It was a tough week to decide what food to write about.
There were so many choices — Lincoln’s birthday, Presidents’ Day weekend, Mardi Gras. I thought of all kinds of recipes.
George Washington’s mother made gingerbread cake, which was full of molasses, ginger, lemon or orange peel, and many more spices. She actually served it to Marquis de Lafayette and probably made it many times for her son, George. I made a version of it for Mike, and he loved it. He loves gingerbread. We all know the story of George cutting down the cherry tree.
I also thought about gingerbread men. Abraham Lincoln loved gingerbread men. I love the story that Carl Sandburg told about Abraham Lincoln and gingerbread in The Prairie Years. This is a story that Abe told in his famed debates with Stephen A. Douglas in 1858. According to Sandburg, this is how Lincoln’s “Gingerbread Story” unfolded.
“When we lived in Indiana,” Lincoln said, “once in a while my mother used to get some sorghum and ginger and make some gingerbread. It wasn’t often and it was our biggest treat. One day I smelled the gingerbread and came into the house to get my share while it was still hot. My mother had baked me three gingerbread men. I took them out under a hickory tree to eat them … There was a family near us poorer than we were and their boy came along as I sat down. ‘Abe,’ he said, ‘gimme a man.’ I gave him one. He crammed it into his mouth in two bites and looked at me while I was biting the legs off my first one. ‘Abe, gimme that other’n.’ I wanted it myself, but I gave it to him and as it followed the first, I said to him, ‘You seem to like gingerbread.’ ‘Abe,’ he said, ‘I don’t s’pose anybody on earth likes gingerbread better’n I do — and gets less’n I do…’”
Or I could make something for Valentine’s Day — maybe something pretty and red, like a cherry pie. But I’ve included that recipe in my column before.
I thought I could also give my recipe for chicken sausage gumbo. In our Congressional years, my neighbor Gayle Tauzin, from Louisiana, made the best gumbo. We loved it and I will make that this year for Mardi Gras.
But I found a new recipe — one that I can use for parties at the residence. It’s pretty easy to make. It uses cherries, for our first president. It’s red, for Valentine’s Day. And it’s good!
Cherry Almond Bars
1 cup flour
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 can cherry pie filling (21 oz)
3/4 cup almond slices
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 8 or 9 inch baking pan with non-stick spray.
Add the flour, butter and sugar to the bowl of a food processor and process until you have coarse crumbs. (Or cut butter into flour mixture with 2 knives or pastry cutter). Press in the bottom of the pan. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spread cherry pie filling evenly over crust. Sprinkle almonds over top.
Bake 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool.
When completely cool, cut into bars.
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.