Friday, March 2, 2012

No Marijuana Required

I think I baked my first cake when I was in about the third grade. I am quite certain that by the time I was in the fifth grade, I had taken over all of the birthday-cake baking duties. And these were not from box mixes, no, they were from "scratch," as we said then.

I took to cooking and baking like nobody's business which was a good thing as (a) I loved to eat, and (b) my mother wasn't always very interested in cooking although she did it because back in those olden days, there really wasn't much of a choice for the woman of the house.
But me? I loved to cook and bake. It felt so real. Unlike the rest of my life which was mainly about secrets and pain and, okay, terror, the making of food was so prosaic and so dependable. You followed a recipe and the resulting product was something reliably delicious and wholesome (in a sense of the word) and it was like something that would happen in a real family.
You know?

My mother came to her first marriage, I suppose, with a cookbook just like this one:

That's what I started cooking from and to this day, I still consult it. The best gift my mother ever gave me was a copy of it that she found and it is my pride and joy.

1938 it was printed and there are terrific pictures in it of world long-gone but if you need to know how to make a white sauce or a baked potato or scrambled eggs or fudge or a rabbit casserole or salmon bisque, it's all there. Plus, instructions on how to can and preserve. Need to carve a ham?

"You cannot learn too soon. Carving by the host- old or young- is a gracious, hospitable gesture. There are rules for carving. (page 108). With ham or leg of lamb, have the fleshy side up, plant the fork firmly. Begin at the center, slice toward the bone. Sit or stand. Be comfortable."

Now hell yeah!

So it was from the pages of this book that I learned the basics. It wasn't until I was at a primitive encampment on a mountain-side in North Carolina though when I was probably about fifteen, that I had the epiphany that I really do love to cook. I was boiling vegetables in a pot over a fire for a stew and it just hit me like a bolt from the blue that this was one of the things I was put on earth to do. To cook. And cooking has always served me well. People like to eat and you can quote me on that.

When I was a young hippie those skills really paid off. We smoked a lot of dope in those days. And the smoking of marijuana will, without a doubt, lead to the munchies. And so inevitably there would be a roomful of people, stoned out of their gourds, wishing that they had something to eat and pizza delivery was still mighty iffy and a drive down to the Krispy Kreme was about as imaginable as a trek up Mount Everest. I, however, could slip unnoticed into the kitchen and in what seemed like no time at all to the assembled stoners (but to me, in the kitchen, seemed like oh, maybe a few eons) I could come back out with something for everyone to eat.
I could make something good out of almost nothing. And I did, over and over again.
One of the things I liked to make was an apple cake because the ingredients for it were in almost everyone's kitchen, and especially mine. I was probably basing this recipe on the one in that cookbook for applesauce cake which I had made a lot as a young girl.

I found that instead of shortening, though, I could use a little vegetable oil and instead of the applesauce, I could use chopped apples. Easy to mix up, fast to bake, delicious. Measuring the ingredients wasn't really necessary. I could (and do) "eye" things and use my palm as a measuring device for salt and soda and spices, etc.
This cake satisfied a lot of the hippie-cooking requirements in that I could use whole wheat flour and add wheat germ if I wanted, substitute honey for sugar, and it still came out lovely. Especially if I put some powdered-sugar on the top when it came out of the oven and no one was complaining about refined sugar by that point in the evening.

And this is basically the cake I made the other night and I baked it in one of my iron skillets, which is how I like to do it, and it was as good and moist and satisfying as I remembered it.

Mr. Moon always wishes for whipped cream for the top or better yet- ice cream- but I didn't have either and in my opinion, the cake doesn't need it. It keeps well, too, if you are not feeding a pack of hungry stoned people who in five minutes time will inhale (haha!) every last molecule of carbohydrate goodness.

That's what's left of mine this morning. It makes a good breakfast food, too, by the way.

So that's my Southern Hippie Grandma Cake is. It's southern because I cook it in the skillet and because I am southern. It's hippie because I made it so often when I was a young hippie. It's grandma because I am a grandmother. Oh hell, let's face it- I am a Southern Hippie Grandma. And now you can make it too, using that recipe. You can use the applesauce AND a chopped apple. Chop the apple pretty fine. You can use shortening or butter or do what I do and use Canola oil. You can use brown sugar or you can fool around with that too. When I made my cake the other night, I used a bit of brown sugar, a bit of honey, and a bit of cane syrup. I like to use molasses in it but I didn't have any. I also added some fresh-grated nutmeg and lemon peel and ginger and vanilla. I put a little milk in there too. Hell, you can even add smushed-up banana in it if you want.

Are you confused yet? As long as you have the bones of the recipe- the shortening, the flour, the baking soda, the egg, you can flesh it out however you want. I promise you. I mean, I used to make this cake so stoned I barely knew my name. Which didn't matter because when I would come out of the kitchen with that cake I was frequently called, "Goddess."

Which is another reason to cook.

I will never be a fancy baker or a chef and my presentation generally sucks but that is not the sort of cooking I was put here on earth to do and I know it. And personally, given the choice between a cake that looks like it was spun from sugar in heaven and which is served on fine china with a silver fork and a linen napkin, or that cake right there in that old black skillet, cut and served on a paper towel to eat with fingers (or toothpick- your choice), I'll take the damn apple cake any time.

But that's just me and I have to admit that I adore grocery-store bakery cakes with that Crisco (or is it lard?) and powdered-sugar icing too so maybe I'm not really the person to judge.

I'm just a southern hippie grandma who learned to cook and bake out of a cookbook printed in 1938.

Okay. Happy Friday, y'all.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. I love the story of the munchies apple cake. Very colourful :) No doubt you could rewrite the 'Young American's Alternative Cookbook' quite well.

    People still say 'from scratch' though - it amazes me how many cupcake bakers use box mix.

  2. Well, I really like that you use that book. My wife has my mother's and her mother's cook books. Some are really old and have hand written recipes in them. I have been inspired to do cooking, but I eat to live and don't live to eat.

    Hey, I used to make some Alice B. Toklas brownies in graduate school. We often partied right hard.

  3. Njum, njum... cake coming up! I can feel it. Thanks for sharing that recipe Ms Moon...

  4. Jo- I know! I have only recently realized that many "real" bakers use box mixes and hell, some of them are excellent. Still, it's weird.

    Syd- I only ate marijuana in brownies a few times. I didn't like it. Way too hard to judge dosage for me.

    Photocat- You will like it.

  5. You rock, Sister Moon. I love this post!

  6. i absolutely ADORE this post! I will have to share it with my daughter who will absolutely adore it too. Like you, she learned to cook and bake because her mama was useless in that department. (I'm glad she didn't have the secret terror ingredient, though). Now she is off to college in the fall and this southern hippie grandma cake definitely seems like a recipe that might come in handy for a college student! What a rich history you have, Ms. Moon. I love that you did a whole post in answer to my question!

  7. That's how i cook -- no recipe, just make what tastes good. #2 Son does the same, especially with pancakes.

    We will be trying this cake, too.

  8. Oh, favorite favorite Ms. Moon post so far. You need to write a cookbook. You need a show on Food are twelve zillion times cooler than the Pioneer Woman. I have more to swoon over but must get back to work!!!

  9. Even though I began to bake at a very early age like you, and I just knew that that was what I wanted to do, along with being a writer, I am the polar opposite in that I revel in the recipe and the careful measuring and all that stuff. Perhaps it's my critical, Virgoan side? I do know that I have a sort of intuitive ability to know when something is "done," when it's mixed just right, when it's risen enough, etc., but I so admire your ability to throw things together like you do and have them come out so delicious!

  10. The only thing my mother ever made was a good potato salad. Everything else was frozen from the store. Or the occasional fried bologna sandwich with Miracle Whip and Velveeta. Holiday fare. It wasn't until I moved in with the hippies on the commune that I learned to love cooking especially baking and I find it now to be one of my true spiritual practices. When I was unemployed I spent an entire summer learning how to make cakes since I was very very good at bread. Once I figured out the cake tricks I stopped baking them because I love cake and I wanted to eat them all. The Zen of chopping and all of it. Peaceful and it provides love. Damn this is a woo-woo post for me. Haaahhaa.

  11. I loved to bake way back when :) . Cookies, hot bread with butter fresh out of the oven, yummy. Apple pies, coffee cakes, yeast donuts. That was many years ago, I seem to have the knack to bake. My older adult children still remember the bread coming out of the oven, their friends having slices with the butter melting on it. All different kinds of cookies were made. None from boxes, cheese cakes etc. I had won the betty cocker award in cooking class in my school. Way back when,

  12. gradydoctor- I'm so glad.

    Angella- Dang! I would be so honored if your daughter liked this post. Thanks, honey.

    messymimi- You'll really enjoy it, I'm sure.

    Chrissy- Cooler than Pioneer Woman? Oh Lord. Not me.

    Elizabeth- I measure when it is fussy stuff like angel biscuits. I do.

    Madame King- Our holiday fare was frozen broccoli with Chez Whiz melted over the top. It always got watery. I love you. That's all.

  13. I managed to burn frozen cookie dough this weekend.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.