Personal Recipes of Brer Rabbit, 192?

Courtesy of my friend Kate, who picked up someone’s whole life’s collection of pamphlets at a tag sale, I now own this vintage 1920s example of routine belittling of non-white Americans and erasure of the unpleasant parts of their history.

Well, it was advertising material, yes, but still.  I can’t imagine 1920s African-American sugar-cane sharecroppers in Louisiana being pleased and flattered by being described as “happy darkies” singing at their work, can you?  But page 2 of this booklet doesn’t care.  In fact, along with its recipes, this Penick & Ford Ltd. pamphlet for Brer Rabbit brand molasses serves up a history of sugar cultivation that describes every non-U.S. place in the world as “foreign,” and never mentions that the New World process involved brutal slave labor.

But see for yourself – WordPress now allows me to upload PDF files (Yay!), so here are the relevant pages: brer_booklet.  I have to admit that the illustrations in general are charming, when they aren’t revoltingly patronizing (I decline to discuss the historical inaccuracies in them).

Now, it does also have a bunch of recipes.  I decided to include one that looks pretty good, and one that looks pretty odd.  The directions omit details like baking time or specific oven temperature (another reason to think it’s from the 1920s).

Ginger Nuts

3 cups flour
1 cup chopped raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 cup Brer Rabbit Molasses
1 egg beaten

Mix and sift the dry ingredients.  Add the molasses, egg and shortening.  Mix to stiff dough.  Shape in a long roll 3/4 inch in diameter.  Cut off 3/4 inch pieces and roll in tiny balls.  Roll each in sugar and bake in a moderate oven.

Potato Spice Cookies

1 cup Brer Rabbit Molasses
3/4 cup shortening
1-1/2 cups hot riced potato
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped dates or raisins

Heat the molasses and into it stir the shortening until melted, add the potatoes hot, then the dry ingredients sifted together and the dates.  Mix well and bake by small teaspoonfuls on oiled paper, spread on a baking sheet.

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3 Responses to Personal Recipes of Brer Rabbit, 192?

  1. What a blast from the past, and not in a good way.

  2. Kate B. says:

    I actually only picked up the cream of the crop from the lifetime collection. I’m glad you’re pleased.

    Wondering why Brer Rabbit was in a jacket with tails when he moved to Europe in the 8th century? But the illustrations are charming if you don’t read anything…

  3. Beth says:

    At least we know how wrong it is now from a cultural perspective – or at leastr some do!!

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