Tag Archives: Muffins

What Would Jessie Dish? Wednesdays – Week 3: Banana Muffins

Of the Jessie recipe file, this week’s banana muffin recipe was fascinating – well, to me – for three reasons:

1.  The “recipe” just listed the ingredients, baking time, and oven temperature, so I had to create the steps, from my knowledge of baking techniques – especially muffins and quick breads.

2.   I do not remember my grandmother Jessie ever having made these, so I could not compare my version to my memory – unlike last week’s brownies.

3.  The recipe was hand-written on the reverse of a sympathy-note form card.

The last item makes me wonder if Jessie wrote this recipe down some time after the late 1960s, when my grandfather died (in his late sixties himself).  He was a very well-known sports writer – he never would have called himself a “sports journalist” in the style today – and publicity man.  Grandpa Lou (or “Gooey”, as we called him, as a childish contraction of “Grandpa Louie”, I think) was a quirky self-educated newspaperman and sports promoter In fact, a character in the play (made into a movie four times!) by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur,  The Front Page was based on him, I learned just a few years ago from my mother.

My grandfather "Gooey" is just 17 years old here.

My grandfather worked closely with Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey (I have a pocket watch from Mr. Dempsey engraved with an inscription to my grandfather on Xmas Day 1929, the day of the gift), and other high-profile boxers as well as horse-racers and many other sports figures and teams.

For instance, Joe Louis, who was one of the greatest boxers in history, received considerable yet discrete financial help from my grandfather, after Mr. Louis’s agent misappropriated or mismanaged his money.

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Cornsticks with home-made jams

Cornsticks with home-made jams

One of my favourite childhood memories was visiting an old corn mill, called the “Olde Graue Mill”, way down South in the “Land of Cotton” in a western suburb of Chicago.

We would watch the corn kernels being ground by the huge wooden, water-driven mill, over the Des Plaines River (pronounced, “Dess-plains”, with a nasal Chicago twang – none of that Frenchified pronunciation for people in the “Greater Metropolitan Chicagoland Area”, as it is still known). We purchased freshly ground cornmeal, packaged in cute burlap bags, sporting the image of the old mill. At home, we made cornbread from the mill’s recipe, in a special pan: the cast-iron cornstick pan.

Are you thinking, “What, pray tell, is a cornstick pan?” No? Are you thinking the answer is, “Something that makes cornsticks, obviously.” What? Are you a smart-aleck? But it is actually a vintage cast-iron pan, created long ago, probably somewhere deep in the US South. The pans typically feature seven corn-cob-shaped indentations:

Cornstick mold

Empty cornstick pan ready for baking

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