Recipes from Nebraska’s farm kitchens, 184pp.
compiled by Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE), 1979
Cooking on page 32
Have I told you that I’m from Nebraska? You wouldn’t call it a tourist destination, but it was a wonderful place to grow up, go to university and work for a decade before heading to the Middle East and then Australia.
Nebraska is all about friendly and down-to-earth people, fresh and plentiful food, beautiful blue skies, plenty of space, regular rodeos, home to Strategic Air Command and baseball’s College World Series, the name of a new Oscar-nominated movie, the real Gateway to the West, acres and acres of flat farmland, and sometimes a lot of snow.
I’m proud to be a Nebraskan and an Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska. I’ve lived in Omaha and Kearney. Omaha is the Big Smoke (but it’s not the capital). It sits on the state’s eastern border and overlooks the Missouri River. Kearney is almost smack in the middle of the state and in the midst of all that farmland. It sits on the Platte River, which is often described as ‘a mile wide and an inch deep’. In fact, the Platte inspired the name Nebraska, which is an Indian word meaning ‘flat water’.
I can’t remember how I came to own this cookbook. Maybe I bought it (it was obviously a fundraiser) or maybe a farming friend gave it to me. I rather hope that I paid for it.
When I went to cook out of it, I googled the organisation and found that it’s still going strong. There are chapters in many Midwestern states, but the original Women Involved in Farm Economics started in 1976 in Sidney, in western Nebraska.
WIFE serves as a grassroots, non-political lobbying group. Among the issues they have addressed are parity, freight rates, state and national farm legislation, loan rates and inheritance laws. The organisation strives to call attention to agricultural conditions, educate consumers and work for better farm product prices.
I’m pleased to be cooking Vivian De Boer’s recipe from page 32 and using apples we bought yesterday at a local orchard. And read on to find out why I made this cake today.
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
4 cups apples
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
1 cut chopped nuts
Mix together the first eight ingredients.
Mix together the eggs and sugar, and beat until light and fluffy.
Combine all ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Poor into a tube pan which has not been greased and floured. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with whipped cream.
How it played out
I made this as written, using two very large bonza apples. It was the perfect opportunity to haul out our nifty hand-operated machine that cores, peels and slices an apple in next to no time. All I had to do was chop into pieces.
Poor John bought this gadget for Aunt Esther when she was in her 80s and found that wrestling with apple peel was a challenge for her arthritic hands. She moved in with us when she was 89 and we ‘inherited’ the apple wonder after she died almost 10 years later.
But I digress. As I made this recipe, I kept thinking it was going to fail. The mixture was way too thick, and I definitely wasn’t going to be able to ‘pour’ it into the tube pan.
But I pressed on—adding the egg/sugar combo and the nuts (I used walnuts) to the main mixture. Then scraped everything into a fancy non-stick bundt pan, which I reluctantly did not grease or flour. Then I crossed my fingers and put it in the oven.
I checked it regularly (skewer in hand) and was surprised to find that it took almost exactly 1 hour and 10 minutes to cook through. The tricky part was getting it out of the pan. I didn’t need dynamite, but you wouldn’t have wanted to hear what I was muttering under my breath as I wrestled it from the pan.
I mangled it enough to feel the need to whip together a quick mixture of icing sugar and milk in the hope that I could disguise some of the damage. That worked, sort of.
Mangled or not, the cake was delicious. It may have been tattered, but it was moist, full of flavour and popular with everyone.
I took it for afternoon tea at a daughter’s cricket grand final (she’s captain for Eastlake’s women’s cricket team, and kneeling almost in the middle). They won, the cake was a winner and as my friend, Renae, would say ‘all good’.
Except I’m still wishing I had greased and floured the pan. Next time.
P.S. Be sure to check out my travel blog, which has a few entries on Nebraska.