Friday, April 27, 2012


Me: "Look, there's a recipe for cookies called Hindus."

E.: "That's not racist or anything."

There's no use sugar coating it.  Someone named these cookies "Hindus" because they contain both chocolate and molasses and are, if you will, dark-complexioned cookies.

Oh the hilarity.

The recipe comes from the Rumford Common Sense Cook Book, compiled by Lily Haxworth Wallace.  The 64-page book is undated, but various folks on the web think that it was published in about 1930.  Based in Rumford, Rhode Island, the Rumford Chemical Works produced the cookbook in order to promote its Rumford Baking Power.

(The Clabber Girl Corporation continues to make Rumford Baking Powder, although not in Rhode Island.  Before I get a disgruntled note from the Clabber Girl and her legal team, let's make it clear that there is absolutely no reason to think that the company promotes racist cookie recipes or endorses any racist uses for baking powder today.)

If this book does in fact date to 1930, it might be that the "Hindus" are reflective of 1920s-era American attitudes towards people from India. Not only was the Indian independence movement in the news, so too was U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind, a 1923 Supreme Court decision that excluded Indians from U.S. citizenship due to reasons of race.

Historically, U.S. citizenship had a lot to do with race.  The 1790 Naturalization Act limited U.S. citizenship to free, white persons. The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hildalgo not only ended the Mexican-American War, it also declared that Mexicans could be U.S. citizens.  That was true even if by the early twentieth century many "Anglos" in the Southwest tried to get around the fact that Mexican-Americans were not just citizens but also legally white.  The Fourteenth Amendment rendered Americans of African descent U.S. citizens.  The 1870 Naturalization Act allowed African aliens to become citizens.  Yet it also opened the possibility that all Asians could be excluded from U.S. citizenship.  Later, in 1882, the U.S. Congress barred all but a small segment of the Chinese from entering the United States, and it renewed that restriction in 1892 and 1902. Not until 1943 were Chinese persons allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship.

If you're wondering, Native Americans did not receive full U.S. citizenship rights until 1924. 

But if in 1923 blacks, whites, and Mexicans were eligible for U.S. citizenship, and the Chinese ineligible, what did that mean for Asians from places such as India?  Were they barred from becoming naturalized citizens?

In 1923, Bhagat Singh Thind, a Punjabi Sikh who lived in Oregon, put that question to a test.  He didn't challenge the racism underlying citizenship law.  Instead, Thind claimed that he was eligibile for U.S. citizenship because he was, indeed, white.  He was white, because he was from Northern India, a region settled by "Aryans."  If he was "Aryan," Thind argued, he was white and, therefore, eligible for U.S. citizenship.  The Supreme Court disagreed: Asian Indians were neither white nor permitted to become U.S. citizens. 

Is it a coincidence that less than a decade after the Thind decision there appeared a recipe for dark-colored, decidedly non-white cookies called "Hindus"?

I'm not shocked to find that one of my great-grandmother's old cookbooks has a racist recipe.  What surprises me is that the author correctly spelled Hindus. You'd think she would have gone with "Hindoos," which is far more derogatory.  It's almost as though she was trying not to be racist.

Was she?  We could also imagine that, while the cookies are racist because they are a play on skin color, they were inspired by the Indian independence movement of the 1920s.  Gandhi, a Hindu, gained world-wide fame in the 1920s for his commitment to non-violence and his leadership in the fight to end British rule in India.

These are some very serious cookies.

But not everything in the 1920s was so sternly different from today. The Rumford Common Sense Cook Book contains other, humorous, non-racist gems.  For example, it would be a terrible shame if I fail to make the Corn Flake Cookies.

Then there is the fantastic advice on school lunches.  What kid wouldn't want mashed baked beans with mayonnaise or chili sauce?  Of course, I used to eat chow mein sandwiches, so what do I know?  I certainly was unaware that: "Boys like plain folding lunch boxes, girls prefer daintiness of equipment."

Feel free to study this page yourselves.

For the record, I assume that the Spanish Meat Loaf is racism-free.  It contains pimientos, which are Spanish.  That one's legit.  Although, only someone lacking common sense would ask for this meatloaf in Spain.

Even if these recipes are probably not something you'd likely Google in preparation for your next meal, they might be worth trying. The "Hindus" were delicious. No, they were the best cookies I've ever made.

The batter was light and fluffy.  Forget about baking, I could have served it in a tall glass and called it dessert.  It was like a fine mousse.  So, seeing as I'm not going to serve "Hindus" to my friends, I've decided to change the name from "Hindus" to Mousse Melts.

E. agreed with me.  "That's far less racist," he said.

Less?  I was going for not racist at all.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Grumpkies, Galumpkis, Gowumpkies, Gołąbki, or Something Like That

What is this recipe called? My great-grandmother wrote it and she or one of her daughters tucked it within the pages of her 1908 Lowney's Cook Book.  I think it is or it is supposed to be Grumpkies. Maybe Gumpkies. Something like that.

A while back, I posted this recipe to my facebook page in hopes that someone would know of it. Susan, a childhood friend who now makes beautiful cakes for a living, recognized it as galumpkis. She wrote that her sister often makes them.

At that point, I figured my great-grandmother just couldn't spell galumpkis. But after talking to my mother, I think she was trying to spell grumpkies. Maybe.

In February, I was sitting in a car at a traffic light with my mother when she mentioned that she's had really good "grumpkies" at Patti's Pierogies, a restaurant in Fall River, Massachusetts. 

"Grumpkies?" I asked my mother.

"Grumpkies," she said.  "It's hamburg wrapped in cabbage."

"I thought it was galumpkis."

She gave me a puzzled look.

"I say grumpkies," she informed me.  (She hates it when she suspects that I'm challenging her Taunton accent.)

"I think I have your grandmother's recipe for grumpkies."

"Oh, yes, my grandmother made great grumpkies." 

Mystery solved. If my mother calls it grumpkies, then my great-grandmother probably did the same. But then I did a little more digging.

The newspaper article in the link on Patti's indicates that the staff there pronounces it gowumpky or gowumpkies. Is my great-grandmother's recipe supposed to be titled gumpkies? It looks kind of like gumpkies. Maybe I need a Polish language class. 

However you say it, after seeing this video about Patti's pierogies, I think I need to make a trip to Fall River. This restaurant looks like a lot of fun. Mom's been holding out on me. 

Some of you might know galumpkis or grumpkies in the Polish form, gołąbki. You can find recipes for galumpkies or gołąbki on the internet, including ones from celebrity chefs Tyler Florence (who also can't pronounce the dish) and (Fall River's own) Emeril Lagasse

Grumpkies is a bit more obscure, or it least that's how it looks from a Google search. I found that at least two people have posted their recipes for grumpkies. I don't know if this word is specific to the Northeast, but my mother is clearly not the only one who uses it. A woman named Cara writing on the web posted her recipe on facebook and discovered that her friends had the same names and more for these little pockets of cabbage, beef, and rice. 

Whether you say galumpkis, grumpkies, gowumpkies, or gołąbki, I think we're all talking about basically the same dish.

Then I wondered how my Irish-American great-grandmother came to make "great grumpkies."

From what I could piece together from my mother, it has something to do with the Polish population of Taunton, Massachusetts. As a kid my mother had lots of Polish classmates and ate grumpkies at their homes after school quite often. She wasn't the only one with Polish pals. I don't know if my great-grandmother had Polish friends, but her daughter, my great-aunt, used to attend the "quick mass" at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church on Bay St. in Taunton, which had loyal Polish-American parishioners. She also loved Holy Rosary's annual Polish festival with the wonderful food made by the Polish-American women of the parish. Grumpkies was one of their dishes.

Perhaps my great-grandmother was inspired by these women to make grumpkies for her own family.
Holy Rosary is not far from what was my great-grandmother's more Irish-American parish, St. Mary's, located near Broadway in St. Mary's Square. So, perhaps she visited the festival. Or, maybe her daughter went to the festival and begged her mother to make grumpkies. It could have been that some of the older women making food at the festival were my great-grandmother's friends, as members of both parishes probably lived in the overlapping neighborhoods around Broadway and Bay Street. Hard to say, but I think the short distance between St. Mary's Church and Holy Rosary had something to do with her acquiring this recipe.

The festival used to take place at a pavilion in "Cabbage Hill," which later became the site of the former Pepper Pot restaurant. Cabbage Hill was the name of the Polish neighborhood, but my mother remembers that the wooded area around the pavilion was called Cabbage Hill and that members of Holy Rosary and others would gather there to polka and to eat Polish food during the festival.

It's really nice to be able to put this recipe into some local contexts.  It also reminds me of something that I recently learned about how people from the South Coast region of Massachusetts, including myself, talk about ground beef. I recently picked up a great cookbook by Brooke Dojny called New England Home Cooking. It references a May 1997 South Coast Insider article that notes South Coasters' tendencies to refer to ground beef not as "hamburger" but as "hamburg." My great-grandmother did the same in the recipe.  Not all of Taunton is part of the South Coast, but close enough. 

I'd never thought about it before, but I rarely use the word hamburger.  "I'll have a hamburg." "Pick up some hamburg for dinner." My mother and I speak the same language after all. 

Pass the pierogies, folks, because I haven't even wrapped the hamburg in cabbage yet. This post's a long one.  

So, I after I made the rice, I started by prepping the cabbage head.  I parboiled it, cooled it, and peeled off leaves one by one.  Then it was time to cut pieces of salt pork and to create the hamburg, rice, onion, and egg mixture.
With everything ready, I filled each leaf with about a quarter cup or so of the hamburg mixture and a piece of salt pork.  (The salt pork in the photo is probably twice larger than necessary.) I folded the leaf over the mixture, making sure to tuck in the bits of leaf from the sides.

All told I put about 19 pieces in the oven.

The results were excellent. Next time, however, I will cover the dish in the oven with foil to prevent the leaves from drying out. I was surprised that I didn't have to add pepper or another spice. The salt pork was enough.  

We ate out little cabbage pockets with sour cream, although most have them with a tomato sauce.  My great-grandmother really did make great grumpkies . . . or galumpkis, or gowumpkies, or gołąbki.  Something like that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Among the family recipes that I have gathered is one for brownies included in a note written to my Great-Aunt Barbara. 

46 Oak Street 
Taunton, Mass.
June 24th

Dear Barbara -
   Congratulations and all that sort of thing! I hope you will have the best of summers.
   I can not thank you for being such a trump the day of the fashion show! Please let this "baseline" help me.

Martha Foster


Baseline? Maybe that's a play on baste line? Fashion show humor. You had to be there. (Or maybe someone out there can transcribe that line better than I did.)

Thanks to good ol' retro-stalker (, I was able to determine that Martha Foster lived at 46 Oak Street in 1933 and 1934, when Barbara was fifteen or sixteen years old. Born in New Hampshire in 1902, Martha Foster worked as a teacher at Taunton High School.  In 1938 she married her colleague, Walter Bowman, and thereafter she was known as Martha F. Bowman. The couple lived in Taunton and finally settled in or near Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.

I doubt that Barbara and Martha were close friends. Martha Foster was born about 16 years before my great-aunt.  Barbara attended St. Mary's, not Taunton High, so it's unlikely that the two had a student-teacher relationship either. Nevertheless, even as a teenager Barbara was probably a godsend at a fashion show. She was always at her sewing machine.

It's just a nice little thank-you note and someone in the family probably saved it for the sake of keeping the recipe. Maybe Martha's brownies were the culinary hit of the show, and Barbara just had to make them herself. My great-aunt was a wonderful cook.

Well, the fashion show may be long over, but we can still judge the recipe. The brownies are chewy and moist and not too difficult to make. They're a little sweet though. Maybe baking chocolate has a bit more sugar now.

You'll need a small pan. Keep in mind that it was the 1930s. Waste not, want not and all that sort of thing.