A recipe for the homemade Grape-Nuts is in there


I wonder if there are many people who remember watching Marcia Adams on PBS in the 1980s.

Her show, “Amish Cooking From Quilt Country,” stretched for 26 episodes and was broadcast to a far wider audience than its WBGU origins. It was one of a number of similar, now mostly forgotten public TV offerings, much like “Crockett’s Victory Garden” or “From a Country Garden” with Anstace and Larry.

My friend and I rarely missed watching “Amish Cooking From Quilt Country,” not for the recipes, but because Adams seemed so poorly suited to be hosting a cooking show. She was quite fussy in her smart denim skirts and sandy hair cut into a swingy pageboy.

A collector of Amish quilts, she would don white cotton gloves and bring one out to show off and explain at the end of each episode. Then there came a plug for her cookbook of the same name and the close, which was especially precious: “Essen gut — eat good.”

I think the show was successful because of her genuinely self-deprecating demeanor and, well, endearing clumsiness. She would frequently just give up on whatever she was making. “I’d like to show you this week’s quilt if I can ever finish stirring these wretched apples.” Another week she made homemade Grape-Nuts cereal, spreading the batter out on a cookie sheet and baking it. Removing it from the oven, she banged it on the counter without damage. “Well, that’s a doormat,” she said, throwing it aside. All this fun was delivered by someone who appeared for all the world to be Donna Reed.

Adams passed away in 2011, and in finding more about her, I learned she was a much loved woman in her community in Indiana, giving generously of her time and resources for various causes. Good for you, Marcia. That adds a nice layer to some fond memories, as both Marcia and that ‘80s friend have been gone from my life since — until last week.

I was snooping around in an antique shop that had a full bookcase of cookbooks, all priced at $3 each. There, displayed on its own, was a copy of “Cooking From Quilt Country,” the cookbook I saw her push again and again.

I couldn’t even wait to get it home, flipping through it in the car in the parking lot. It has some pretty surprisingly useful recipes, even if it’s Amish food. It’s hard to get excited about a cuisine that considers ketchup to be an ooh-la-la spice.

It has the only recipe I’ve ever seen in a cookbook for the rivel soup my mother used to make. There are instructions for pickled eggs and beets, cracker jack, and those wretched fried apples.

The recipe for the Grape-Nuts is there, about which she asks, “Why would you make your own? Because it’s addictive.” I wish I’d said that. Here it is, in respectful memory of a cook who once gave me plenty of smiles.


3 1/2 cups graham (whole wheat) flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and mix well. Pour out into an oiled 12-by-16-inch flat baking pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the batter is firm, medium-brown in color and shrinks slightly from the sides of the pan. With a metal spatula, completely loosen the hot pattie from the pan. Let cool on a rack for several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven again to 275 F. Break the pattie into chunks and put through a meat grinder fitted with a coarse blade or pulse in a food processor until coarse crumbs are formed. Divide crumbs into two baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Let cool, then store in an airtight container.

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