Ohio Proud: Sherwood Anderson and Bob Evans Sausage

Clyde MapI’d always heard about Sherwood Anderson, but never read anything he’d written until I devised this crazy plan to read 52 American writers, one a week for a year. I ended up reading Anderson’s entire collection of stories, Winesburg, Ohio.

Anderson (1876-1941) created this fictional Ohio town and with it inspired other writers to create their own small towns – like William Faulkner and Yoknapatawtha.  Anderson left Ohio for the big city lights of Chicago and New Orleans, but it was his novel about Ohio that had made him famous.

The town of Clyde, Ohio, where Anderson grew up, proudly admits to being his inspiration

for Winesburg.  But, that wasn’t the case when the book came out in 1919. Residents called it a “dirty book” and the town librarian burned it. Only in recent years, after the book was ranked #24 on the Modern Library List of 100 Best Novels, did the citizens of Clyde decide to honor Anderson  — and cash-in at the same time. Today Clyde lures tourists with literary town maps and museum exhibits celebrating Anderson.  They even celebrate his birthday every September 13 (that’s my birthday, too).

When Anderson lived in New Orleans in the Roaring Twenties, he opened his home to aspiring writers.  John Dos Passos, Carl Sandburg and Gertrude Stein came to the city because of Anderson.  For a while, a young William Faulkner lived at the Anderson’s home.  But there’s no mention of Anderson’s culinary tastes in that gumbo town — not even a favorite restaurant, though he liked noisy restaurants, including one in Paris frequented by fishermen.

According to his grandson Michael Spears, Anderson liked to talk more than eat. Once when his grandfather visited their North Carolina home, the writer piled his plate high with mashed potatoes, gravy, greens, peas, pork chops and biscuits. He then became more interested in telling stories than eating.  Maybe that’s what happened on the cruise when he swallowed a whole toothpick that eventually killed him.  

Along with being the birthplace of Sherwood Anderson, 24 astronauts, and seven U.S. presidents , Ohio prides itself on pork sausage.  So for Sherwood Anderson, I offer Ohio Proud Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, a taste of New Orleans flavored with Bob Evans’ Ohio Hot Zesty Sausage – yes, the same Bob Evans of Midwest restaurant fame.


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Matzo Ball Gumbo takes center stage for Kansas playwright

matzo ball gumbo
PICTURE THIS: Matzo Ball Gumbo combining the flavors of favorite Southern recipes.

Memories of playwright William Inge make me cringe and cry at the same time.  I wept until my eyes swelled when I saw the movie Splendor in the Grass. And when I sat in the audience for a high school production of Picnic, I cringed every time the screen door on the set slammed — at least 100 times.  But William Inge, an Independence, Kansas native, could cast a spell with stories of regular folks in America’s heartland no matter the venue.

At one time in the 1950s, four of Inge’s plays were running almost simultaneously on

Broadway. All went on to be major films. He won a Pulitzer Prize and an Oscar, yet like so many writers I’ve written about this year, he suffered from alcoholism and depression. And, he didn’t write much about food. His plays reference fare for picnics and barbecue (Picnic), diners (Bus Stop) and boarding houses, (Come Back, Little Sheba) but those weren’t Inge’s favorite foods.

Advice about food was the last thing his mother told him when he set off for New York to be a writer (with a degree from University of Kansas, a Masters from Peabody and plenty of theatre experience under his belt).

“Now, Bill, you know whenever you get to New York or any of the cities and you need a good home-cooked meal, you must go to a Jewish deli and get it there.” Inge’s friend Jack Garfein, who relayed the anecdote in “He Knew the Poetry of Life,” wrote that Inge’s favorite restaurant seemed to be a Jewish deli.

And no doubt when Inge lived at The Dakota apartment coop in New York with other writers, artists and actors, he could walk to a good Jewish deli. But Jewish Gumbo is a Southern thing.

Marcie Cohen Ferris, a native of Arkansas and professor at University of North Carolina, is author of Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South. She shared her recipe for Matzo Ball Gumbo on blog Eat, Drink & Think.

It features Matzo Balls flavored with Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning dropped in a Louisiana Chicken and Sausage Gumbo (kosher optional) with okra and tomatoes. It’s made with a baked roux and sounds delicious.

And for dessert, how about a big slice of pie from Grace’s Restaurant, maybe one like those on the set of Bus Stop?

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Braving Pokemon in the Kansas heat —

Vacation's over.jpgI wish my writing sabbatical to visit grandkids had been as peaceful as this picture. No such luck.  On the first day of my Kansas visit my grandson’s dog trapped me in the basement.

I was just trying to take a “selfie” with the dog on the stairs when she turned on me, snapped, growled and backed me down the stairs into the basement.

It took an hour and a half for the “fam” to return and free me from their snarling “rescue” dog at the top of the stairs.

The next ten days were spent – surprise to me – as the family moved out of the house. Fortunately the mattresses stayed (just not the bed frames). My vacation transformed into a physical work-out. I boxed up the kitchen, cleaned the pantry, scoured the refrigerator, and climbed three-levels of stairs until I ached in places I’d forgotten I had.  While the kids were at camp in the mornings, I packed breakables, took down pictures, and boxed videos. I found $6.28 in loose change, missing Legos, and $85 in lost gift cards. I pocketed the change, but surrendered the Legos and gift cards.

After two days of storms thundering across the plains, the sunflowers started to wilt and a heat advisory planted itself over Kansas. My eight-year-old granddaughter reminded me to bow down to the god of air conditioning every time I hauled trash bags to the curb. Somehow the weather cooperated enough in the evenings for me to see the kids play softball and baseball.  I watched two of my granddaughter’s games – the final one delayed an hour because of a heat advisory. They ended the game and season with a water balloon fight. At dusk temperatures were still in the nineties. I watched my 11-year-old grandson’sIMG_8098 baseball team shock the sports pundits and parents of opposing teams. Playing under the big lights on AstroTurf after their red clay field flooded, his team beat every contender, including the undefeated favorite.  When the stadium lights shut off prematurely during their postgame City Champ celebration, the team caravanned to Varsity Donuts, a stationary food truck parked in an alley and popular with college kids. I treated myself to a Grilled Macaroni and Cheese Sandwich, a first.

IMG_2615We braved the heat to chase Pokemon, virtual characters in the Nintendo internet game taking the world by storm. We played in a Junction City park, a virtual “hot spot” in more ways than one, and spent hours in the Verizon store – again, praise to the god of air conditioning.  Back in the sweltering heat, we used the Pokemon app for a discount to the Manhattan Zoo to chase these virtual animals.  The real animals were too hot to come out in daylight. The cheetah, perched as high in the shade of his cage as possible, was panting more than I was.  The only semi-cool animal was a turtle, laboriously hauling his house towards a puddle.

In the midst of the chaos, my granddaughter turned eight. She and I began the day with a pancake birthday celebration and then set a timer. She opened a small gift every hour, on the hour. For dinner before the baseball game, she chose her favorite place – all you can eat pizza. I’d been there before and it took her birthday to drag me back to Pizza Ranch. I learned it’s her favorite place, not for the pizza, but because of the free soft, serve ice cream machine.

My exit from Kansas was every bit as surprising as my visit. We arrived at the Kansas City Airport (a three-hour drive) to see disgruntled passengers forming a line that snaked halfway down the outside of the terminal.  Inside, a mirror image of even more passengers. But nothing would dampen our spirits. The grandkids and I were heading to my house in Florida for a real vacation.

It’s good to be writing again.

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Gumbo fit for a “King” — School or Writer


New Orleans writer Grace Elizabeth King. Photo Credit Harper’s magazine 1887.

Any teenager or parent of a teenager around the New Orleans area has heard of Grace King – the place, perhaps not the person. I suspect only a few know Grace Elizabeth King was one of Louisiana’s first women writers.  To honor her with a namesake high school seems appropriate if you know it started out as an all girls’ public high school. I remember – I taught at Grace King in 1970 and 1971.

King (1851-1932) wrote short fiction, novels, biography and history.  She was a leader in literary, historical and cultural activities in New Orleans during Reconstruction following the Civil War. In New Orleans: The People and the Place, she captured the history of the city with insight into women’s roles including chapters on the yellow fever epidemic and Ursuline nuns.

Her Balcony Stories is now free on Amazon for Kindle or Project Gutenburg  Readers of her day, however, found her stories in magazines like Harper’s New Monthly and The Century.  Several stories tugged at my heart strings when I read of young girls abandoned or without family. (Another good reason to name a girls’ school for her).

Grace King House NOLA

Grace King’s Home at 1749 Coliseum still stands but is not open to the public. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, King hosted Friday afternoon literary salons at this Greek Revival home.

King, who hobnobbed with the likes of Sherwood Anderson and Mark Twain, is one of the best known female literary figures from New Orleans. She actually made a living as a writer, helping her family in a struggle to regain their wealth and status following the Civil War. When her local color stories went out of vogue she turned to history and biography, even writing one on Bienville, founder of New Orleans.

Grace King didn’t leave recipes or cookbooks behind, and though she wrote Creole Families of New Orleans, she was not Creole. She was the grande dame of the New Orleans literary scene and held court at her home at 1749 Coliseum Street. I doubt she served her guests gumbo.

So for fun, I’m recommending a gumbo recipe for Grace King that is served in school cafeterias – or at least one school cafeteria in Kansas according to a comment on cooks.com  I wonder how many times this recipe would have to be multiplied to feed Grace King High School’s current enrollment of 1337.


1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3/4 cup of canola or peanut oil
1 cup of plain flour
4 quarts of chicken stock (plus additional water if needed)
4 cloves of garlic, diced
1 tablespoon of fresh or dried thyme
2+ tablespoons of Tony Chachere’s seasoning, to taste
1/2 pound or 4 cups of fresh or frozen okra, chopped
1 lb chicken meat, cooked and deboned
1 lb andouille sausage, sliced thin
4-6 cups of cooked white rice
chopped parsley and green onion tops for garnish
ground file’ (if desired)

Start off by prepping the “Trinity” vegetables (onion, celery and bell pepper) by chopping them, then set aside with the onion separate.

To a cast iron skillet warming up on med-high heat, add the oil and then the flour, blending well to make a roux. Continue stirring constantly on medium to medium-high heat with a metal spatula or wire whisk for about 15-20 minutes as the roux turns color from white to tan, then to a peanut butter color, and then a medium to dark brown color like melted chocolate. Note: Make sure to scrape the entire base of the skillet as u go along and never stop stirring for any longer than about 5-10 seconds or it will scorch.)

At this point add the onions first and cook for at least 5 minutes until they start to caramelize in the roux (which will turn it even darker), then add the celery, bell pepper, garlic and thyme to the hot roux, stir and cook on low heat for about 5 more minutes.

Transfer the cooked roux mixture to a large stockpot and add the chicken stock over high heat (plus extra water later if needed to cover the remaining ingredients) along with the chicken, sausage and Tony’s seasoning. While allowing the assembled gumbo to come to a boil, fry the bare okra in a few tablespoons of oil for a couple minutes and then add to the pot (or if desired, breaded okra can be substituted and served on the side).

Once brought to a boil, lower heat to med-low and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve hot over a bed of rice with green onions and parsley garnish, plus ground sassafras leaves (file’) can be added for even more authentic Cajun flavor.

Cooks.com, submitted Ty Jankowski / Jackson, MS and recreated by a school cafeteria worker in Kansas, Cheryl Hensley.

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Scratch a Cook for a Gumbo Recipe – Sometimes

State Archives of Florida RC04555

Pulitzer Prize winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings tested all her recipes in her home kitchen with her husband documenting measurements. The recipes appear in  her cookbook companion to Cross Creek. She once wrote “Scratch a cook and you’ll get a recipe.” Photo Credit: State of Florida Archives RC04555

Cross Creek Cookery

Cross Creek Cookery, a cookbook companion to Cross Creek, was first published in 1942. For sample recipes, click here.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Yearling, also wrote a cookbook — Cross Creek Cookery. She doesn’t include a gumbo recipe, but she does drop a few clues as to what gumbo she might enjoy.

A native of Washington, D.C, Rawlings is considered a Florida writer, having spent most of her life writing from her home in Cross Creek.  She writes about “Florida Crackers,” the pioneer settlers of wild Florida; most of the recipes in Cross Creek Cookery reflect their tastes.

Though some seafood recipes, even lobster, are included, the closest thing to gumbo is turtle soup. The book, which includes humorous anecdotes, sold almost as many copies as Cross Creek and The Yearling.  They sold nearly half-a-million copies apiece. Eighteen years after Cross Creek Cookery first appeared, Rawlings came out with a British edition.

Before moving to Florida, she was writing about cooking, kitchens, housework and

State of Florida Archives Prophet  COM00772

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ home near Hawthorne is now a Florida State Park and Historic Site. Photo Credit: State of Florida Archives/Prophet. Image COM00772

gardening in “Songs of a Housewife.”  Six days a week for almost two years, she penned humorous “newspaper poems,” a total of  495, for the Rochester Times-Union.  The poems proved so popular, they were syndicated.

Her short stories (one won the O. Henry Award) also include references to Florida foods – pecans, quail, oysters and gophers.  No, not furry, rodents – dry land turtles. 

So, for Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings I recommend Gopher Gumbo – akin to turtle soup – a Florida favorite according to Northwest Florida’s First Poet Laureate, Adelia Rosaco Soule.

Turtle soup is more popular nowadays, and often served in fancy restaurants, but turtle gumbo is still around. Here’s a recipe for gumbo, but the biggest challenge might be finding turtle meat. Click here for tips on finding turtle meat that’s not endangered.

State of Florida Archives LaHart DL0101

Gopher gumbo was a popular dish in the Florida Panhandle in the early 1900s. Gopher Tortoise. State of Florida Archives/LaHart DL0101




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115 Year-Old Recipe & the Gumbo Tastes Great

MV5BMTIwODE4MDI2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTM0MDIyMQ@@._V1_I’d forgotten how much I loved the British reality series The 1900 House until I tried my hand at making gumbo using the 1901 recipe from my last post. About 30 minutes into cooking I wondered how big a 1901 stovetop was. That’s when I remembered the gigantic wood-eating, never-let-the-embers-die cooker from The 1900 House.

The BBC-PBS series ushered-in the Millennium airing in 1999 and 2000. It starred a real British Family, The Bowlers, who had applied along with hundreds of others for the television history experiment. They moved into a 1900 house for three months, leaving their modern world behind. They performed every chore and task using vintage methods and tools – right down to homemade shampoo and sore throat cures. British experts dropped in to teach family members how to adapt. And, of course, the series kept the viewers hooked by airing family member’s video diaries. 

Most Victorian-era households had a cook or at least a maid-of-all-work, a chicken coop and a small garden for fresh vegetables.  I grow fresh herbs, but it took a trip to the Farmer’s Market for tomatoes and okra for my 1901 experiment. I counted out 50 okra according to recipe, one by one, choosing small fresh ones. (Fortunately the customer before me teaching her daughter how to choose okra didn’t take all the good ones).  I  had to check with my mother, though, for the best way to skin a tomato – dip in boiling water for a minute, then plunge in ice water.


The 1901 recipe calls for 50 pieces of okra, six fresh tomatoes and one-half red pepper. To skin a tomato dip in boiling water for a minute, then plunge in icy water. A maid-of-all-work or sous chef from the 1900s would have come in handy for my recreation of an authentic recipe.

I prepared my 1901 gumbo in a much larger kitchen than the one in The 1900 House, but 1900 soup pots must have been bigger than my six-quart soup pot. I dug out the big gumbo pot

1901 Gumbo (3)

The 6-quart pot on the right wasn’t large enough, but my gumbo pot held it all.

midway through cooking. I should have anticipated that since most Victorian-era families had five or six children. Plus they fed parents and the help from the same pot. About two hours into chopping I wished I had a maid-of-all-work from The 1900 House.

But my delicious, authentic 1901  Okra Gumbo offered up exactly what the recipe promised —  a superior flavor.  And I’ve got plenty to freeze and share!1901 Gumbo (2)

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Vintage Gumbo for Turn-of-the-Century Writer Ellen Glasgow

Glasgow Art blogVirginia writer Ellen Glasgow is recognized as the first woman writer from the South and for moving Southern literature away from nostalgia and sentimentality.  Her first novel The Descendant was published in 1897 — anonymously. In total she wrote 19 books, 13 short stories, and a volume of poetry.  Her last novel, In This Our Life, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942 and was turned into a movie with Bette Davis and Olivia de Haviland. No wonder I can’t find a cookbook recipe by Ellen Glasgow. She was way too busy writing upstairs in her antebellum home in Richmond.

In Stirring the Pot: The Kitchen and Domesticity in the Fiction of Southern Women, Laura Sloan Patterson points out that even though Ellen Glasgow examines female overtones of isolation,  she rarely “acted as a homemaker in her own life.” But there was no need. She had at least two cooks in her lifetime, Lizzie Jones and James Anderson.  And they must have been exceptional. Alice B. Toklas described dinner at Glasgow’s home as “epicurean.”

Finding the right gumbo for Ellen Glasgow involved a historic journey for me as I read popular magazines of the early 1900s. While Harper’s, Scribner’s and Good Housekeeping published Ellen Glasgow’s stories, magazines like Farming carried advertisements selling her books right beside Studebakers and silos.  The September 1906 issue of The Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic  Economics advertised Glasgow’s newest novel The Battleground. The issue also contained a review for a The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book, Glasgow Creole Cookbook2“the most interesting cookbook ever published under newspaper auspices.”

The New Orleans newspaper’s cookbook is out of print after 17 editions, more than 800 recipes and eight decades, from 1901 to 1985. Times Picayune Food Editor Judy Walker (now retired) offers the interesting history of the cookbook here. Of the seven gumbo recipes featured, I’ll choose Okra Gumbo for Ellen Glasgow. The farmer’s market bins are overflowing with okra this week.

And, I’m sure Ellen Glasgow would enjoy a dish from a popular cookbook of her day, just as long as someone else cooks it.

Okra Gumbo
Gombo Fevi

(From The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book, circa 1901, content may be dated)

1 Chicken
1 Onion
6 Large Fresh Tomatoes
2 Pints of Okra, or Fifty Counted.
1/2 Pod of Red Pepper, without the Seeds
2 Large Slices of Ham
1 Bay Leaf
1 Sprig of Thyme or Parsley
1 Tablespoonful of Lard or Two Level Spoons of Butter
Salt and Cayenne to Taste

Clean and cut up the chicken. Cut the ham into small squares or dice and chop the onions, parsley and thyme. Skin the tomatoes, and chop fine, saving the juice. Wash and stem the okra and slice into thin layers of one-half inch each. Put the lard or butter into the soup kettle, and when hot add the chicken and the ham.

Cover closely and let it simmer for about ten minutes. Then add the chopped onions, parsley, thyme and tomatoes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Then add the okra, and, when well browned, add the juice of the tomatoes, which imparts a superior flavor.

The okra is very delicate and is liable to scorch quickly if not stirred frequently. For this reason many Creole cooks fry the okra separately in a frying pan, seasoning with the pepper, cayenne and salt, and then add to the chicken. But equally good results may be obtained by simply adding the okra to the frying chicken, and watching constantly to prevent scorching.

The least taste of a “scorch” spoils the flavor of the gumbo. When well fried and browned, add the boiling water (about three quarts) and set on a very slow fire, letting it simmer gently for about an hour longer. Serve hot, with nicely boiled rice. The remains of turkey may be utilized in the gumbo, instead of using chicken.

In families where it is not possible to procure a fowl, use a round steak of beef or veal, instead of the chicken, and chop fine. But it must always be borne in mind that the Chicken Gumbo has the best flavor. Much, however, depends upon the seasoning, which is always high, and thus cooked, the Meat Gumbo makes a most nutritious and excellent dish.

picayune ad

Note from this early advertisement that The Picayune Creole Cookbook, if delivered by mail, costs a mere 27 cents less than a novel by Ellen Glasgow.


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