From my October 2003 book journal:
Neighboring On The Air 1991
By Evelyn Birkby
This is a book about the women who broadcasted on KMA radio in Shenandoah, Iowa, beginning in the 1920s. They had 1/2 hour or hour long programs about cooking, home decoration, gardening; the domestic arts. There were listeners all over the area - the programs were a way of bringing together the rural women. The broadcasters were often in their own homes, and members of their families would walk into the room and be a part of the show. Wonderful book. These old homemakers are my heroes, my role models, from whom I learn my life's work. The preface says, "this is a cookbook, a storybook, a picture book".
And the wonderful, wonderful thing is that Evelyn Birkby is still alive and broadcasting! There is a very special webpage with many informational links. I love spending time there.
In that same month, I also read and loved a fictional book which dealt with these women, called Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg. And a few months afterwards, I read:
Up A Country Lane Cookbook 1993
By Evelyn Birkby
Cookbook, History, and Memoir A+
I could see this being used as a text to study American farming life in the years after WW II. Wonderfully informative to a reader who has a deep interest in the subject. There is a mix of indoor and outdoor life. I so love her description of seeing her husband off in the fields. Even if they aren't in contact, they are together in a deep sense. They are truly creating a joint partnership in life. This is a perfect book, accomplishing exactly what it set out to do. The Birkbys eventually left farming. She is, as they say, unsparing in her descriptions of life changes, yet she is an optimistic soul. This isn't a book that mourns the passing of a way of life, but more a memento of it. It was a wonderful life, but not easy.
The recipe is from Neighboring on the Air, and the Mamie in the name is Mamie Miller who did an afternoon program called 'Domestic Science.'
Mamie's Sour Cream Cake
Mix 2 1/2 cups flour with 2 cups sugar and a pinch of salt.
In a separate bowl, beat 3 eggs well. Add 2 cups sour cream and continue mixing.
In a third bowl, mix together 6 Tablespoons cocoa and 2 teaspoons baking soda. Add 3/4 cup boiling water, and mix well.
Then add the flour mixture and the cocoa mixture to the eggs and sour cream, and beat well until thoroughly blended together.
Pour into greased 10 x 15 pan, and bake in preheated 350º oven about half an hour or until tester comes out clean. This cake is large enough for two families to share. It is delicious, and very easy to make.
My original note on the recipe card says it is great even without frosting. But today, I made a simple buttercream frosting because it is a gift for a friend who is home recovering from knee surgery.
1/2 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups confectioners sugar
Enough milk to make it smooth
Addendum: I had emailed the radio station to check on the day and time of her broadcast this month, and I just got a reply that said Evelyn Birkby was 'taken to the hospital today. They think she may have suffered a small stroke.'