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Friday, April 17, 2009

April is Grange Month

April is National Grange Month. By most accounts, The Grange, or the Patrons of Husbandry is the country's oldest general and rural public interest organization rooted in agricultural communities across America. I suppose there are Grange Halls dotting many rural areas of upstate New York however, here on Long Island, I don't recall ever seeing one of those sign posts with the P of H that surrounds the sheaf of wheat which stands for The Order of Patrons of Husbandry. With a bit of googling, I did find a website for the New York State Grange. Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult to read because of its layout but for those who may be interested, I will leave the link below in the resource section.

Now that you know I am agriculturally deprived when it comes to the affairs of National Grange Month, why would I even bother to mentions it? There is a method to my madness, especially when it comes to cookbooks and recipes. The Pennsylvania State Grange cookbook (1984) you see pictured is not only a hefty recipe book filled with over "fifteen hundred favorite recipes," it also brings to mind my very first encounter with rural auctions. We don't have auctions here on Long Island like the ones I have come to look forward to in PA. I don't know if there are any statistics to prove this next statement but, "I do declare," Central Pennsylvania must be the rural capital of America when it comes to auctions. I LOVE them! Before I tell you about my auction experience, let me just drop off a couple of sources for you to explore should you wish further details about The Grange. If you would rather skip the details, jump down a bit.

The Grange came into being in 1867 because of the vision of Oliver Hudson Kelley, a Minnesota farmer and activist. He had long held that farmers, because of their independent and scattered nature, needed a national organization which would represent them much as unions were beginning to do for industrial workers. Farmers were at the mercy of merchants for both needed farm supplies and for marketing their crops. Railroads and warehouse companies were taking advantage of farmers as well. Kelley and some of his friends organized the National Grange (officially known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry) as a fraternal group similar to the Masonic lodge. The early leaders were responsible for promoting cooperatives which had the potential of helping farmers economically. Effective lobbying efforts were undertaken early and this activity remains a bulwark of Grange service to rural America. Education of rural residents was championed by the early Grange and, due to Grange agitation, dramatic improvements were made in rural schools. The birth of the Extension Service, Rural Free Delivery, and the Farm Credit System were largely due to Grange lobbying. The Grange at all levels is strictly nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates for public office nor contribute to their campaigns. source

The last sentence from the above source quite frankly, has me a bit baffled. My research for today's post has uprooted a conflicting agenda that I would rather not delve into today. However, I do need to present you with the following:

The Civil War income tax had been repealed in 1872. But following the Panic of 1873 and its ensuing depression, support began to grow in the South and the West for an income tax. Farmers with declining incomes saw themselves as helpless individuals at the mercy of the powerful groups with whom they had to deal. This was the era of the trusts, which seemed to be setting the buying and selling prices of commodities. Tariffs, then the major source of Federal revenue, fell with disproportionate weight on the farmer and laborer. Supporters of an income tax felt that it would represent a fairer sharing of the tax burden.

Many organizations were formed with the goal of righting the Nation’s wrongs. The Patrons of Husbandry, the Grange, the Greenback Party, the National Farmers Alliance and Industrial Union, and the Knights of Labor were some of the more influential ones. These political groups demanded a graduated Federal income tax as part of their reform platform. In 1890 and 1892 the populist influence was felt at the polls and in the subsequent endorsement by the Democratic Party of many populist proposals. It was against this background that the Democratically controlled Congress in 1894 added to a tariff bill a section providing a tax of 2 percent on the income of individuals and corporations, with a $4,000 personal exemption.

But the triumph of the income tax proponents was short lived. The validity of the tax was challenged almost immediately, and in 1895 the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. The Court ruled that since a tax on land was a direct tax, a tax on income from land was also a direct tax within the meaning of the Constitution, and could thus not be levied unless it was apportioned among the States on the basis of population. PDF

And this from the National Grange website:

National Grange is the nation's oldest national agricultural organization, with grassroots units established in 3,600 local communities in 37 states.  Its 300,000 members provide service to agriculture and rural areas on a wide variety of issues, including economic development, education, family endeavors, and legislation designed to assure a strong and viable Rural America. It was formed in the years following the American Civil War to unite private citizens in improving the economic and social position of the nation's farm population.

The Grange is also a fraternal order known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, hence the "P of H" on the organization's logo.  Founding members determined that a fraternal organization would be best able to combine loyalty and democratic ideals to provide service to others. The National Grange was one of the first formal groups to admit women to membership on the basis of equality with men.  It remains so today. source

Pennsylvania Auctions

Auction season will be coming into full swing in the next couple of weeks in PA and I am trying my darndest not to miss a one this year. Now, what do you suppose I look for when I attend an auction? Cookbooks! of course. It might surprise you to know I have another item of choice when it comes to auctions. Jewelry, I collect costume jewelry also. I've managed to gather quite a collection which is rather ironic because, I myself am what some would call a "plain jane." My attire for most of my life, even when I worked, has always been jeans, tee shirt and sneakers! Yep, that's me, no makeup, and absolutely, no jewelry! I guess it really isn't ironic. Here I have more than 4,000 cookbooks and if you really think about it, how many images of glorious home cooked meals have you seen on this blog? Anyway, the first auction I went to in PA, I realize now, I was still wet behind the ears. Now, don't get me wrong, the ambiance of sitting outside with the Pennsylvania mountainside as your back drop can't be beat especially since Long Island is pretty much flat and doesn't offer very much when it comes to scenic overlooks, you can't beat the ocean breezes though:)

First things first, Get to the Auction Early! If you plan on staying for the auction, the first thing you need to do is get a number. No, the numbers don't come on paddles like you see in those fancy auction houses. These are plain pieces of numbered auction cards that usually are blank on the other side where you can keep track of what you have bid on. (which you should definitely do, so have a pen:) I neglected to get one at my first auction. After you get your auction card, take a stroll around. Most of the auctions where I live in PA are outside, dress accordingly:) I went to my first auction in the middle of March. I froze my you know what off. You think I would have caught on when I saw everyone else carrying hot water bottles and blankets with them. No, not me. Here I was in the middle of a big old muddy farm field, sneakers, jeans, and a Penn State sweatshirt. Thank goodness the souvenir sweatshirt was made for tailgaters!!!!

You can never tell which items the auctioneer is going to offer first. It has been my experience, what I want will almost always be offered LAST! Such was the day I "won" the Pennsylvania State Grange Cookbook. Bidders are many when it comes to cookbooks at most auctions, so I've learned in the past couple of years. However, Grange cookbooks are Huge sellers at nearly every auction I have ever gone to in any state. There's good reason for that now that I have finally amassed quite a few of them from all over the country. They have the best recipes!!!! You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that almost everyone that was still at the auction four hours later was there to bid on a box of cookbooks. Yes, dear visitors, one box. Now, I wouldn't say it was a big box. There were exactly, 15 cookbooks in the box. To a cookbook collector such as myself, fifteen cookbooks in one box is a find but, I wouldn't classify it as a gold-mine. Was I wrong! Every body and their brother, literally, was bidding on that box of books. (remember, I was numberless:) "Dollar, dollar, dollar" the auctioneer started the bidding. Racing through my mind, oh my goodness, I'm going to get that box of books for $1.00, so I thought. Not! The cards flew up. "Uh oh, no one told me I needed one of those." Now, here I am, huddled under a tree trying to stay warm all the way in the back of a bunch of chairs that somehow managed to banish me into the middle of the corn field that I swear to this day had just been fertilized. (remember, I'm a "city" girl:) I don't know if you've ever noticed, but there aren't a whole lotta trees in a field of future corn. Oh, you might see a row every now and again but I would venture to say they must be for boundary reasons. Don't quote me on that, I know so little about farming, I'm almost ashamed to admit it:)

By the time I realized I didn't have a card, the box of books was up to $7.00. What's a girl to do? I hadn't even got in one bid yet and the price was rising right before my very eyes. I decided I would "work" my way around the mass of blanket filled chairs, you couldn't see any heads, and try to get a number. "Ten dollars, ten dollars, ten dollars, the auctioneer rattled off. Have you ever tried to decipher auctioneer language? It's worse than trying to read a doctors hand writing. Does it mean he has a bid of ten dollars or, he wants a bid of $10.00? I thought. Oh what difference does it make, that box of books is MINE!!! (nope, no number yet) As soon as I heard "twelve, do I hear twelve" I sprung my hand up. I just couldn't help it. I couldn't take a chance on those books going without me even bidding on them. What could they do to me? Excommunicate me from ever attending an auction again? I'll take my chances I thought. "Twelve dollars" to that young lady in the...." Everything got quiet. Heads popped out of blankets. All eyes were on me. (I'm a shy New Yorker) The auctioneer cleared his throat into the microphone which made it blare with static as he blurted out the words, "back with no number." "Do you have a number young lady" his voice seemed to screech. Have I ever told you the reason why I don't wear make up is because, I blush quite easily? Well, I do and at that particular moment, the only thing I remember thinking to myself was I was finally warm. I shook my head no. In all fairness, the generous instructions for getting a number, came from all angles. "Oh don't worry" one soft spoken elderly lady consoled. "He'll wait." "The numbers are in the house" another competitor bidder directed. I noticed she had stopped at $10.00. One lady even offered me a bottle of leather cleaner she had won in a box lot of house cleaning products to clean off my grimy sneakers.

I eventually made it up to the house to get a number. The number was #160. It's a number I will never forget and usually the number I play if I should decide the day is a good day to "play the numbers." By the time I made my way back, the auctioneer had managed to usher along numerous bids on stray items of tupperware, towels and gardening supplies. He had waited for me to get my number and continued the bidding as soon as I walked out of the house. "Twelve dollars, twelve dollars, do I hear twelve dollars? he didn't miss a beat. I proudly raised #160 and made my bid. "Fifteen dollars, fifteen dollars, fifteen dollars" do I hear fifteen dollars anyone? He continued the pace. Thirty five dollars and ten frozen toes later, I WON my box of cookbooks. All's fair and neighborly when helping one out in distress I suppose, but when it comes to bidding on cookbooks, novice or pro, everyone is fair game.

The Recipes

As difficult as it was to win that box of cookbooks, it is even more difficult choosing a few recipes from this edition of the Pennsylvania State Grange Cookbook. I've never been to a Grange Fair which is a shame because the fairgrounds are actually quite close to where I live in PA. My son John and his wife work over at the fair in Centre Hall each year so hopefully, I will make it there this year in September and "report" back next year for Grange Month. The Penn State Public Broadcasting produced a documentary titled The Grange Fair - An American Tradition back in 2008. If you would like to read a bit about the tradition instilled in Grange Fair fairgoers, here is the link. In the mean time, I will try to select a few recipes for you to sample. I did find a few Grange Fair recipes online such as this one for Haluski from the Pierogie Place at the Grange Fair in Centre Hall. Here's a recipe for Grange Fair Peach Pie. It won a Blue Ribbon!

Below is a popular raisin bran muffin recipe that will keep in the refrigerator for up to six weeks. Baking fresh muffins daily never got easier. All you need to to do is make as many muffins as you like and put that Six Week Raisin Bran Batter back in the fridge. I've used this recipe often and I can tell you from experience you won't be disappointed! The recipe says it makes about 60 muffins. You know how recipes can be sometimes, it's all in the scooping:) The Hot Onion Snacks may not sound like any recipe break through however, they whip up in an instance and most people have the ingredients on hand. I've made these for my son for his weekly card games and the guys always ask for more.

Six-Week Raisin Bran Muffins
1 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 quart buttermilk
5 cups flour
5 teaspoons baking soda
1 18-20 ounce box raisin bran flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons salt

Melt and cool shortening. Add sugar. Beat well. Add beaten eggs, then buttermilk. Blend flour, baking soda, salt, and raisin bran. Combine the above, stirring only until well mixed. Keep in refrigerator, covered, and use as needed. Bake 20 minutes @ 375 degrees.

Hot Onion Snacks

3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons salad dressing or mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
10-12 thin shredded whole wheat wafers
2 drops tabasco sauce
dash of pepper

Mix onion, salad dressing, salt, paprika, pepper and tabasco sauce in a small bowl.
Spread on wafers. Place on broiler pan under broiler unit so snacks are 3-4 inches from the broiler unit.
Cooking Time: 5 minutes Servings: 10-12

Here's another recipe that I've seen circulating online. Grange Recipes are quite popular so it is difficult to find some that haven't been offered before. I did notice though that some of the online recipes neglected to allow for the second rising. I'm just going to scan it for you so you can see the recipe for Something Different Sweet Rolls which uses a yellow cake mix. I've never tried this recipe but it's a perfect time to remind you bakers out there that the Pillsbury Bake-Off is still taking online entries until April 20th. I mean really, some of you bloggers do works of magic. Why not try to win a million!!!

Resources
1. Grange Founders
2. Short History of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry
3. New York State Grange
4. Pennsylvania State Grange
5. National Grange Service Clubs Organizational List
6. Pennsylvania Association of Fairs (link list)