. King’s case was overturned in 2001 and he was released. He lectures around the world and makes candy — which he called Freelines — to bring attention to issues of prison reform and the plight of The Angola Three. King was living in New Orleans during Katrina, refused to leave his dog, and weathered the storm in his apartment. Two weeks in, his friends from Austin bought a boat and went in to get him.

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King making Freelines

King’s Freelines
1/4 pound butter
5 pounds sugar
1/2 gallon or 3 cans evaporated milk
1 gallon whole milk
1 1/2 ounce vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 pounds pecans
In a huge pot put all ingredients except pecans. Heat on a high fire, stirring continually so the mixture doesn’t boil over. Stir until the mixture is a caramel.
Pour onto large greased sheet pan, then add pecans. Allow to cool a bit, until you can handle it.
Using a spoon, whip the mixture. “Talk to it, show love to it,” says King.
Either leave completed mixture in sheet pan to cool entirely, or before it’s fully whipped, use a spoon to remove the mixture into smaller rounds, placing them on a second sheet covered in wax paper.
King warns that “candy has a mind of its own” and varying temperature and humidity can effect the result. Makes 25 3 1/2-ounce pieces

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King’s book, From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Robert Hillary King, tells the story of King’s remarkable life: his childhood in Louisiana, his teenage hobo years in Chicago, his pursuit of a boxing career, and time spent in solitary at Angola Prison. Buy it from PM Press.

Fugitive Waves: The Braveheart Women’s Society

Fugitive Waves: The Braveheart Women’s Society

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Brave Heart Women’s Society

Brook Spotted Eagle from the the Yankton Sioux/Ihanktonwan Oyate Reservation in South Dakota was one of the hundreds of people who called our Hidden World of Girls’ phone line with a story idea.

 

Hi. My name is Brook Spotted Eagle. I belong to a women’s society on my reservation in South Dakota. The Brave Heart Women’s Society. My mother is one of the founding grandmother’s who has brought it back to life. Over the last 100 years we’ve lost a lot of our ceremonies. I’ll have to check with the elders, but when I saw the Hidden World of Girls I thought it would be amazing to share with other Native women the Isnati coming of age ceremony for our girls. Give me a call if you’re interested. Thanks. Bye.

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White Swan, South Dakota
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On a wide grassy bank of the Missouri River on , Brook Spotted Eagle stands watching five young girls raise a tipi. The girls are taking part in a four-day coming-of-age ceremony revived in the 1990s by the Brave Heart Women’s Society.

“I was part of the first group who went through this Isnati coming-of-age ceremony 13 years ago,” Brook recalls. Brook’s mother, Faith Spotted Eagle, is one of the women who re-established the Brave Hearts. With American and European contact many such societies and ceremonies have been lost over the last 100 years. In 1994, Faith and the Brave Hearts interviewed grandmas from three states about what they remembered of the Isnati coming of age ceremony.

“In the old days,” Faith Spotted Eagle says, “as soon as a girl had her first moon, her menses, she would immediately be isolated from the rest of the camp and begin a four-day ceremony where she was taught by other women. So we symbolically set up one camp a year and have the girls come in for four days.”

In traditional Yankton Sioux culture everyone had a niche, a role. One of the roles of the women who were part of the Brave Hearts was to retrieve the dead and wounded from the battlefield and help the families. “In a way we are doing the same thing today with the modern day Brave Hearts,” Faith Spotted Eagle says, “bringing back our people from emotional death.”

Thirteen Moons
Thunder cracks in the distance as the girls, dressed in long skirts and tank tops, unroll the canvas tipi. This is where they will sleep together for the next four days, away from the rest of the camp. A group of grandmas and aunties yell instructions from the sidelines: “A little to the north, to the north! Hurry up girls — before the rain comes!”

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“Most women’s tipis have 13 poles because we have 13 moons in a year,” explains Judy Drapeau, a grandmother who helps every year. “That’s why we call it a moon camp because it’s a special time for women to learn about themselves.”

“The first thing you need to do is put up your own lodge, you need to have that strength to house yourself,” says Marissa Joseph, 21. Adopted at birth, Joseph spent a large part of her youth bouncing between relatives.
“Childhood was really rough — lost, floating and drifting.” “By my early teens, I was a pretty strong alcoholic. I didn’t know who I was and what I needed. I really wanted to not live anymore. The summer of my 14th year I went through Isnati. I felt like I was found.”

 

Feeding The Girls
During the four days, the girls cannot touch food or drink. They are fed by their mothers and other women in the camp. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to do this,’” says Kiari Worldturner, 16. “Your mom has to feed you and give you water. I didn’t like my mom. I didn’t trust her.”

Brave_Heart_0393Marla Bull Bear, who has been through the ceremony with her daughter, says the feeding feels a little like heartbreak — “that bittersweet feeling.” “It’s treating them like a baby one last time before they become women,” she says. “No longer would she be my little girl to feed anymore. You really begin to start the foundation of what that adult relationship is with a mother and daughter.”

 

 

 

Gathering Medicine
On the second day, the girls pile into the back of a pick up truck to gather traditional herbs and medicines. Faith Spotted Eagle points out a little plant called “too proud,” and yellow cornflowers, which have roots that when ground up are used to treat toothaches.

The girls pick buffalo berries and armfuls of wildflowers and women’s sage for the bouquets they’ll carry at the womanhood ceremony.

Teresa Heart, a Brave Heart grandmother, arrives in the afternoon and sizes up the girls. For the past 13 years, she’s made the girls’ ribbon dresses for the ceremony. “I didn’t have this when I became of age,” Teresa says. “Growing up at a boarding school, they came from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and they took us. I must have been five. And I didn’t see my mom and my grandparents for nine years. When I was older, they assigned me a little first grader and I had to teach her English. I’d braid her hair and take care of her. Then they’d switch everybody all around and I’d get another little girl. They wouldn’t let us get close to each other.”

 

The Camp Circle
Just before dusk, Marissa Joseph arrives to teach the girls how to make ceremonial food — dried buffalo meat jerky with buffalo berries.

“Every year I try to teach what I know, bring that back to recreate that feeling I felt,” she says. Older Isnati girls return year-after-year to feed the younger girls and teach them ceremonial songs and beading.

Throughout the days, the elders talk to the girls about modesty, courtship, pregnancy — and suicide, a serious problem on the reservations. “At times we have a nutritionist come in and talk to them about eating right and not just drinking Gatorade,” Brook Spotted Eagle says. “About not being afraid of doctors and having to get a check up. Sexual abuse and incest can pose a huge problem within families. There’s no easy way to talk about these issues, so you just have to get them out there. And we’re always talking about this concept of a camp circle. We can’t be attacking each other and doing this mean girl’s stuff.”

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Madonna Thunderhawk, an activist and long time American Indian Movement advocate, sits watching the girls as they learn how to bead their small leather medicine bags. “As a grandmother and great grandmother, I just wanted to come and spend a few hours,” she says. “This is part of what I need to do. At one time, all of this was underground. We only got the American Indian Freedom of Religion Act in the late ’70s. So we had to stand our ground to have these things out in the open again.”

The Fourth Day
On the last day, each girl spends time with her mother or an auntie in the tipi. The older woman bathes the girl in sage water and talks to her about her birth, her young days — and her future. Kiari World Turner says her mother washed her hair and told her about when she was a little girl: “Good stories. I guess we found each other.”

In the late afternoon, dressed in their ribbon dresses, moccasins, and beaded regalia, the girls are introduced to the community as women and members of the Brave Heart Womens Society. More than 90 girls have taken part in the Isnati Awica Dowanpi Coming of Age Ceremony in the Ihanktonwan territory over the past 13 years.

“When I went through Isnati, my grandmother gave me the name Gray Eagle Woman,” remembers Marissa. “My sister’s name is Stand Strong Woman. She’s the baby girl and she’s lived a hard life as well, and she’s been able to stand strong. It only seems fitting that you would change your name with where you are in your life. The Brave Heart Society, these grandmothers, this connection with these girls I’ve made. This is my sixth year into it. I’m like a 6 year old trying to live a new life. I’m still pretty new to a lot of things.”

Fugitive Waves: Horses, Unicorns & Dolphins

Fugitive Waves: Horses, Unicorns & Dolphins

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Horses, Unicorns and Dolphins

 

“Horses, unicorns and dolphins are kind of like a girl’s fantasy,” says eleven-year-old Sally Rose Reiker. Sally is a horse girl. She’s been riding since she was 6 months old strapped in a baby carrier on her mom’s back. “Every girl wants a unicorn. Every girl goes through the stage where they want their own horse.”

The idea of creatures that possess the imagination of young girls is something that intrigues Laurel Braitman, a graduate student in the history of science at MIT who writes about animals and what we think about them.
“Horses, unicorns and dolphins are borderland creatures; gateway animals to other worlds,” says Braitman. “They help us imagine other ways of being. They let us be cowgirls and oceanographers and mermaids and princesses.“

“We don’t really like princesses that much,” says seven-year-old Allie McKenzie. Allie is one of triplets, she and her sister are in love with horses and dolphins. Her brother likes sports. “Princesses are not as exciting as horses and animals and the show called Flipper.”

Dolphins—Sleek, Power, Speed

Porpoise Pool From Flickr user David kearns Photography“Dolphins capture your heart,” says Chelsea Berman, 21, who works at the Monterey Bay Horsemanship Center where she began volunteering when she was 13. Her love of horses is only rivaled by her love of dolphins. “I swam with dolphins. When they take off and swim and they’re just pushing you with their nose or they’re pulling you with their fin. It’s power.”

“It’s like the mermaid fantasy, that you can just live in the ocean and not have to have anything,” says Georgetown University Professor Janet Mann who has been studying bottlenose dolphins for 23 years.

Mann has gotten hundreds of letters from girls who are in love with dolphins. Sometimes the girls’ mothers write for them. “Hi Janet. My second grade daughter Emily is crazy about dolphins. She has to do a small biography project at school. While her classmates are choosing the likes of Thomas Edison and George Washington, she wants to do Janet Mann, dolphin researcher.”

“Sometimes they say they want to be me,” says Mann. “I think it’s like what I went through as a girl when I first wrote to Jane Goodall. I just wanted to do what she did.”

Dr. Mann observes that a lot of girls with childhood illnesses become very interested in seeing dolphins before they die. One little girl from central Australia who died at age eight, requested that her ashes be scattered with dolphins.
“It’s this notion of being able to move like that through the world,” says Mann. “That’s what both dolphins and horses have in common. Sleek, power and speed.

Horse Power that has a Heart

For Sally Reiker, horses are more than just a hobby—they’re something she can’t live without. “When I look at a horse I look into myself. I see myself in their eyes. It’s just who I am. I want to be free and I want to leave my worries away from me just getting on and riding and leaving my bad memories on the ground. IMG_6926

Long-time horse woman Domenique Gioia says, “To be in control, or out of control on a galloping horse is a wild feeling. You are one with it. You just feel the power underneath you. And that’s part of the attraction.”

Peggy Orenstein is the author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.” There’s always been a lot of speculation about why girls love horses. Is it about power, is it some Freudian phallic thing?  What is it? I think  horses and unicorns and dolphins are the girl expressing her own power through these very dynamic, strong creatures that they’re identifying with. They’re all active, they’re all sources of power and motion and transformation.”

National Velvet, collections of Breyer model horses, posters, bedspreads, t-shirts, movies, stuffed animals, anything with a horse on it. Eleven year old Danielle Altizio thinks about horses all the time. As she pours feed into a bucket she talks lovingly about her horse Grendal. She spends every minute she can with him. “He’s just always there if I need him. I just know that we can do it and that we’ll do well.”

When Chelsea Berman is confused or frustrated she turns to her horses. She believes that much of the attraction for girls is that horses don’t judge you.  “Horses don’t talk back. They don’t have mean things to say. They’re not going to yell at you if you didn’t clean your room or give you the cold shoulder if you forgot to return a phone call.”

Chelsea’s boy friend doesn’t understand her intense feelings about horses. “He’s a car freak,” Chelsea tells us. “He loves the power that a car gives him. “Horses are similar, big machines, but this is the horse power that has a heart.”

Taming a Bad Boy?

When champion barrel racer Caterina Tadlock, was a student at Southern Oregon Community College, one of her writing teachers asked what it was with girls and horses.  “He posed the theory that it was similar to taming a bad boy,” says Caterina. “I really disagree with that.”

Caterina wrote a paper for the class, “The Mystery of Girls and Horses,” which was also published on her sister’s website, The Ultimate Horse Site. In it she talks about how the image of the horse has changed. She says that in the past mostly men rode and broke in horses. Women didn’t have as many opportunities to form relationships with the animals as they do now.  “Horses used to be considered tools for cowboys, a means of transportation for soldiers, and a matter of business for racehorse owners,” she writes. “Today, horses are mostly companion animals kept for pleasure rather than work or business purposes.”

The currying, the cleaning of the hooves, the mucking of stalls, the brushing of the mane and tail, the feeding of the horse.  Girls are attracted to achieving the skills and level of competence it takes to care for a horse as well as to the nurturing  aspects of the work.

“What this seems to be turning into in this generation is online pets,” says Peggy Orenstein who has been observing girls and their toys and obsessions.  “There’s this whole world of online horses.  It’s in its little stall. You have to feed it and brush it and change it’s hay, do all the things you would do with a real horse.   And if you don’t, your horse starts to die and its little life meter runs out.”

Amazon Princess Training

Leah Creatura is a children’s book buyer for Bookshop Santa Cruz. “For me a lot of the horse craze was that I wanted to be an Amazon princess because I wanted to be Wonder Woman.” When she was a girl in the 1970s Leah read about Wonder Woman in her mother’s Ms. Magazine and then the television series came out. Wonder Woman is an Amazon princess and her mother is Hipolyta. She’s from an island and there are no men on the island.

“One of the parts of my Amazon Princess training was learning how to ride bare back,” Leah says. “I was going to a Y camp. I was very discouraged because they didn’t really understand about the Amazon Princess training. They would not let me learn to shoot archery on the horse.”

Peggy Orenstein notes the importance of having a place where what it means to be a girl is to be courageous and strong and the only one able to do this impossible task. “It’s the girl who can ride the horse, it’s the girl who’s Wonder Woman. It’s the girl who tames the unicorn.”

Unicorns—The Dreamland of the Horse

Along with her passion for horses and dolphins, Chelsea Berman loves unicorns. “They are like the whimsical, the fantasy, the dreamland of the horse,” she relates.

unicorns-5-magical-animalUnicorns are magical. For eleven year old Jennifer Green they symbolize dreaming and achieving. “I know that unless you believe in them they won’t show themselves to you,” she said. “They’re like a very pure spirit.”

Girls and unicorns have been linked in stories, art and on tapestries since at least the Middle Ages. One of the iconic myths about girls and unicorns has to do with the unicorn hunt relates Nina Shen Rastogi in her article for Slate magazine entitled “What is it About Girls and Unicorns?  It’s More than Just the Horn.” In this myth the only way that a hunter can lure the unicorn is to bring out a pure young virgin, have her sit in the woods. The unicorn is attracted by the maiden’s innate goodness, her purity, beauty, and youth.

Rastogi says, “I think for many young girls, there’s a fantasy that some day you will be recognized as the secretly beautiful, magical thing that you are. It’s the notion that the unicorn will be attracted to something ineffable about you, secret from the rest of the world.“

When you’re small you’re more imaginative and open to possibilities says Laurel Braitman. “That’s maybe the most beautiful part of girlhood, knowing that you can’t actually be all these things but not being entirely sure.”

 

Fugitive Waves: Hidden Kitchens Texas with host Willie Nelson

Fugitive Waves: Hidden Kitchens Texas with host Willie Nelson

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Willie Nelson and Dallas-born actress Robin Wright, along with some wild and extraordinary tellers, take us across Texas and share some of their hidden kitchen stories. Gas station tacos, ice houses, the birth of the Frito, the birth of 7-Eleven, the birth of the frozen margarita, and more.

 

Fugitive Waves: Route 66-The Mother Road Part 2

Fugitive Waves: Route 66-The Mother Road Part 2

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John Steinbeck called it the “Mother Road.” Songwriter Bobby Troup described it as the route to get your kicks on. And Mickey Mantle said, “If it hadn’t been for Highway 66 I never would have been a Yankee.” For the Dust Bowl refugees of the 1930s, for the thousands who migrated after World War II, and for the generations of tourists and vacationers, Route 66 was “the Way West.”

Route 66, the first continuous paved highway linking east and west was the most traveled and well known road in America for almost fifty years. From Chicago, it ran through the Ozarks of Missouri, across Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, up the mesas of New Mexico and Arizona, and down into California to the Pacific Ocean. The First road of it’s kind, it came to represent America’s mobility and freedom —inspiring countless stories, songs, and even a TV show.

In part II of Route 66, Studs Terkel reads from “The Grapes of Wrath” and comments on the great 1930s migration along Highway 66. We hear from black and white musicians including Clarence Love, head of Clarence Love and his Orchestra, Woody Guthrie and Eldin Shamblin, guitar player for Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys who remember life on the road for musicians during the 1930s. We travel the history of the road from its beginnings as “The Main Street of America,” through the “Road of Flight” in the 1930s, to the “Ghost Road” of the 1980s, as the interstates bypass the businesses and road side attractions of another era.

Produced by The Kitchen Sisters and narrated by David Selby.

Thank you to our sponsor Animoto.

 

Route 66
created in Animoto
Photographs from The Library of Congress

 

Fugitive Waves: Route 66-The Mother Road Part 1

Fugitive Waves: Route 66-The Mother Road Part 1

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The birth of the Main Street of America—songwriter Bobby Troup  tells the story of his 1946 hit Get Your Kicks on Route 66; Gladys Cutberth, aka Mrs. 66 and members of the old “66 Association” talk about the early years of the road. Mickey Mantle explains “If it hadn’t been for US 66 I wouldn’t have been a Yankee.” Stirling Silliphant, creator of the TV series “Route 66″ talks about the program and its place in American folklore of the 60s. 

 

Thank you to our sponsors Animoto and Harry’s.

 

Route 66
created in Animoto
Photographs from The Library of Congress

 

 

Fugitive Waves – War & Separation

Fugitive Waves – War & Separation

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War and Separation: Life on the Homefront During World War II

For Memorial Day — a portrait of life on the homefront during World War II featuring 4 women’s stories, rare home recorded letters sent overseas to soldiers, archival audio, music and news broadcasts from the era.
Fugitive Waves: The Secret (and Not So Secret) Life of Theresa Sparks

Fugitive Waves: The Secret (and Not So Secret) Life of Theresa Sparks

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The Secret (and Not So Secret) Life of Theresa Sparks


Theresa Sparks has lived more than one life. Born a guy’s guy, a man’s man, cowboy boots, motorcycles, a stint in the army, married his childhood sweetheart, kids, big successful business. But the truth was more complicated than that. In Fugitive Waves, Episode 21, one of San Francisco’s most respected and outspoken transgender activists tells her truth, that she was walking around in the wrong suit for 50 something years. “Transparent” years before the series saw the light of day.

Produced by The Kitchen Sisters with Nathaniel Johnson and Nathan Dalton.


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Fugitive Waves: The Birth of Rice-A-Roni

Fugitive Waves: The Birth of Rice-A-Roni

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The Birth of Rice-A-Roni: The San Francisco-Italian-Armenian Treat

The worlds of a young Canadian immigrant, an Italian pasta-making family, and a 70-year-old survivor of the Armenian Genocide converge in this story of the San Francisco Treat.

A Canadian women (Lois DeDomenico) marries an Italian immigrant (Thomas DeDomenico) whose family started Golden Grain Macaroni in San Francisco. Just after WWII the newlyweds rent a room from an old Armenian woman (Pailadzo Captanian) who teaches the young pregnant 18 year old woman how to cook.  Yogurt, baklava, pilaf… After about 4 months the young couple move into their own place. A few years later, Lois’ brother-in-law is eating over at her house— looks down at the pilaf on his plate and pronounces: “This would be good in a box.” Prepared and packaged foods are just beginning to come on strong. They name it Rice A Roni.

During those hours in the kitchen the old Armenian woman cooks and tells the younger women the story of her life — her forced trek from Turkey to Syria, leaving her two young sons with a Greek Family, her husband’s murder, the birth of her baby along the way (his name means child of pain), the story of the genocide. Mrs. Captanian shows Lois a book she wrote in 1919, directly after her experiences—one of the only eye-witness accounts written at the time. Most were published 30-40 years later by survivors. This one was published in 1919 for the Paris Peace Talks in hopes that it would help provide context for the establishment of an Armenian state.

 

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Pailadzo Captanian’s Rice Pilaf

Rice Mixture:

  • 7/8 cup long grain white rice
  • 1/8 cup fideo capellini crushed into small pieces
  • ½ cube butter
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • ½ 4.5 oz jar sliced “Green Giant” mushrooms packed in water and drained. (mushrooms can be substituted with any other canned mushrooms.)
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts


Broth:

  • 2 ½ cups boiling water
  • 2 ½ chicken bouillon cubes
  • ½ tbsp dried parsley flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • (The broth should taste somewhat salty before it is added to rice mixture)Pailadzo Captanian’s rice pilaf is a favorite dish at Captanian family gatherings. She passed her pilaf recipe down to her daughter-in-law Mellie Captanian in the late 1940s. In 1965, Jacqueline Captanian, who was then dating Mellie’s son Barry, asked for the recipe for Barry’s favorite dish: rice pilaf.Jacqueline and Barry Captanian have now been married for 40 years. In that time, Jacqueline says, she perfected the dish to the point that it became her job to make it for all their family gatherings.“We are not sure if Pailadzo included mushrooms or pine nuts in her version of this recipe, but the following is the way I learned it from Mellie in 1965,” Jacqueline Captanian said.Directions:Melt the butter over medium high flame in a medium sauce pan and add rice and fideo cappellini and stir constantly, cooking until it starts to turn golden.Add chopped onion and cook until almost clear.Add mushrooms and pine nuts.Stir constantly over medium high flame, until the mixture is golden brown with dark flecks of fideo capellini.Meanwhile, make broth by heating water to boiling and adding bouillon cubes, parsley flakes, salt and pepper (you can heat this in the microwave or on the stove)Stir to dissolve the bouillon.

    Add boiling broth to browned rice mixture, (note: broth /rice mixture should taste slightly salty), return to a bowl, stir once, and cover, then turn down the hat to a low simmer. Do not lift the cover for 35 minutes.

    Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork; let rest until ready to serve.

    P.S. Cover pan with a cloth to keep warm (If I am traveling with the rice over a period of several hours, I wrap the pan in several beach towels and it will stay nice and warm).

    P.P.S To double the recipe: Use 7/8 cube butter; 4 7/8 cups water and 5 chicken bouillon cubes and cook rice for 37 minutes. (You can double all the other ingredients).

    If you follow these directions exactly, you should have a perfect pilaf every time. But avoid the urge to peek at the cooking rice. Lifting the cover during cooking will affect the texture and fluffiness of the dish.


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Fugitive Waves – America Eats: A Hidden Archive

Fugitive Waves – America Eats: A Hidden Archive

Potlucks, church picnics, fish fries, family reunions — during the 1930s writers were paid by the government to chronicle local food, eating customs and recipes across the United States. America Eats, a WPA project, sent writers like Nelson Algren, Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, and Stetson Kennedy out to document America’s relationship with food during the Great Depression.

Hidden Kitchens — we aren’t the first project to look for them. Our search for the kitchen legacies of this country has uncovered rituals, recipes and now, an archive. Producer Jamie York and The Kitchen Sisters followed a listener’s call to the Library of Congress and beyond — and discovered “America Eats.”

During our planning process, we read Mark Kurlansky’s book Choice Cuts: Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History and came across the following passage:

“In the 1930s Nelson Algren, a young fiction writer who in 1949 would win the first National Book Award for The Man with the Golden Arm, joined the Illinois Writers Project, part of the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA).”

It set us on the course of this story and led us to the Library of Congress, where some of the “America Eats” archives are housed. This remarkable WPA project chronicling American “foodways” in the 1930s has never been published. The parallels between this project and ours astounded us.

Each region had its own “America Eats” team. Their writings, photographs and even some scripts for a proposed weekly radio program are tucked away in collections around the country — at the New York Municipal Archive, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the University of Iowa Library, and the State Library and Archives of Florida, as well as at the Library of Congress.

Independent producer Jamie York traveled to Florida to interview one of the last living writers on the project, Stetson Kennedy, who died in 2011. You can see some of Kennedy’s photographs below and on The Library of Congress website.

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Spaghetti supper at Grape Festival in Tontitown, Arkansas, August 16, 1941. (Library of Congress)

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Boiling coffee at the Florida Peanut Festival. (Library of Congress)

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Women preparing chicken for the pilau dinner at the Peanut Festival in High Springs, Florida. (Library of Congress)

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Men wrap beef in cheesecloth at a sheriff’s barbecue in Los Angeles. (Library of Congress)

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This photo collected for the America Eats project shows a segregated barbecue at FM Gays Plantation, Alabama, 1914. (Library of Congress)

 

Recipes from the ‘America Eats’ Project

These recipes are all from the unfinished Mississippi portion of the “America Eats” project. They were collected for a cookbook called Possum and Pomegranate. John T. Edge, director of the Southern Folkways Alliance at the University of Mississippi, unearthed them for Hidden Kitchen’s producer Jamie York. Some of the recipes did not carry attribution information; nobody knows who wrote them. These recipes are untested.

Persimmon Beer

Remove the seeds from enough ripe persimmons to make a bushel of fruit without the seeds. Line a wooden keg with clean corn shucks. Mash up the persimmons with half a bushel of corn meal and half a bushel of sweet potato peelings. Put in the keg and cover with water. Cover and allow to stand until the taste is right, and then bore a hole in the top of the keg and draw off the beer. If you put a piece of cornbread in a cup and fill up the cup with persimmon beer, you’ll have something highly satisfactory. Indulge cautiously until you learn your capacity.

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Blackberry Dumplings

This dish is not made with pie crust but with ordinary biscuit dough, made just a trifle shorter than usual. Roll the dough out a little thinner than for biscuit, on a well-floured cloth. Cover the top of the dough with a thick layer of fresh, ripe blackberries. Roll the dough and berries up and tie the whole in the cloth on which it was rolled. Put the whole thing in a pot of briskly boiling water. Bring it back to boiling point as quickly as possible and then cook steadily until done. While the dumplings boil, make a sweet sauce as follows: Take 1 1/2 cups of top milk, one cupful of sugar, 1/4 cup of butter. Cook together thoroughly and flavor by putting in sprigs and leaves of mint, which have been bruised. Remove the mint leaves before serving the sauce, which should be served hot on slices of the boiled dumplings.

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Shrimper’s Sauce

The fisherman out on the shrimping boat eats but one meal a day, and that’s when the day’s work is done. His recipe for Shrimper’s Sauce has been handed down through many generations of fishermen and, although based on Creole recipes of 200 years ago, it shows by addition of salt pork the Austrian influence among shrimpers.

Shrimper’s Sauce

The fisherman out on the shrimping boat eats but one meal a day, and that when the day’s work is done. His recipe for Shrimper’s Sauce has been handed down through many generations of fishermen and, although based on Creole recipes of 200 years ago, it shows by addition of salt pork the Austrian influence among shrimpers.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup cooking oil
1 cup chopped salt pork
3 onions
1 can tomato sauce
3 cups hot water
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
1 teaspoon celery salt
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Fry the chopped salt pork in the oil; add the onions, chopped fine, and fry but do not allow to burn; add tomato sauce, then the boiling water, and never let the water stop boiling; add chili powder, minced garlic and the remaining ingredients. Cook slowly for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce made, the cook sets it carefully aside and looks over his supplies to decide what the meal will be.

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Fried Oysters

For Oysters:
1 cup of seasoned corn meal
Prepared egg dip
1 cup bread crumbs

Directions: Use large oysters, looking them over carefully for bits of shell. Wash and roll in seasoned corn meal. Let stand for 10 minutes, then dip in prepared egg dip, and roll in bread crumbs. Let stand another ten minutes. Fry only three or four at a time in hot fat.

To Prepare Seasoned Meal:
1 cup corn meal
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

Directions: Mix and sift three times.

To Prepare Egg Dip:
1 egg
1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
1 tablespoon. Salt
1 teaspoon paprika
6 teaspoons of oyster liquid
1 tablespoon grated onion sauce

Directions: Beat well together to mix. To prepare bread crumbs, put dried, stale bread through food chopper.

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Sweet Cucumber Pickles

It is better to have little finger-sized cucumbers, but as far as the taste goes, bigger ones cut into slices or chunks about one-inch thick are just as good. There should be about two gallons of cucumbers. Place in a stone jar and pour over them two cups of salt and one gallon of boiling water. Let this stand for one week, skimming every day.

On the eighth day, drain well and pour over the fruit one gallon of fresh boiling water. Let this stand for 24 hours.

On the ninth day, drain again and pour over a second gallon of fresh boiling water. Add one tablespoon of powdered alum. Let this stand 24 hours.

On the 10th day, drain liquid off and pour over one gallon of fresh boiling water. Let stand 24 hours.

On the 11th day, drain water off and put the fruit in a clean stone jar or a preserving kettle. Prepare a syrup of five pints of vinegar, 1/2 ounce of celery seed, six cups of sugar and one ounce of stick cinnamon. When this comes to a boiling point, pour it over the cucumbers. Let stand 24 hours.

On the 12th, 13th and 14th day, drain and reheat the syrup, adding one a cup of sugar each day. On the 14th day, pack the cucumbers in fruit jars and cover with syrup. Put rubbers and tops on the jars but do not screw tightly. Heat these jars of sweet pickles to the scalding point and seal. You may think you would never be willing to undertake such a prolonged process, but if you ever get one sniff of these pickles, you will do anything necessary to get your pantry stocked with them. They smell like Araby the Blest, and they taste better than they smell.

—— “America Eats,” Mississippi, author unknown