During February, Black History Month, the State Journal provided pictures, stories and comments about those who made a difference in Madison, one in particular being Carson Gulley, who arrived in Madison in 1926 to become a well-known and highly respected chef. In 2013, the UW-Madison Housing Division began to renovate Carson Gulley Commons under the new name of Carson Gulley Center to honor an amazing person with the first building on campus named for an African-American.
When he retired from UW-Madison in 1953, Gulley entered our homes weekly by way of WIBA and WMTV cooking shows and also taught at vocational schools while owning and operating his own successful catering business. After seasoning Madison with good taste, kindness, exceptional skills and pride, Gulley passed away in 1962, but will be remembered forever.
Thanks to past estate sales, I happen to be the proud owner of many of his signed pamphlets from 1952 to 1954 featuring recipes he prepared on WIBA’s “Cooking School of the Air.” Known for his ”seasoning secrets,” here are a few recipes from his March 1954 pamphlets.
Macaroni and cheese
1 pound of macaroni
1 pound aged cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon salad mustard
2 cups hot milk
½ cup buttered crumbs
Melt butter. Add flour and cook into a smooth paste. Fold in all dry seasonings. Cook over slow fire for 10 minutes. Boil macaroni in 2 gallons water for 15 minutes; simmering temperature. Remove from fire. Add 2 cups cold water. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Drain again. Pour cold water over macaroni. When macaroni is well drained, butter baking dish. Fill the dish by alternating layers of macaroni and cheese, starting with macaroni and ending with cheese. Add hot milk to flour and seasoned mixture. Stir until well mixed. Pour over macaroni and cheese and top with buttered crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until entirely hot and well-browned.
Country style barbecue spare ribs
2 pounds spare ribs for 4 servings
2 teaspoons seasoning salt
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon oregano
Crush oregano in palm of hand. Mix with salt. Rub on meat. Dredge in flour. Bake in 325 degree oven. Baste in the following barbecue sauce.
4 tablespoons butter or good fat
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons celery salt
4 teaspoons paprika
3 tablespoons garlic vinegar
3 cups seasoned stock (See: Note)
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/3 cup chili sauce
Saute onions in butter until tender. Add all dry ingredients, then liquid ingredients. Boil slowly for 1 hour. Pour over meat. Heat in oven at low temperature for 30 minutes or more.
Yield: 1 quart
Note: If this sauce is to be kept for any length of time, use bouillon cubes dissolved in hot water instead of meat stock.
While remembering Gulley, thought was also given to recipes shared in a few other books, one being “The Black Family Reunion Cookbook” with recipes and food memories from the National Council of Negro Women. Published in 1991, Dorothy Height, president and CEO of the National Council of Negro Women Inc., introduces the reader to centuries of history, tradition and culture, claiming that more problems are settled in a dining room than in a conference room to make each meal together a celebration. Many of the recipes were new to me, but when I saw the name Willie Mays, one of baseball’s all-time greats remembered as the “Say Hey Kid.” I noticed his favorite muffin recipe submitted by his wife, Mae Louise Mays.
Willie Mays’ favorite bran muffins
1 cup natural bran
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons natural honey
½ teaspoon salt
Favorite fruit, optional
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease twelve medium (2 ½ inch) muffin cups or use paper or foil liners. Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Stir just until blended. Add favorite fruit, if desired. Spoon into muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
Another familiar name in the same book was that of Wilma Rudolph, a track and field sprinter from Tennessee who became the first woman to win three Gold Medals during the 1960 Summer Olympics. This was her favorite recipe.
Wilma Rudolph’s shrimp supreme
¼ cup corn oil
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 green pepper, cut in 1-inch squares
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
14 ½ ounce can whole tomatoes
¼ pound mushrooms quartered
¼ cup dry vermouth
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley
1 tablespoon lime juice
Hot cooked rice
Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add shrimp. Saute until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp. Add green pepper, onion, garlic and chili powders. Saute 5 minutes. Add undrained tomatoes. Crush tomatoes. Stir in mushrooms, vermouth and hot pepper sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Stir in shrimp, cilantro and lime juice. Serve over rice.
4 to 6 servings.
Another book of mine is dedicated to those who toiled over a hot wood stove “making do” with whatever staples were available to provide tasty nourishing meals. Author Ethel Rayson Dixon’s book, “Big Mama’s Old Black Pot,” is filled with recipes and her own sketches of life, laced with nostalgia as she remembers it in her poem that begins with … “That old black pot and depression days went together like the ocean and the waves. You didn’t go to the store back then, and to waste a soup bone was considered a sin. You grew what you ate and cooked what you got, and it all came out of that old black pot.”
The book also has rules of how to season a new black pot, and how to clean an old black pot that she claims can’t be beat when you want something good to eat. The first recipe immediately sounded familiar, only because I remember singing a song about short’nen bread when I was growing up and didn’t know what it meant.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Dixon learned the art of cooking at an early age. Proud of her heritage, she is an exceptional cook from the rural South who traveled the world tasting culinary delights, yet prefers simple old-fashioned foods cooked in “that old black pot.” She also received a National Heritage Fellowship sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Big Mama’s short’nen bread
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup butter
1 cup sweet milk (Note)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream eggs and butter. Add remaining ingredients. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour.
Note: Sweet milk is plain regular milk.
Here is Dixon’s Southern way of baking crappie that will taste just as good with crappies caught up north.
2 pounds crappie fillets
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, minced
½ cup chopped green pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
6 bacon slices
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Melt butter in skillet and saute onion, green pepper and garlic. Add remaining ingredients, except bacon and lemon juice, into mixture. Simmer 10 minutes. Line bottom of baking dish with 3 slices of bacon. Place fillets on top, then top fillets with remaining bacon. Baste with sauce, cover and bake, basting occasionally while baking. Sprinkle with lemon juice before serving. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.