We have an enthusiastic Waterford History group that meets at the local library, the Davies Memorial Library, here in Vermont. Part of our tradition is to consider all of us to be "amateur historians," and we all make discoveries -- in the attic, in old books, behind stone walls suddenly glimpsed through November's bare woods. So each meeting begins with going around the circle, making sure anyone bursting with a new discovery (or, more likely for us, reservedly admitting they've made one) can speak up.
Somehow, last summer, we got onto talking about the old trees that are vanishing. Elms are one of them, of course; every New England town used to have some of these giants, but most were felled by a parasite known as Dutch elm disease, and few remain. Another one (I am sure it was Helen who mentioned it) is the butternut -- and people put their memories and ideas together to talk about where they might have seen a butternut tree in the past decade.
Then, of course, memories of cracking open (actually, smashing with a hammer) the tough nuts came from the oldest among us, who remembered what hard work it was! "I had a recipe for a chocolate butternut cake that was wonderful," Geneva mused. Her relatives asked, "Do you know where it it?" "No," Geneva said with a smile.
|(see top recipe)|
Next came the recipe question. I didn't find a butternut cake in my own books, so I asked Lois, who has a lot of old recipes from her family. She sent me this one, from Hood's Practical Cook's Book for the Average Household, published around the end of the 1800s. "Add two squares of melted chocolate to turn it into a chocolate cake, she advised.