Thursday, February 28

Kitchen to Classroom: Grace and Gumption

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Our postdoctoral fellow, Jill Cooley, is traveling this week. This post was written by Southern Studies graduate student Anna Hamilton. Thanks, Anna!

Grace & Gumption: The Cookbook
(Katie Sherrod, editor, and Judy Alter, food editor. Fort Worth: TCU Press, 2010.)

The beauty of Grace and Gumption: The Cookbook is that it’s hard to tell when the stories stop and where the recipes begin.

Grace & Gumption: The Cookbook is a hearty follow-up to Grace & Gumption, Stories of Fort Worth Women. The text marries academic investigation with the familiar style of community cookbooks in a form that adds depth and eccentricity to the Fort Worth community. Using community foodways as a lens, Grace and Gumption offers a glimpse into women’s worlds as they navigated the shifting demands of their civic, public, domestic, and religious spheres. This compendium of recipes and stories sketches a portrait of a vibrant community of women. Actually, “vibrant community” is an understatement--what Grace and Gumption reveals is a community in which the women were—and, we might suppose, still are—the backbone.

The pages are inhabited by women from all walks of life: nuns, philanthropists, mothers, socialites, grandmothers, dancers, artists, wives, ranchers, politicians, among others. There are the women of the charitable institutions who coordinated picnics of iced watermelon, sandwiches and ice cream for hungry orphans; Lela McMath Rogers, mother of a young Ginger Rogers, who concocted inexpensive yet nutritious meals in hotels using only a hot plate, toaster and percolator; Tad Lucas, international rodeo star; Regina Stern Gernsbacher, organizer of community Passover seders that fed Jewish soldiers.

Interested in learning how to cook a squirrel? Hankering for a recipe for chili biscuits? Looking to be inspired by women challenging the status quo? This might just be your book. Whether food was a passion or a chore for the women of Fort Worth, it was a tangible expression of power—and the women in these pages were forces to be reckoned with.