Last Sunday, I sneaked out of school and visited another farmers market. I know, egregious, right? That’s what it felt like! But I had a good reason, and there was no chef demo to shepherd at the Olney Farmers and Artists Market (OFAM), so I didn’t feel so horribly guilty as I might have.
We ankled down to Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market to support some fellow Culinary Historians of Washington (CHoW) members, who presented a program similar to the two enjoyed by OFAM patrons earlier in the season. Beverly Firme, the mastermind behind “CHoW Goes to Market,” envisions it as outreach, to connect with possible new members, and spread insights into historical origins of our foodways. And because, delicious.
And as none of us are bone-weary of politics yet this year, she decided that the theme would be Election Food. Yes, this is, and more importantly, has been, a thing, and for quite a long time, in this great country of ours. CHoW member Shirley Cherkasky’s collection of political fundraising cookbooks enabled Beverly to assemble recipes from different eras and political perspectives. (See the CHoW website, where they are posted along with much more information about the organization.)
There is, for instance, Election Night Fruit Cake from Ruth Finney, of the Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance, published in the National Press Club’s Second Helpings in 1962. “…on election day before the polls close, I find there is a big vacuum. The job of preparing and mixing the ingredients for this fussy cake is a good way to fill it.” You know that’s historical, because so totally obsolete.
From The Gray Panthers Cookbook (1984), comes Banana Sweet Potato Bread. I remember the Gray Panthers, an advocacy organization that confronts ageism and other social justice issues, from when it was founded in 1970. I didn’t think I would fit the membership profile then, but I do now! Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that the Gray Panthers are still going strong today.
Reaching a little further back in history, and attempting to be politically nonjudgmental, Citizens for McCarthy (published in 1948 so you know it’s not Eugene they mean) is the source for The Vote Getters Coffee Cake. Balancing the demagoguery is a recipe from Eleanor Roosevelt in The Val-Kill Cookbook (1984) for Pear Bread.
Beverly, Laura Roler, and Mark Collins demonstrated mixing the Banana Sweet Potato Bread and Pear Bread while keeping the audience entertained with historic anecdotes, then passed out samples.
Then, as the demo was wrapping up, there was Chef Jose Andres, shopping for his family. Guess what? He has an interest in historic cookbooks, and even owns a copy of the second edition of Mary Randolph’s The Virginia House-Wife (1824). We chatted happily for several minutes, then he graciously posed for a picture with all of us.
All in all, a highly satisfactory day. Dupont Circle, the biggest and busiest market in these parts, is certainly exciting to visit, but I prefer the more relaxed vibe of Olney. If that sounds like what the rubes say about New York City, then so be it!