Nashville Seasons was one of Michelle’s earliest cookbooks (the very first was Betty Crocker’s New Boys and Girls Cook Book, and the second was the 1979 Marion Cunningham version of Fannie Farmer). Her mother gave Michelle a copy of the classic southern Junior League cookbook for Christmas in 1980, during Michelle’s senior year of college—Jean’s own edition having become worn from much use.
The 1964 cookbook was published at the crossroads of culinary skill and convenience. While the authors still assumed the reader (or possibly, this after all being early-60s Junior League Nashville, the reader’s cook) knew how to make a “very thick cream sauce,” cans of cream soup were starting to appear in recipes. (The “Hot Chicken Salad” served at many a Turner meal in the 1970s and 1980s called for a can of cream of chicken soup.)
For those who know her predilections, it’s no surprise that Michelle’s two almost-memorized Nashville Seasons recipes are for sweets. “Nashville’s One-Pan Fudge Cake,” contributed by Mrs. Wilson Sims, was the first brownie recipe Michelle ever made and she made it hundreds of times since her first teenaged attempt. And for many years starting in the Seventies, it wasn’t Christmas without Mrs. Ervin Entrekin’s “Ginger Snaps.”
Michelle had abandoned the much-used ginger cookie recipe, partly because of Mrs. Entrekin’s affection for “shortening”—the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil product (commonly known as Crisco) having become anathema to her. But nothing she tried could match the thinness, the crunch or seasoning of the Nashville Seasons version. So, on this snowy December day, Michelle set out to modernize Mrs. Entrekin’s “Ginger Snaps,” and was pleased with the results. Crisco was out and butter went in, along with black pepper. The result was a richer, livelier snap that punched up Mrs. Entrekin’s version while retaining the crispness and flavor. Perhaps the Junior League of the 1960s would wouldn’t have approved—but then again, they probably didn’t approve of many modern innovations.
(adapted from Nashville Seasons)
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 t. baking soda
- 1 TB. ginger
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/8 t. allspice
- 1 t. (or more) freshly ground pepper
- 1-1/2 sticks butter, softened
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 egg
- 3/4 c. molasses (we used a really dark sorghum)
- Extra sugar for dipping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift flour, soda and spices together.
Cream butter in electric mixer. Add sugar and continue beating until mixture is fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Add sifted dry ingredients. Blend well. Batter will be very, very wet. Put in refrigerator for a few minutes to harden slightly.
Put some sugar in a small bowl. Form rounded teaspoons of batter into balls and roll in sugar. Place 2″ apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake about 12 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove from oven and immediately remove cookies from sheet with a thin spatula and place onto a cooling rack.