Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora
My maternal grandmother, Mrs. Earcie Bodiford Ginwright, a life-long Alabamian, taught me more about African values than my African study and Swahili language classes taught me. I moved from Alabama to Washington D.C. nearly 30 years ago to work and to learn more about African and Pan-African culture, only to realize that much of my grandmother’s creativity and folkways were holdovers from her West-African ancestory–and mine.
Ms. Ginny, as we called her, showed sustainable purpose in her gardening, her quilting and crocheting, in her tending to our small aches with her herbal preparations, and in her cooking and baking. She wasted nothing. She once made a room divider from plastic six-pack-soda-can holders, which she made lovely by crocheting around and among the rings with brilliant-colored yarn. Her children’s and grandchildren’s old clothes became quilts. Gallon-sized milk jugs were halved and became planters. My grandmother, who lived a century, was not unique among American women of her time. These women used their sense of conservation, their culinary ingenuity, and their faith that the modest ingredients of their larders would allow them to prepare and present meals that were, for their families, edible wealth. No one felt poor among such abundance.
My favorite and most memorable treat of Ms. Ginny’s is her lemon pound cake. This unassuming cake was hidden among the red velvet and carrot cakes (with real carrots, thank you) and stood out for it’s rich texture and sweet lemony flavor. I never asked her for the recipe. I didn’t know that I would one day write recipes. I didn’t think I would miss her lemon pound cake so much once she passed on. So here is a recipe fashioned from a flavor memory and from my determination to replicate the love and sweetness that was Ms. Ginny.
Mrs. Earcie’s Tribute Cake for Kwanzaa
Adapted from Easy Lemon Cake, Food.com
1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup unbleached (natural) sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk
Sparkling White Sugar Sprinkles
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar