Well, God Bless America, it’s Kate Smith! I’ve recently been given a book of her favorite recipes called, of all things, Kate Smith’s Favorite Recipes.
If you know anything at all about me, or even care to, you know that I am fascinated with celebrities. Not the new ones so much–I prefer the dead ones. I couldn’t care less about Miley Cyrus, unless she has something to do with that restaurant in Healdsburg I’ve been wanting to visit. Or Clay Aiken and his scary new look. No, young, pablum-spewing singers are not my cup of tea. Give me an old, dead, pablum-spewer any day of the week.
Like Kate Smith. Now there was a singer. The Songbird of the South. Remember the song “God Bless America?” Ah, you do know who the hell she was. She had a big voice, a big heart, and an even bigger stomach.
And biggest of all was her radio program, as one might imagine from the overuse of exclamation marks:
Grand Baking News
Millions of Americans tuned in to hear her from 1931 to 1947–the year everyone basically started to tire of both the radio and Kate Smith. Fortunately, at the height of her popularity, she found time in her busy schedule to write a cookbook of her favorite recipes–all conveniently containing Calumet Baking Powder and Swan’s Down Cake Flour (the two primary sponsors of her show), which might explain why there isn’t one recipe for pie listed. Perhaps it was this very book that single-handedly killed the pie-baking spirit of the American Housewife. Just think about that for a moment and remember–you heard it here first.
But she did love to bake. And Eat. And who doesn’t? These bathing beauties the art director cleverly huddled around Miss Smith certainly look interested.
And so was I, naturally, because it’s been a while since I’ve made a man rave (see: copy below). I thought I’d follow the advice of an expert.
I chose to make Grape-Nuts Bread because I figured no man in his right mind could eat such a thing and not rave.
Grape-Nuts was also a sponsor of Kate Smith’s radio program. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any Postum’s Fake Coffee (yet another sponsor) to drink along side it. I chose to make this not-so-sweet loaf out of respect for Miss Smith–she lost a leg and eventually died from diabetes. It is a rather heavy concoction, not unlike the Songbird herself. It’s hearty and oddly satisfying, especially when toasted and struck with great lashings of butter.
Here is the recipe exactly as written:
2 cups milk, scalded
1 cup Grape-Nuts
3 cups sifted flour
4 teaspoons Calumet Baking Powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cups sugar
1 egg, well beaten
3 tablespoons melted butter or other shortening
Pour milk over Grape-Nuts; cool. Sift flour once, measure, and add baking powder, salt, and sugar, and sift again. Add egg and shortening to Grape-Nuts mixture and stir well; add flour mixture, stirring only enough to dampen all flour. Turn into a greased loaf pan, 9x4x3 inches; let stand 20 minutes. Bake in moderate oven (350° F.) 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until done. Bread should be stored overnight to cut easily in thin slices.
Grape-Nuts Fruit Bread. Increase salt to 1 1⁄2 teaspoons in above recipe; add 1 tablespoon grated orange or lemon rind and 1 cup currants, chopped raisins, or finely cut prunes to Grape-Nuts-egg-fat mixture.
How’s that for semi-colon use?
Makes one loaf.
And, yes, I know what you’re thinking. You still haven’t seen Miss Smith performing. You still don’t know what all the fuss was about, so I’ll leave you with something very, very special– a Salute to the Beatles Miss Smith performed on the Cher Show (after the divorce–no Sonny) with, of course, Cher, and Tina Turner.
I firmly believe this specific performance was the coup de grâce for a once-beloved genre–the Prime Time Variety Show. Enjoy.
Kate Smith–murderess of both the American Variety Show and American Pie. She may have been, in her sweet, Southern way, the Kremlin’s most effective secret weapon against us ever. Think about that for a moment and remember–you heard it here first.