I just finished reading "Hometown Appetites: The Story of Clementine Paddleford, the Forgotten Food Writer Who Chronicled How America Ate" by Kelly Alexander and Cynthia Harris. The story started as an article for Saveur magazine with the same title and won a James Beard award for journalism. This along with the encouragement of friends and colleagues are what motivated Alexander and Harris to turn the article into a book.
Alexander had been a food writer for many years and was a highly placed Editor at Saveur. Harris on the other hand was a Kansas State archivist who had spent many thankless months going through Clementine Paddleford's extensive papers that had been rotting at the Dept. of Special Collections at Kansas State University. Between the two of them they manage to bring back to life this amazing, and trailblazing food writer.
Paddleford wrote for the New York Herald as food editor from 1936 to 1966. She was best known though for her weekly column in This Week magazine which was a Sunday supplement that was distributed all over the country. Her national exposure gained her fame and allowed her to travel the country as a well-respected food writer. Clementine was a bold traveller and that included visiting a nuclear submarine where she reported on what the sailors ate on the USS Shipjack. I'd like to see Rachel Ray do that!
I enjoyed the early chapters of the book where Alexander and Harris write about her childhood with her Mother Jennie. If you are like me then you will find a lot to admire in Jennie Paddleford's world. A great anecdote in the book recalls how her father insisted on building the hog run within eye shot of their big front porch. Unable to dissuade him Jennie proceeds to dig up sod, turn soil, and plant an enormous hedge of lilacs between her porch and the hogs. She then says to Clementine; "Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be." Now those are some words to live by. In memory of Clementine and her Mother Jennie here is one of Jennie's favorite recipes.
JENNIE PADDLEFORD'S STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
3 cups all purpose flour
5 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar, plus more to taste
1/2 cup plus 2 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
3 quarts fresh strawberries from the fields
1 pint whipping cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Sift together flour, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and 1/2 cup of the sugar into a large bowl. Combine with the 1/2 cup butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with lumps the size of small peas. Transfer dough to bowl. Make a well and add to it the egg and milk. Word dough very gently with fingertips or pastry spatula; knead until it just holds together, about 10 seconds. Dots of butter should be visible; do not overwork dough. Generously flour work surface, then roll dough out to form two circles that are 1/2 inch thick and 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Wrap the disks tightly and chill.
Set aside 16 of the best looking berries. Hull the rest, then halve and place in a bowl with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar or more, depending on the sweetness and ripeness of the fruit. Let strawberries macerate for at least 15 minutes but no more than 45 minutes.
Remove dough disks from refrigerator. On 2 ungreased sheet pans, bake dough rounds 12 to 15 minutes, until golden on the outside and just cooked through in the center. Remove from oven and cool 10 to 15 minutes.
Slather the remaining 2 T of butter evenly on each disk. Transfer large disk to a plate that will accommodate it and the juicy berries running off it. Pile macerated berries on top and then cover with the other disk. Garnish with reserved whole berries and serve with whipped cream if desired. Yield: 8 servings.