Clemetine Paddleford defined American regional cuisine. In the 1950’s, she traveled every inch of this country to describe what Americans were eating, often piloting her own propeller plane. Her writing regularly appeared in The New York Herald Tribune, This Week Magazine, and Gourmet; she was the most prominent food writer of her time. Last year, Paddleford’s How America Eats (1960) was republished as The Great American Cookbook with updated recipes to reflect 21st-century ingredients and cooking equipment. The book is a compilation of recipes and anecdotes from her travels and provides an interesting snapshot of mid-century regional cooking.
When I first leafed through the cookbook, the recipe for Grandmother Gilette’s Election Cake caught my attention. It is quintessentially a fruitcake, which may turn some people away. But I love the idea of election cake. According to Paddleford, in 18th and 19th century Connecticut, men would drive to town to vote and were welcomed home by a large dinner that ended with this cake. (There are differing histories of election cake, but we’ll just accept Paddleford’s for this post). Although the Connecticut men of ol’ probably lost a perfectly good day of work to harness the horse or walk for miles into town on terrible roads to vote (and only some of them had the privilege), today’s elections offer different trials. After all the endless news coverage, polling phone calls, and campaign commercials (and it’s been going on forever since we are the first caucus in the primary), Election Day is tomorrow and I’m celebrating with this cake.
Check out The Great American Cookbook and discover historic recipes from Virginia, Hawaii, and of course, Iowa.