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A story by Robin Wallace of her grandmother's courage and a recipe
for sweet potato biscuits.  Her grandmother was gifted with this recipe
by the family she helped.

Grandma Irwin's Story of Courage and Swit Tater Biskits Recipe
By
   Robin L. Wallace
.

 This story is of a man whose family and descendents lived in a little
town named York, located in the Valley not far from where my
Grandmother Irwin was born and raised.  Original members of the
family moved to the area after being emancipated from one of the slave
plantations located in the Deep South following the end of the Civil
War.  Their grandfather had served in the Northern Army toward the
end of the conflict.   As soon after as he was able, he moved those
members of his family that he could find and gather together in the
chaos after the War to find his fortune as a farmer in the little, fertile
Northern valley so far way from where he was born.
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 Horrified, Grandma quickly made her excuses and left immediately, taking an elaborate back route
to where the farm was located so she would
not be seen.  With the father in her buggy, she
immediately rode with him to the local sheriff's office to report what she had heard.  Thankfully, any
further harm was staved off, and the church community, upon learning of such terrible news, rallied
their members around the family.  Gram never went back to attend another social
and even though
it cost her a few customers and social contacts, she remained a staunch crusader against such
intolerance for the rest of her life.
Read, "The Story of the Missing
Cookie Jar" by PenVampyre.  A
delightful little Christmas story
with mouthwatering  recipes for
the most wonderful time of the
year!

Read "
Santa and the Magic Key",
plus recipes for your holidays.  A
story by Robin Wallace.Read
"Santa and the Magic Key", plus
recipes for your holidays.  A
story by Robin Wallace.

Read "
Easter and Where NOT to
Hide
Eggs"  Memories of Easters
past and a few vintage recipes.

Logan's
Halloween Story -The
original story won first place in
sixth-eighth grade division of
Southeastern Middle School,
2005 by Logan Lyon

Food and Genealogy.  A story By
Robin L. Wallace.  Our lives, our
families, our very history's are
defined by the foods we eat.

Family Reunion Recipes.
"The Fourth of July and Other
Disasters"
(With Apologies to Jean
Shepherd)
By Robin L. Wallace

A short story by Suellen Fry.  
Memories of my father and his
version of Kickapoojoyjuice.
Later, when Grandma Irwin related the tale to her mother, my Great-Grandmother Black,
Grandma Irwin was reminded of her great uncle, Gerry Van Kleeck, a surgeon who lost his life
in 1863 in the Battle of New Orleans.  We have a picture of him in his Northern Army uniform,
taken just a few weeks before he was killed in action.  When I was in middle school, studying
about the Civil War, Grandma took out the picture and gently explained the part that he and
another cousin, Charles Chappell played in the war.  Like Gerry Van Kleeck, Charles was a
casualty when his unit was overrun, and later than Gerry, more toward the end of the war, lost
his life, as well.  In the years following her encounter with the KKK, Grandma had come into
possession of a Civil War-era frying pan, carried as a part of standard issue equipment, which
according to legend, had belonged to Charles.  It had supposedly been painted by another
surviving soldier who served with Charles to show the place where he fell as a way to help the
grieving family find closure.  Painted on the inside were Charles's name, rank, and the regiment
he served with.  She had also managed to find a cache of the writings Charles had done,
chronicling some of his experiences when he served.
Like my Grandfather Irwin, who was Protestant Irish (and who threatened to thrash me
but proper if he ever heard me spouting "Orangeman" rhetoric -- Irish were Irish whether
they were Protestant or Catholic) and preached tolerance to all but those who proved
themselves to be unrepentant idiots (those, he figured, God would have to take care of
because they were just too mule-stupid to listen to reason a URI), Grandma Irwin never
let me forget the story of the little family who the KKK tried to drive away.  She insisted
that if anyone ever peeled us and took off our skin, whether red, brown, yellow, black or
white, we would all look the same underneath and would bleed red if ever cut.

I wish I could remember the name of that African-American soldier.  But I do remember
seeing his gravestone later on after Grandma had passed, when I was doing photography
classes for college.  The particular professor I was studying with had developed a pet
theory that if black and white film was used to photograph faded gravestones in just the
right light, they could be read more clearly than if done in color (he later went on to work
on a project with a couple of historical societies utilizing this theory in an effort to try and
identify individuals whose gravestones had deteriorated too much to read clearly).  While
on my quest to find interesting old gravestones to photograph for this class in the tiny
cemeteries scattered through the area, I came across the one belonging to this man,
whose descendants my grandmother knew, located in the little cemetery behind the church
his family once attended.  When I saw the stone, in a flash I remembered the story
Grandma told so solemnly to me as a kid and just started to cry.  Joyously, the epitaph on
the gravestone read, "Born a slave, but died a free man."
 It could not have been easy being one of the few African
American families located in an area that was essentially white
dominated, despite the fact that the legendary Frederick Douglass
worked and spoke and lived in the nearby city of Rochester, only
about 40 miles away.  Living with my disability, I have only just
begun to experience and understand the effects of unreasoning
prejudice that this brave little band undoubtedly came up against in
their day-to-day lives.
I suspect that the main reason this soldier originally gathered and moved his family was out of the fear of KKK reprisals, forsaking
everything familiar to escape the horrors that he had no doubt witnessed firsthand.  One only has to look at the history books to
see the kinds of bloody retribution exacted upon those newly freed slaves, and later to other African-Americans and minorities
targeted by such hate mongers, even up to the present day.  Hard-working, and well-liked by neighbors and members of the
soldier
's church congregation, the little family thrived in the new area, even after the soldier's passing.
 Always one attracted to social groups which were
supposedly out to help the less fortunate, my grandmother
attended an ice cream social sponsored by the KKK, not
knowing who they really were and what they were truly
about.  The people she met there seemed nice enough,
repeatedly intimated to her that they were there to help
others -- something my grandmother wholeheartedly
believed in -- and were willing to regularly sponsor socials
and get-togethers, something which fostered community
cohesiveness, so much a factor in rural, small town living
prior to the advent of television.
After the third social which had been held over a three-month period in the surrounding
little towns, the soldier's family lost one of the main barns on their farm to a suspicious
fire.  Investigation of such things, not being nearly anything like what we are used to today,
resulted in few clues as to how the fire had started.   The local authorities finally chalked it
up to being an accident caused by knocking over a kerosene lantern which started the hay
on fire, and closed the case
It was not until she attended the sixth social put on by this new group that my
grandmother got an inkling of what they were up to.  This poor family over in
York kept suffering mysterious mishaps, including the loss of a full year’s
crop of corn when the field burned (likely caused by a lightning strike, according
to investigators), poisoning of their milk cows, the theft of three pigs, and the
crippling of the only horse they had which they depended on to plow the fields
and transport the family back and forth to the nearby towns for groceries or
other necessities.  Luckily, no human lives had been lost in these tragedies.
Sometime during this sixth ice cream social, one of the ladies who helped organize it, new to the
area, sidled up to my grandmother and whispered to her that they had something "special" in
store for the little family, and asked if my grandfather could participate (it was obvious that this
harridan knew little of my family because it was my grandmother, not my grandfather, who
participated in any type of social activity).  This creature hinted to my grandmother that in order
to succeed, it was necessary for my grandfather to be sure and bring his best hunting rifle along
because they had some "varmints" that needed to be taken care of before they spread off this
family
's farm and infested any other farms and surrounding areas.  Playing stupid, Grandma Irwin
finally got her to admit in plain English that they were planning on going out one night soon and
shooting up the farmhouse of this hard-working family because their group's prior activities had
failed to drive them out.
Vintage African American
 For those of you not familiar with such an event, an ice cream social is usually put on by a
church or other social organization either to raise money, or to offer a chance for members of
the congregation or group to come together and socialize.  Different members are usually
responsible for providing different kinds of ice cream or toppings or shortcakes to eat the ice
cream on.  Back in the days when the only way to get ice cream was to crank it by hand,
several old-fashioned churns were usually brought along for the festivities and put into service
to produce a variety of delectable treats.  It was often considered a point of honor for the kids
to be involved in the tiring efforts necessary to churn the ice cream out.
Compared to me, these are the true heroes, and their story, more than mine, deserves
to be told and passed on.  And even though I know it's hard to do so sometimes,
remember to keep hanging on -- after all, it's role models like these who we can look to
for inspiration and who deserve to be remembered because of their endurance.  As this
Memorial Day approaches, I ask you to slow down, ignore the sales and hoopla, and
take the time to remember the true heroes who lived  among us.  I hope their tales
serve to be as much of an inspiration to you as they are to me.
The following recipe for sweet potato biscuits was one my grandmother was gifted with by the family
she helped out all those decades ago.  As I understand it, it was developed by the grandmother of
the man who's buried in York, created back in the days when she was still a kitchen slave down in the
South.  The original recipe (spelling errors and all) went like this:


Swit tater biskits

wun pint of flaor, wun pint of swit taters mushed, haff cup full of loaf sugar broked fine, wun big
spoon butter, wun  lil spoon full of potash, nuff butter milk ta mix gud. the taters sposted be rosted,
no biled, and run tru thee meat-chopper afour contin it up. mess the doe  and stand her sivral ors
afore startin out the role. cook sloly in not to hat ovin.
  to the dough, as well as half a cup of chopped hickory or pecan nut meats.  The spices
were usually sifted in with the flour, and the nuts were added last, just before allowing the
dough to rise.  Be sure not to roll out the leftovers of dough from the cut biscuits more
than twice, or the result will be very hard.  Rather, gather up the dough scraps and using
your hands, shape them into a "pone" or hand formed biscuit.  Try to keep it as the same
thickness as the cut biscuits, and bake until done.

Even though I have specified one cup of buttermilk in the dough, you might want to keep a
quart of it close by in case you need to add a little more to the mix to get the correct dough
consistency.  Maddeningly, this is one of those recipes that Gram eyeballed as far as the
amount went, having the skill to be able to know when the dough was "just right."  
Unfortunately, this was never one she wrote down and modernized to pass on like she did
for the molasses cookie recipe, elsewhere on this site, so again, I have had to make a few
educated guesses based on peering at the stained, yellowed scrap of paper and based on
what I remember from the few times I made them with her. (We made them for a gathering
of the Yorkers, the state-sponsored history group for 7th and 8th graders that I belonged
to in 8th grade.)
You might need to experiment a little to gauge the exact heat needed in your oven to bake them
and to tell the doneness of the biscuit.  The bottom should barely be a light golden brown, and the
biscuit should look a little dry and just set.

This makes a great alternative to shortcake, especially when the spices and nuts are added in.  Split
the biscuits in half, butter each half with softened unsalted or "sweet" butter, then layer with fresh
peach slices and whipped cream or a little Anglaise.  Sprinkle a little ground ginger over the top for
garnish.  The same is true for peach ice cream, either homemade or store-bought.

Potash, like another old fashioned ingredient known as alaratus (which contains a mix containing
muriatic acid, now used to clean blood and other tough stains from concrete) was originally used as
leavening agents in baking, even right through the 1920s.  You can easily and safely substitute
baking soda and/or cream of tartar for the same result.
Laying hens for eggs.
Hearing about their livestock losses,
including all of their chickens, Grandma and
Grandpa Irwin donated four or five laying
hens out of their egg producing flock to
give them a helping hand.  Although not a
member of Grandma Irwin's own church
congregation, the little church the family
attended was of the same denomination,
and the sister churches occasionally would
work to help each other out, especially in
times of need.
Vintage African American Recipes
Vintage Ice Cream Social
Being one of the few literate members of his regiment, he was quickly made company clerk, and was
expected to keep meticulous records of things like what rations they needed and/or had consumed, the
names of those dead soldiers they found and buried along their march route (including Confederate ones
-- he once wrote in his diary that despite his men's grumblings, he had insisted on his men burying the
Confederate dead and kept a record of where he found and interred them as well as he could.  He felt it
was only right to help the Southern families with his recordkeeping so they could be notified of any family
losses. Charles believed that even though mistaken in their beliefs, Confederate soldiers were still God's
children and deserved a decent Christian burial following their deaths).  I remember asking her once why
we never put flowers on Gerry’s grave, as we had done year after year for Charles, who was buried
very close to where my father now rests.  Gram explained that in the confusion following the battle, he
had been interred near New Orleans instead of being shipped North, but we still had the picture to keep
his deeds and memory alive.
American Recipes
Vintage Recipe Collection
Sweet potato biscuits
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°
F.  The potatoes should be baked, not boiled. Scoop the flesh out of the skins and run the baked
insides through a meat grinder or food processor until well pureed, before measuring out the potatoes for the recipe. Sift
baking soda into the flour.  Add the butter to the potato, then add the sifted ingredients in thirds, beating well after each
addition. Allow the dough to stand in a semi-cool place for several hours to let the dough rise. Lightly flour your rolling pin,
rolling surface and biscuit cutter.  Roll out the biscuit dough to about 1/2" thick. Drop cut out biscuits onto a flat cookie
sheet which has been lightly sprayed with Pam or another nonstick spray.  Bake slowly about 40 minutes or until they look
done
Vintage Recipe Collection
For modern cooks, the recipe would read as follows:


Sweet Potato Biscuits

2 cups (one pint, by weight) of flour, sifted twice before
measuring

2 cups (one pint, by weight) of mashed sweet potato

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons baking soda (or 1 teaspoon each, baking soda and
cream of tartar)

1 cup buttermilk (or just enough to mix ingredients into a soft
dough.
Vintage Recipes
Vintage Recipes from long ago.
 Not content with the headway
the Ku Klux Klan had made
south of the Mason-Dixon Line,
in the late 1920s they began to
send all sorts of recruiters to
infiltrate local communities and
find converts throughout the
northern states that had once
successfully opposed them
during the Civil War.
The Klan, knowing that they were unlikely to succeed with their usual brand
of tactics, pretended to be simply another of many social organizations that
had formed to do things like sponsoring strawberry socials, picnics, and
other family oriented events.  It wasn't until they felt they had someone well
and truly hooked by their "social" activities that the Klan felt they could finally
reveal their true agenda to members of the unsuspecting populace.  It's sad
to say, but more than a few of the people in the region were, at first, taken
in by the methods being employed in the local area.  There were even some
who agreed with the hateful message being put forth (my mother told me
that once, in the early 1950s, as a prank, some teenaged friends who were
no strangers to instigating mischief, went to a little local air landing strip
near the head of the lake which stood on a ridge above the shore, and set a
wooden cross wrapped in rags afire after reading about such activities in
their high school history class.  Terrified, the teenagers watched as car after
car, filled with white-robed people, showed up to see who has had set the
cross alight to call a meeting.  The teens slipped away unnoticed, as town
and county sheriffs arrived to break up the gathering).  It's so heartbreaking
to think that this kind of twisted thinking had flourished in an area that had
sacrificed so many of its sons to fight for the ideal of freedom for all men
during the conflict between the states.
Old time recipes