Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mr. Guest and a Raisin Pie

"Life is a gift to be used every day,
Not to be smothered and hidden away."
Edgar Guest
Meet Mr. Guest.
(courtesy of wikipedia)
Edgar Guest

Mr. Guest was born, Edgar Albert Guest, on August 20, 1881 in Birmingham England. In 1891, his family settled in Detroit Michigan. When Edgar's father lost his job in 1893, the young Edgar sought employment at the local drug store washing soda fountain glasses. One day, "Eddie" as he was fondly known to his friends, confided to one of the customers, who just happened to be a bookkeeper in the office of the Detroit Free Press, that he had the ambition to be a newspaper reporter one day. In the summer of 1895, the Detroit Free Press was in need of a assistance. The bookkeeper put in a few good words for the ever so dilligent Edgar and he landed a job. Eddie would remain at the Detroit Free Press for almost sixty-five years. To paraphrase the man himself, "I am a newspaperman who writes verse."
...Eddie Guest was 10 when his parents took him to Detroit from England. His first job was jerking sodas. One of his customers was a Free Press bookkeeper, who helped Eddie get a job marking scores on the Free Press's baseball bulletin board. He was soon copy boy in the editorial rooms, graduated to general reporting, to conducting a weekly column called "Blue Monday..."
By most accounts, and believe me, there are many, Edgar Guest was a "people person." His philosophy of life gushed freely through his weekly column, which was to become his "key to the city" any city, as he was loved by all who read his prose on the trials and tribulations of every day life. "The People's Poet" they called him and his appeal was universal.
...After a while, the column became a daily Free Press feature, and Guest the wonder of the staff for the ease with which he metamorphosed everyday trifles into folksy copy. When the Guest family put their Oleander out in the spring, it was duly recorded. It made the column again when they brought it in in the autumn. The children (Eddie Jr. & Janet), Mrs. Guest's pickles, a friend's fancy vest, were all grist for the rhymester's mill...(Time Magazine Feb.24, 1936)
Edgar Guest and FamilyHome Cooking. . . . I dine on rare and costly fare
whene'er good fortune lets me,
but there's no meal that can compare
with those the missus gets me.
Edgar A. Guest is credited with with writing over 11,000 poems which were syndicated in over 300 papers throughout the United States. He has twenty books to his credit, including A Heap o’ Livin’ (1916) and Just Folks (1917). He also hosted a weekly Detroit radio show from 1931 until 1942 and a national NBC television series, A Guest in Your House in 1951. He was the first and only Michigan Poet Laureate appointed by a Senate resolution in 1952. "The text of the resolution follows:"
Edgar Guest
A concurrent resolution designating Edgar A. Guest the Poet Laureate of the state of Michigan. Whereas, Thousands of people in the State of Michigan throughout the years have looked to the poems of Edgar A. Guest for moral support in times of stress and have enjoyed his subtle humor and homespun philosophy; and Whereas, The poems of Edgar A. Guest have depicted the daily lives of the people of the state of Michigan, and have reflected the American principles on which the United States of America is founded, now therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That the members of the Michigan Legislature, convened in the Regular Session of 1952, are proud to bestow on Edgar A. Guest the title of Poet Laureate of the state of Michigan, with the knowledge that Edgar A. Guest at all times will truly reflect in his poems that people of the state of Michigan in their daily lives; and be it further Resolved that a suitable copy of this resolution be transmitted to Edgar A. Guest. The concurrent resolution was considered and adopted. (Journal of the Senate of the State of Michigan, Regular Session of 1952, v. 1, March 25, p. 788.)

The Free Press was a morning paper in those days and Edgar's "poem-a-day column" was filled with motivational messages that greeted his readers with inspiring sentiments and optimistic prose. Edgar Albert Guest never pretended to be a poet. Said he: "I am a newspaperman who writes verse." He was first, last and always a newspaperman. He once said, "I just take simple every day things that happen to me and figure that they probably happen to a lot of other people and I make simple rhymes out of 'em and people seem to like 'em."
The ever effervescent Edith Bunker, from the television sitcom All in the Family, is said to have only quoted one poet in all her years on television. Who was that "master of words" she committed to memory? Eddie Guest of course.
Although Home is one of his most beloved poems, today (actually tonight) I have chosen two of my favorite goodies. First, a poem I shared when I first started blogging in 2007. Since I doubt anyone ever saw it, here it is again with one of my favorite cookie jar die-cut cookbooks.
Cookie Jar Poem by Edgar Guest
Another tasty work of deliciousness by "Eddie Guest" is Raisin Pie. There's also a recipe from the "folks" @ Sun-Maid for your enjoyment:)
Raisin Pie by Edgar Guest
There's a heap of pent-up goodness in the yellow bantam corn,
And I sort o' like to linger round a berry patch at morn;
Oh, the Lord has set our table with a stock o' things to eat
An' there's just enough o' bitter in the blend to cut the sweet,
But I run the whole list over, an' it seems somehow that I
Find the keenest sort o' pleasure in a chunk o' raisin pie.

There are pies that start the water circulatin' in the mouth;
There are pies that wear the flavor of the warm an' sunny south;
Some with oriental spices spur the drowsy appetite
An' just fill a fellow's being with a thrill o' real delight;
But for downright solid goodness that comes drippin' from the sky
There is nothing quite the equal of a chunk o' raisin pie.

I'm admittin' tastes are diff'runt, I'm not settin' up myself
As the judge an' final critic of the good things on the shelf.
I'm sort o' payin' tribute to a simple joy on earth,
Sort o' feebly testifyin' to its lasting charm an' worth,
An' I'll hold to this conclusion till it comes my time to die,
That there's no dessert that's finer than a chunk o' raisin pie.
Old Fashioned Raisin Pie
Old Fashioned Raisin Pie
2 cups Sun-Maid Natural Raisins
2 cups water
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 double unbaked pie crust
COMBINE raisins and water and boil for 5 minutes. 
BLEND sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt.
ADD to raisin liquid and cook, stirring until clear.
REMOVE from heat.
STIR in vinegar and butter/margarine. Cool slightly. Turn into pastry-lined pan.
COVER with top pastry or lattice strips.
BAKE at 425 F about 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Makes 1 pie (8 servings).

I don't mind saying, I had a difficult time compiling this post for "Eddie Guest Day" (celebrated in Michigan until the mid 50s.) There are nearly as many volumes written about the man as there are published in his name. It was most difficult selecting glimpses of his fertile life within fleeting browses of text and images. Therefore, I leave you with these words about him...
He is the nation's poet of every day life. He is the poet of the household and of the common people. His verses appeal to the best that is in mankind and his admirers are to be found among all kinds and conditions of people. But to no one perhaps does he have a stronger appeal than to the children of the land. His verse is read by lawyers and congressmen, by business men and clerks—and by a host of people who look for and read his poems every day. Recently one of the most cultured of our supreme court judges said that he not only read the poem in the Free Press every morning before he began the day's work, but that he always carried two or three of his favorites in his vest pocket in order that he might resort to them for comfort or for cheer during the day. Many business and professional men carry the soft leather editions in their traveling bags when taking journeys...(Michigan State Board of Library Commissioners-1920)
And by him...
You are the person who has to decide.
Whether you'll do it or toss it aside... 
~Edgar A. Guest~
1. The Rotarian Dec 1922 @ Google books
2. "Our poets of today" by Howard Willard Cook (1919)
3. Collection of Edgar Guest's Poetry
4. Poems by Edgar A. Guest
5. Eddie Guest-Himself: The Rotarian Sept. 1940
6. Detroit Free Press (website)
7. Baked Brie with California Raisins and Port Wine in Puff Pastry
8. Raisin and Almond Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce
*A special thanks to Jane Sweet Baking Journal for materializing the link for the Detroit Press Food Site. (I couldn't find it for the life of me:)