Have Black Cake & Eat It Too

Posted in Media, book news on January 15th, 2017 by admin – Be the first to comment

Emily Dickinson’s hidden kitchen & those unseen folks with whom she spent time in the domestic arena are the subject of a blog post and podcast – Episode #62 — by The Kitchen Sisters! Links for the podcast — to itunes, stitcher RSS — from this page.

Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah — it’s Emily

Posted in Justice, poetry on January 4th, 2017 by admin – Be the first to comment

The big story about Emily Dickinson isn’t simply that she was a foodie and well-reputed bakerbut who was in the kitchen with her.

Revealing a truly American tale,  the poet-daughter of a Yankee lawyer, of English stock, rubs elbows daily in the kitchen with immigrants, the descendants of slaves, and with Native American maids, laborers, gardeners, and seamstresses.

Among them was Margaret Maher, an Irish immigrant who, as cook and maid, spent 17 years sharing the kitchen with baker Emily.

At the top left of this Kelley family portrait — almost all of whom worked for the poet — is Tom Kelley, the man Emily requested as her chief pallbearer. Below is Native man and Dickinson laborer Henry Hawkins with his Native-African American granddaughter Helen in a snapshot taken in their backyard. Below them (on some but not all platforms) is a studio portrait of Henry’s mother-in-law, Eliza Thompson, who was often hired to serve guests at the Dickinson’s annual summer gatherings.

The well-loved myth of the recluse erases what was really going on — from maids and laborers exerting linguistic influences on her language to actually saving her poems from planned destruction.

For more drop in and tune up to the Kitchen Sisters upcoming show on Emily D’s hidden kitchen.

Tune-in Hearth-side

Posted in Media on January 3rd, 2017 by admin – Be the first to comment

The talented duo known as the Kitchen Sisters are set to expand their seven minute Morning Edition spot about prolific baker Emily Dickinson — better known now as a poet.

One of their story development sources will be Maid as Muse when they take “a longer look at ED’s kitchen and life for our podcast,” reports Nikki Silva.

Look forward to hearing deeper broadcasting about the farm-to-table-poet.

Even after a maid was hired — when Emily D. could have run upstairs & slammed her bedroom door to freedom as she told her niece Mattie — the baker-poet gravitated to the kitchen where, in that companionable & generative space alongside her maid, she wrote.

Broadcast date to be announced!

Emily’s Hidden Kitchen Sisters

Posted in Justice, poetry on December 28th, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment

Excellent podcast by the Kitchen Sisters on Emily D. as prolific baker with cameos by Jean Mudge and Chris Benfey and Brenda Hillman. They even covered the issue of the poet getting her poems completely changed by editors during her lifetime and afterward.

To deepen the story of prolific baker and writer ED, let’s add the image of a teen Emily feeling urgency about her writing and bleak despair over the burden of dishes and family care — then doing serious lobbying of the parents to get a maid. She succeeded when her parents hired her a kitchen-sister — otherwise all we’d have are some fabulous recipes and a much meager literary output.

Interesting? Check out Maid as Muse

New Material on Domestic Front

Posted in poetry on August 8th, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment

New materials  about the women and men who formed a part of Emily Dickinson’s domestic world may soon become available for virtual and onsite visitors to the Emily Dickinson Museum.

New partnerships in the Pioneer Valley are in the developing stages with a plan to give visitors and scholars access to new documents and photographs on the maids, laborers, gardeners, blacksmiths, and others who interacted with and formed an intimate part of the poet’s little seen world at home.

More details soon of what is in the nascent stage of an exciting initiative about Emily Dickinson, poet, left in photo, and Margaret Maid, maid, on right, and her domestic colleagues.

All Quiet on the Snarkless Front

Posted in Media on February 16th, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment

A special entry at the Berlin Film Festival, receiving a 4 star review by The Guardian, Terrence Davies’ A Quiet Passion film about Emily Dickinson is set to open in American movie houses.  The poet is, according to reviewer Andrew Pulver, “superbly played with a sort of restless passivity by Cynthia Nixon.”  Uh oh.

Movie action circulates between library, bedroom, and parlor — that tired narrative. Renown during her lifetime for her culinary prowess — could we see Emily writing at her pastry board and hovering over the stove? A confirmed naturalist, how about dog Carlo at her side while she tramps widely searching for specimens on the forest floor?

Early movie goers have complained of boredom.

An early clip has disappointed biographers and literary critics — perhaps because Emily Dickinson’s famous “Damascus blade wit” has been reassigned to the character of a Ms. Buffum. No Emily snark?

Sorry, but the early reports are of a passionless quiet.

Taste Ours-

Posted in cooking on August 22nd, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

Coconuts to crack and grate, lemons and limes to zest, we worked at big round tables mixing everything by hand a la Emily Dickinson and her maid Margaret Maher. The two often worked together and so we baked in small groups too.

We made fresh coconut cake and gingerbread formed into light and soft cookies — all from Emily Dickinson’s own recipes.

At left is one of our work tables and the right the coconut cakes about to go into the oven.

Here are the post-oven results cooling on racks and ready to be consumed at our afternoon tea.

A satisfying day in Amherst, MA where workshop participants sought summer and tasted Emily’s.

All part of my new project #OldSkills4NewMinds

Emily A La Carte!

Posted in cooking on July 11th, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

Roll up sleeves, tie apron, take hammer to coconut “testa” and “mesocarp” and grate the “nut” -

That’s some of what we’ll be doing in my Emily Dickinson baking workshop when preparing to make these light-as-air and delicious coconut cakes.

It’s this Saturday, July 17, in Amherst, MA

You may sign up for that workshop or for Marta McDowell’s herbarium-making intensive or any piece of the Emily-themed weekend!

Call: 413-259-1584  or write:  jsgray [at sign] crocker.com

Would have Summer? Taste of ours


325 Degrees of Edible Success

Posted in cooking on May 14th, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

That’s gingerbread fresh from my oven made from Emily Dickinson’s recipe.

These cookies are glazed with egg yolk and a piece of candied ginger.

For a few days I’ve been testing Emily Dickinson’s recipes for gingerbread, rice cake, and coconut cake.

Today I’ve declared the baking a divinely edible success –

I’ll be leading a baking workshop with these recipes in July for an Emily-themed weekend in Amherst, Massachusetts, the poet’s hometown.

“Would you like Summer? Taste of ours-” takes place July 17-19, 2015 and celebrates Emily Dickinson’s passions as poet, gardener and baker.

The weekend will be height of summer & hands-on:

We’ll make gingerbread cookies from Emily’s recipe and her coconut cake which is — if today’s test in my kitchen is any indication –  like eating a sweet cloud. For the 8″ cakes, pictured, I grated about half a fresh coconut. The top is dusted with more coconut and decorating sugar.

Horticulturist extraordinaire Marta McDowell will be leading the gardening and flower aspects of what promises to be a wonderful weekend. If I wasn’t in it, I’d sign up for it!

If you’d like to taste summer Emily-style, join us!

By the way, are you wondering if the poet could bake as well as she wrote? Her father insisted on her bread and the family and neighbors perhaps knew her better as a baker than a writer!

But writing was never far away for she kept paper and pencil by her pastry board. There are poems written on the reverse of her recipes (or vice versa). Nothing like having your hands busy to free up your mind for that “naturally occurring wisdom.”

Would you like Summer? Taste of Ours -

Posted in cooking on January 27th, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

Baking Gangnam Style Amherst Style!

Join me next July 17-19 in Emily Dickinson’s lovely town of Amherst, Massachusetts

We’ll explore the life of the poet through her passions of gardening, baking, writing

Garden digger Marta McDowell leads a flower project

I’ll teach you how to bake Emily Style

Jane Wald will get readerly

Sign up early to ensure your space at the greenhouse, kitchen & library tables!