Hooray for springtime temps, birds and their mating rituals, and more flowers are poking their heads up through the earth! If you need more seasonal inspiration, check out Bette Stevens’s new book, My Maine: Haiku through the Seasons. It’s a stunning collection of Haikus, facts about Maine, quotes, and gorgeous photos. Whether you’re a Maine native, a newcomer, or a visitor, it’s sure to inspire your heart through seasonal Maine changes.
My inspiration for this week’s writing comes from my Gramma Stiles recipes. I had an uneasy relationship with my grandmother. In my later years, I’ve come to understand her much better and that to have survived her complicated life, she must have felt she had to be stern and stoic.
Catherine McGillivary was born in the late 1800s, not long after coming to this country. When she was 12, her mother died, leaving her penniless and caring for her younger sister, Margaret. Her friends called her Kate or Kitty. In second grade, she won an invitation to Tom Thumb’s wedding for having the best penmanship but had to leave school after 8th grade to work full-time. At seventeen, she met and fell in love with her soulmate, Kenneth Attwood Stiles. Living in Watertown, MA, they shared fun times, but it seems to me they had more hard times than were their share. She lived through wars, the Depression, birthing offspring, the tragic passing of her only son in his 20’s, and the early passing of my grandfather.
After my grandfather’s passing, Gramma Stiles spent a few weeks with us each summer until 1972, when she stayed entire summers until she passed away in 1979. We spent hours together shelling peas, snapping beans, and making bread. My favorite bread recipe is her Anadama Bread.
Anadama bread is a traditional New England bread. It got its name from the story of a Gloucester, MA fisherman and his frustration with his wife’s cooking. He grew tired of her failed attempts at making porridge and molasses, so he took matters into his own hands. He threw in some flour and yeast, mixed it, and baked it, all the while muttering, “Anna, damn her. Anna damn her.” It’s a good story, and the bread is irresistible! The crumb is moist, soft, and golden-brown. Every slice begs a generously slathering of fresh butter! It toasts well, makes hearty sandwiches, and compliments Boston Baked Beans perfectly.

Anadama Bread

(Copied directly from Gramma Stiles’ recipe card)

Boil 2 cups water. Stir in ½ cup yellow cornmeal. When thoroughly mixed, add 2 Tbs butter, ½ cup molasses, 1 ½ tsp. salt. Pour into large bowl and cool to lukewarm. When cool, add one pkg dry yeast, which has been dissolved in ½ cup warm water. Add enough flour to make stiff dough (about 6 cups).
Knead until smooth. Let rise until double. Form into two loaves and let rise again. Bake in hot oven. (Preheated 375 deg) about 30 min.

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