Darden sisters were the first to mix ‘Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine’

FRIDAY, MARCH 1479, 2004
Fast & Fit
Turn leftover chicken or noodles
into a quick salad with this Asianinspired dressing.
It is from Ready When You Are:
A Compendium of Comforting OneDish Meals (Potter, $32.50) by
Martha Rose Shulman. Asian Chicken Salad Dressing Makes 4 servings.
1 tablespoon EACH: fresh lime
juice; soy sauce; seasoned ricewine vinegar OR balsamic vinegar;
1 clove garlic, minced; 1–2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger;
2 tablespoons dark roasted sesame
oil; 4–5 tablespoons plain nonfat
yogurt OR nonfat buttermilk.
In a small bowl or measuring
cup, mix lime juice, soy sauce,
vinegar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil
and yogurt. Use to dress Asian
noodle or chicken salad.
Low-Carb Cooking
Linda Gassenheimer’s “More LowCarb Meals in Minutes: A ThreeStage Plan for Keeping It Off” (Bay
Books, 2003, $18.95) builds on her
“Low Carb Meals in Minutes” (Bay
Books, 2000, $18.95). In the more
recent, she defines what low-carb
means, has a list of foods to include and those to avoid, and a
grocery list — categorized by supermarket section — of staples
and perishables. Each recipe is
quick, easy and short on ingredients for a dish long on flavor and
includes complete nutritional
analysis. Gassenheimer's dishes frequently call for seasonal ingredients, offer substitutions and have
bold, often ethnic accents.
She offers a 14-day plan for
Quick Start menus that have 30–40
grams of carbohydrates per day.
The next 14-day plan, Which
Carbs? includes 75–85 grams of carbohydrates a day, and the final,
Right Carbs, 125–135 grams per
day. In each stage, most of the carbohydrates are slow or complex
carbohydrates, which release more
slowly and don’t cause spikes in
blood sugar as simple carbohydrates do.
“Low-Carb Meals in Minutes
Quick Start Recipe Deck” ($14.95,
Bay Books) is a collection of 52
recipes from the “Quick Start” sections of Gassenheimer’s books. It’s
a great tool for shopping since
each card has a grocery list on one
side and a recipe on the other. For
dining, there’s an “Eating Out”
card. Other Guideline cards have
tips and hints by category.
Stress-Free Shopping
As wedding shower season approaches, don’t get stumped on
buy the bride and groom. Consider
creative gift ideas such as a gift
certificate to a local bed & breakfast; a wine of the month membership; outside decor for the home,
including shrubs, planters and bird
feeders; gourmet coffees; or two
bottles of Champagne — one for
the honeymoon, one for the first
Williams-Sonoma’s Web site is
also a useful tool for brides-to-be
to create a registry and for their
guests to shop. Brides can manage
their registry once it’s created, and
guests can easily browse by item
number or key word. Or perhaps
your bride didn’t register anywhere, and you’re in a panic as to
where to go. Williams-Sonoma can
help here too with its Gift Ideas
menu. Shop by recipient, occasion
or price to find the perfect gift for
that special couple. Visit
www.williams-sonoma.com for
more information.
Darden sisters were the first to mix
family history and recipes in cookbook
‘Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine’
By Michael Hastings
It may not seem unusual these days to see a
cookbook like “Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine:
Recipes and Reminiscences of a Family,” which
traces the family roots of authors Norma Jean
and Carole Darden.
But back in 1978, the Dardens’ family project stood alone among the competition.
“There weren’t any cookbooks with stories
and family photos,” Norma Jean Darden said
recently. “It started a whole new genre.”
One could say that the 25th-anniversary
edition of Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine
(Harlem Moon, $18.95) still stands alone because of the wealth of character — and characters — that the Darden sisters infused into
every page, as well as a brief encyclopedia of
the cooking of black Americans.
Barbecued Spareribs, Collard Greens, Sweet
Potato Pie, Southern Fried Corn and Candied
Yams are just a few of the classic recipes that
fill these pages.
With its sometimes touching, sometimes
amusing and always interesting stories of Papa
Darden, Uncle Clyde, Aunt Norma and others,
and its mouth-watering recipes, Spoonbread &
Strawberry Wine became a hit, at least among
those in the know.
It also forever altered the lives of its authors. Norma Jean Darden was an actress and
model in New York City in the 1970s. Her sister, Carole Darden (now Darden-Lloyd) was a
child therapist.
After the success of the book, the sisters
began a catering company, Spoonbread Inc.,
which is still in operation. Norma Jean has two
Manhattan restaurants, Miss Maude’s in Harlem
and Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too in Morningside Heights, and she has toured the country
performing a one-woman stage presentation of
the book.
“All this spun out of the book,” Norma Jean
said. “If anyone had told me in college I would
end up in the food business, I’d have laughed.”
The effects have been personal as well as
“We met family members we didn’t even
know about,” Norma Jean said. “We discovered
a cousin. We found a whole new branch of Dardens.”
They even discovered a few skeletons in the
closet. Norma Jean in particular was shocked
to discover that the woman she knew as
Grandmother Corine was in fact her mother’s
older sister, who had taken in her younger sister and brother after their mother’s untimely
“When you do this sort of thing, you have
to be prepared for surprises,” Norma Jean said.
Norma Jean grew up in New Jersey, and her
family often would take summer visits to relatives in Alabama and North Carolina. A whole
chapter is devoted to food that the family
would pack for those train and car trips, including Fried Chicken, Deviled Eggs and a
Thermos of Lemonade. The chapter also includes memorable foods eaten at the homes of
relatives they visited.
“People made all these long trips to get together, and at the end of the trip was a pot of
food,” Norma Jean said.
“In those days, there was a lot of entertaining in the South, because there weren’t many
restaurants, or you couldn’t go to many restaurants, so you entertained at home.
“Traveling was precarious. Going from town
to town, you didn’t know where you could
sleep, even,” because so many hotels and other
establishments denied business to blacks.
Such cultural and historical insights appear
throughout the book, and Norma Jean credits
its success at least partly to them.
“In using my family … I managed to capture
a lot of black families at the turn of the century,” she said.
Norma Jean said that many younger people
don’t know a lot of the history woven into her
family’s story in the book.
“Hopefully, this book will teach them,” she
said. “The sense of charm, the sense of dignity,
the great quest for education, and the fact
that they were all pulling together.
“And against such great adversity, they
managed to live their lives with a great deal of
Michael Hastings is a staff writer for the
Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina.
Collard Greens
11/2 quarts water
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
11/4 pounds pork neck bones, or 2 ham hocks
About 8 pounds collards
Fried Chicken for 4
1 small onion, coarsely chopped or grated
/2 cup diced celery
/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 tablespoon pickle relish
1 teaspoon or more celery salt
Pimento, stuffed olives, green-pepper rings
for garnish
Boil potatoes in their skins until tender. Cool, peel, and cut into coarse chunks.
In a small bowl, mix the salt, paprika, dry mustard, oil and vinegar. Stir this into the potatoes,
mixing lightly. Chill for several hours.
Add chopped eggs, onion and celery. Stir in mayonnaise, prepared mustard and pickle relish. Season liberally with celery salt. Garnish with pimento, stuffed olives, and green-pepper rings.
Makes 6 servings.
— Adapted from Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine
2 teaspoons sugar
/2 cup cider or white vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Place water in a large pot. Add red pepper and bones or hocks and simmer for about 1 hour while
preparing greens. To prepare greens, discard damaged or yellow parts of leaves. Cut away tough stems
from each leaf and wash collards thoroughly until clear of dirt and grit. Collard leaves are large and
usually require cutting before cooking. To do so, fold each leaf in half at its center vein, fold over
once or twice, then cut in half with scissors or a knife. Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper to bones
in boiling water, then add the greens. Cover and cook rapidly for about 30 minutes or until greens are
tender but firm. Best served with diced raw onions and additional vinegar.
Makes 16 servings.
Note: The liquid in which greens have been cooked is called “pot liquor.” It is renowned for its nutritional value and can be used as an excellent vegetable stock for soups, as soup in its own right, or,
traditionally, to dunk corn bread.
— Adapted from Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine
Potato Salad
6 medium potatoes
2 teaspoons salt
/4 teaspoon paprika
/4 teaspoon dry mustard
5 tablespoons salad (vegetable) oil
2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
2 eggs, hard-cooked, peeled and chopped
Photo courtesy of Harlem Moon/Broadway Books
Norma Jean Darden (left) and Carole Darden-Lloyd are having a 25th-anniversary reissue of their book “Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine.”
1 21/2- to 3-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 3-pound can vegetable shortening
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dry mustard
/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
/2 teaspoon garlic powder
/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Wash chicken pieces in cold water, leaving some moisture.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a plastic or brown paper bag, place flour, paprika, mustard, nutmeg, garlic powder, cayenne and
salt. Place a few pieces of chicken in the bag at a time and shake until evenly coated.
Melt shortening in a Dutch oven or large skillet. If fat sizzles when a drop of water hits it, drop in
the coated chicken pieces. (Be careful to only place one drop of water in fat; a larger amount of
water could cause dangerous splattering of oil.) Place chicken pieces in hot oil, making sure not to
crowd the pan. If necessary, cook chicken in two batches. Fry pieces until golden brown on both
sides, then drain on paper towels.
— Adapted from Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine