Monday, December 30, 2013

Prairie Recipes - Gingersnaps

Skating one evening at the Meewasin rink, I thought of Mattie Mayes. In 1910, Mattie, her husband, Joe, their children and grandchildren, together with a dozen other families from Oklahoma took up homesteads north of Maidstone. In many ways, they were like every other pioneer in those early days of Saskatchewan. In one way, they were quite different: Mattie and Joe were former slaves.

In 1908, Oklahoma became a state and passed new laws to discriminate against its citizens of African American descent, segregating the schools and taking away their vote. Devoutly Christian, the Mayes and their neighbours saw Canada as God's Promised Land.

It would be nice to think they didn't face discrimination in Saskatchewan, but that isn't true. Editorials said they were unsuitable as farmers. Some white neighbours refused to send their children to the same school. The Canadian government took swift measures to stop more Black Americans from coming north.

But they also experienced extreme kindness, often bonding with their neighbours of all ethnicities through the sharing of fellowship and food.

In the Maidstone community cookbook, Preserving Our Past for the Future, Claire Paton recalls as school children gathering to ice skate on a pond on the Mayes farm: "Without fail, Granny Mayes would appear in her crisp white apron to call us for hot chocolate and cookies before we departed home."

This recipe for gingersnaps is in the same cookbook, and I can imagine 90-year-old Granny Mayes serving them with love and tenderness to all the children in her Promised Land.

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cup flour
Pinch salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Note: shortening can be lard, butter or stick margarine, at room temperature. Cream shortening. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Sift and add dry ingredients. Form into little balls. Roll in sugar. Placed well apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes.

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(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)


Tallie said...

These cookies were YUMMY! Can't wait to try them here when Christmas gets put away.
Thanks for the lovely Boxing Day breakfast and the "gifts" ;)

Amy Jo Ehman said...

You're welcome Tallie! So nice to have you over. Have a great start to the New Year. AJ