Corn Dodgers Recipe

by Sandra Merville Hart

I recently read On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her family moved to Minnesota when she was seven and first stayed in a sod house built into the creek bank. The details of everyday life in the 1870s fascinated me.

The Ingalls family was very poor and often ate corn dodgers. In fact, the author mentioned them so often that I searched for a recipe.

As I suspected, they are similar—yet different—to corn muffins. These are baked on a cookie sheet in mounds.

I had some coarse ground cornmeal that I used to make this recipe, which I believe is more authentic to the times than the finely ground cornmeal we all know.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together 2 cups cornmeal, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of lard (I used vegetable shortening.)

Pour 2 cups of boiling water into the cornmeal mixture and stir well. The batter is thick but if you have trouble stirring it, add a little more water.

Prepare a cookie sheet, well-greased with shortening or butter or use cooking spray.

Scoop the batter into mounds on the cookie sheet. The center of the dodgers is “quite high.”

I used 1/3 cup of batter for each one to make 6 dodgers.

Bake about 25 minutes until lightly browned.

I really liked these dodgers. They’re heartier than corn muffins and more filling. We ate them as a side with soup for supper. It was a nice change from cornbread and biscuits.

These took only about five minutes to put together—and most of that was waiting for the water to boil! It’s quick and easy and a bit of a novelty because, well, I’ve never eaten one before. Maybe it’s a new recipe for you, too!

Sources

Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.

North Carolina’s Mt. Airy is a Trip back to Mayberry

by Sandra Merville Hart

My husband is a big fan of the 60s TV show, The Andy Griffith Show, so when we planned a trip over the summer to North Carolina, it included a stop in Mount Airy.

Andy Taylor, the show’s main character, is raising his son with the help of his aunt in the small fictional North Carolina town of Mayberry. The sheriff’s family, the deputy, town barber, school teacher, mayor, and so many others tugged at our hearts. We fell in love with Mayberry.

It turns out that the fictional town is inspired by Andy Griffith’s home town of Mount Airy.

We arrived late in the day and ate at Walker’s Soda Fountain. It had a nostalgic feel that welcomed us right away. My husband let me try his chocolate milk shake—delicious! The owner discovered we were there to see “Mayberry” and shared many fun facts about the town with us.

One was that Andy Griffith worked in the drug store (formerly known as Lamm Drug Store) that is now Walker’s Soda Fountain. Another is that all the Mayberry locations mentioned in the show are real.

Several of the locations visitors will associate with the show are on or near Main Street. Floyd’s City Barber Shop, a Mayberry police squad car, Opie’s Candy Store, and other shops are on Main Street. Andy Griffith’s Homeplace is a short drive away.

There’s an Andy Griffith Museum, Andy Griffith Playhouse, Wally’s Service Station, and Mayberry Replica Courthouse that will give fans of the show feelings of nostalgia.

There are a few shops on Main Street. I’m sure we would have enjoyed the Good Time Trolley Tours, but we arrived as some places were closing.

If you’re a fan of The Andy Griffith Show, I think you’ll enjoy a day’s visit to this town. Arrive around lunch to eat at a diner. Shop. Enjoy an ice cream. Drive or stroll to the bronze statue of Andy and Opie walking to the fishing hole.

It was an enjoyable visit for everyone in our group.     

Sources

Mount Airy North Carolina, 2021/08/23 https://www.visitmayberry.com/.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

by Sandra Merville Hart

This children’s chapter book is a treasure.

I read it many times to my daughter when she was in elementary school.

Wanda Petronski didn’t come to school for a couple of days before Maddie missed her. Wanda was quiet. She didn’t have any friends at school. She wore the same clean, faded blue dress every day.

So when she claims to have a hundred beautiful dresses in her closet, the girls laugh at her. Then they ask her about them daily.

Maddie is poor too. She doesn’t laugh or ask Wanda to describe the dresses as Peggy, her best friend, does.

As the days pass and Wanda doesn’t return, Maddie begins to worry about her and to examine her own actions.

A poignant story with believable characters that tug at your heart.

Recommended for children in elementary school.   

https://www.christianbook.com/the-hundred-dresses-eleanor-estes/9780152052607/pd/2052607

Stuart Little by E.B. White

by Sandra Merville Hart

Stuart Little is a mouse, but one thing that makes him extraordinary is that his mother, father, and older brother are human.

Since Stuart is only two inches tall, his bed is a cigarette box. He has plenty of adventures with his family and the family cat before Margalo, a beautiful bird, comes to live with the family.

Stuart exudes confidence and gets into many scrapes dangerous to a mouse.

I didn’t read this book as a child when I might have liked it. As an adult, the story seems disjointed. He acts like more like an adult than a child from the beginning. When Stuart is seven, he leaves his home in the middle of the night without saying goodbye. At seven, he didn’t ask permission to leave, which a young child will notice.

The main character isn’t successful in his quest to find his friend Margalo, who flew north. The book ends on a vague note with no real ending or resolution. It almost seems the author grew bored with the story or perhaps ran out of ideas.

After loving Charlotte’s Web, another book by the same author, I was disappointed in this one.

Mom’s Macaroni Salad Recipe

by Sandra Merville Hart

Sometimes I long for my mother’s cooking. In the summer she often made macaroni salad. She served it in a special, tall glass bowl that was only used for this salad.

The recipe is easy and no one ever wrote it down to my knowledge so I’m sharing it here.

We attended a family reunion where my aunt brought macaroni salad. As I went back for another spoonful, I asked my aunt what made it taste so delicious. She leaned over and whispered, “I put cucumber in mine.”

So, when I made it over the summer, I included her secret ingredient. Amazing tip! It adds another layer of flavor and crunch.

16 Ounces elbow macaroni

½ – 1 green pepper

1 large tomato

1 medium onion

1 large cucumber

1 ¼ – 1 ½ cups mayo

Salt

Cook the macaroni until tender. Drain and set aside to cool. Hint: Stir it a couple of times to release trapped heat and steam.

Chop the vegetables. I only used one half of a green pepper but a whole one doesn’t overpower the salad because there are several vegetables.

I like a lot of tomato in this salad. A large tomato was enough to add vibrant color and flavor.

Once the cooked macaroni begins to cool, stir in the chopped vegetables.

I never measure the mayo when making this salad but I did it this time to tell you. Cooked macaroni tends to absorb the mayo. After adding a cup of it, I spooned it in a bit at a time until it reached the desired creamy texture.

Delicious! The different soft and crunchy textures were even tastier than I remembered.

It may have something to do with my aunt’s secret ingredient. 😊

The Chilling Story of the Pied Piper

by Sandra Merville Hart

A recent trip to the beautiful German village of Frankenmuth, Michigan, brought the story behind The Pied Piper to my attention. The tower at the Bavarian Inn tells the story periodically throughout the day to the background of a piper’s music.

A little girl danced to the tune while the story unfolded. I didn’t hear the whole story but learned it was a true one.

It’s a chilling, terrible tale from 1284 AD.

The town of Hamelin in Lower Saxony, Germany, had a problem with rat infestations. A pied piper (“pied” referred to his multicolor clothing) came to town. He promised the leaders that he could solve the problem. They promised to pay him.

The piper played, leading the rats to the Weser River where the rodents drowned.

When he went to collect his payment, the town leaders refused to give him the whole amount. This enraged the musician.

Adults were at church on Saint John and Paul’s Day (June 26th) when the pied piper returned. He played for the children who danced to the music. One-hundred thirty children danced and followed the piper from the village up near the Koppenberg (mountain.)

The Frankenmuth story said that two children were too little to keep up with the older ones. Other versions state that two or three children stayed behind—one blind, one deaf, and one lame. These children told the adults what happened.

Parents listened in horror. Their children had vanished.

Villagers searched for them. Tragically, they were never found.

What happened to them is a mystery. Some believe the piper sold them to recoup his money. One such theorist believes they went to Poland, where derivations of German names common to thirteenth-century Hamelin are found.

Another theory is that the piper forced the children to walk into the Weser River, just as he had done to the rats, and they drowned.

Another theory is he took them to Koppenberg Mountain.

There is a plaque etched in stone on a Pied Piper house that was built in 1602. It bears testimony that 130 Hamelin children were led from town on June 26, 1284 A.D. The children disappeared forever.

The Church of Hamelin, built around 1300, had a stained-glass window telling the Pied Piper story.

Written records of the event begin in 1384 in Hamelin. “It is 100 years since our children left.”

Tragically, this is a true tale.

I remember watching that little girl dance with joy to the music as the tale of the pied piper unfolded. To think it really happened that way chills me.

A cautionary tale, indeed.

Sources

“Pied Piper of Hamelin,” Wikipedia, 2021/07/26 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied_Piper_of_Hamelin.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Hameln,” Britannica.com, 2021/07/26 https://www.britannica.com/place/Hameln#ref250683.

“The Grim Truth Behind the Pied Piper,” BBC.com, 2021/07/26 https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20200902-the-grim-truth-behind-the-pied-piper.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

by Sandra Merville Hart

Newberry Honor Book

I read this book as a child and loved it. When I read it as an adult, I saw other levels of meaning.

This book is about friendship. Wilbur the pig is the runt of the litter. Fern, a little girl on the farm where the pig lives, rescues him and raises the farm animal as her pet.

Wilbur becomes friends with Charlotte, a spider in the barn where they both live. When the pig learns he’s in danger, he turns to Charlotte. This amazing spider helps him.

The characters in this story are believable and relatable. Friendship and sacrifice are part of this classic children’s story.

Recommend for children in elementary school.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

by Sandra Merville Hart

Book 4 of the Little House series

I loved this book!

I found this book among my daughter’s childhood collection and read it. What a refreshing read!

Laura Ingalls is seven when her family moves to Minnesota. Their first home is a sod home by Plum Creek, and they all have much to learn about living there—including what the term “grasshopper weather” implies.

Her father plants a wheat crop that will pay for a new home and buy many things the family has had to do without. Then tragedy strikes.

I love Laura’s feisty character and how she longs to be more like her older sister Mary, who is always obedient. Every character is well-defined and lovable.

The descriptions of everyday life and Laura’s new experiences captivated me as a reader. As an author of historical novels set in American history, those details took on deeper meaning. I loved it!

I read some of this series as a child. I look forward to reading the whole collection!

Recommend for children in elementary school and for lovers of American history.

Homemade Granola Bars

by Sandra Merville Hart

I was looking for a new dessert or snack to take to a family reunion. An easy-to-hold dessert is the one most folks tend to grab at picnics. Pies and cakes are delicious but don’t fit this description. Cookies are my old standby so I wanted to steer away from them.

Then I discovered a recipe on the Food Network for homemade granola bar treats from Molly Yeh. I enjoy watching her show “Girl Meets Farm” and was excited to try it.

I followed the recipe that included some choices. I chose sweetened condensed milk over coconut milk.

Molly leaves the nut or seed butter up to the cook but has her preferences. I used almond butter instead of cashew butter or tahini—a delicious choice!

Her recipe calls for quick-cooking oats. I had the old-fashioned whole grain oats in my pantry so I used those.

I used roasted cashews, almonds, and peanuts.

These are delicious! Chewy. Packed with healthy ingredients. Filling—one bar is all you need.

This was the first time I made these treats. Next time I will give the cashews a quick chop before adding them. I’ll also try the quick-cooking oats, which I believe will hold together better.

I will definitely make these again. Enjoy!

Sources

Yeh, Molly. “Homemade Granola Bar Treats,” Food Network, 2021/08/20 https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/homemade-granola-bar-treats-8032610.

Summer Kitchens in the 1800s

Cindy Ervin Huff, fellow author in “The Cowboys,” has a new historical romance book release that I loved! Welcome back to Historical Nibbles, Cindy!

by Cindy Ervin Huff

In my newest Release Rescuing Her Heart, Delilah James wants to start a bakery to provide for herself by baking in her employer Genny Holt’s kitchen and sending baked goods to the mercantile in town. Genny persuades her husband to build a summer kitchen for baking and canning in the sweltering heat.

This was not unusual request, considering there were no air conditioners or fans in the 1870s. Many families had some sort of summer kitchen.

Some women did all the cooking for the day in the morning, so the house could cool off before evening. Then the cold food was eaten throughout the day.

For the wealthy, it comprised a brick building in the back of the house near the main kitchen. They did all the cooking and canning in the summer kitchen throughout the warm months. Middle-class families might have a summer porch for cooking or a small, roofed area out back with a stove. Others resorted to building a campfire away from the house to keep the heat out of their homes.

My heroine Delilah James helps Genny Holt do canning and baking in a summer kitchen built by Lonnie and Jed Holt. The ranch has a large garden and some of what is canned, along with the baked goods, are sold in town.

They furnished the summer kitchen with a preparation table, a stove and shelves. Utensils, pots and pans came from the main kitchen.

I am so grateful for air-conditioning so I can cook in comfort throughout the summer!

About Cindy

Cindy Ervin Huff is an Award-winning author of Historical and Contemporary Romance. She loves infusing hope into her stories of broken people. She addicted to reading and chocolate. Her idea of a vacation is visiting historical sites and an ideal date with her hubby of almost fifty years would be live theater.

Visit her at her blog.

Rescuing Her Heart

As her husband’s evil deeds haunt a mail-order bride from the grave, can she learn to trust again and open her heart to true love? Jed has his own nightmares from a POW camp and understands Delilah better than she knows herself. Can two broken people form a forever bond?