Believe in yourself or no one will. I heard these words as a young adult. Wasn’t sure what it meant back then, however, I continued to tell this to people throughout my life who needed to hear what, perhaps, no one else had told them. Just go for it.
As a daydreamer, I’d imagine what could be before I realized I could be anything I set my mind to. I’d also helped others realize the possibilities that dreams come true with hard work.
I look at this photo and wonder what else would I have told myself way back then that would have given me inspiration and hope for the future. One thing I know for sure was that I would have dreamed WAY bigger.
Reading biographies was a glimpse into the past of women who also dared to dream. People like Harriet Tubman, Shirley Chisholm, Madam C.J. Walker, Althea Gibson, and Constance Baker Motley all had stories which resonated with me. I'd get lost in the pages of the lives of pioneers and trailblazers and imagined what life was like for them in their time. And, these women and men set the stage for reaching back and bringing others along. The public library was like a treasure chest to me, as a child. Each weekly visit with my sister was like bringing home a gift to what else existed outside our small community. To this day, I continue to read about people whom I affectionately call dream makers who paved the way for me.
Some of my favorite book titles include:
Bridget "Biddy" Mason: From Slave to Businesswoman
The Black Rose: The Dramatic Story of Madam C.J. Walker, America's First Black Female Millionaire
Born to Win: The Authorized Biography of Althea Gibson
The Diary of a Black Railroad Pioneer
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Dream makers also showed up in my life in the most unusual places. So many people who worked their own kind of magic building up others, families and communities. Whether it was the neighborhood Mom who led the Girl Scout troop, the teacher who stayed after school to tutor, the parent who chauffeured us, grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended families who insisted that play came after homework and chores were done. Colleagues who became friends over coffee, long hours, tight deadlines and pitching in to help me, even when not asked.
As career changer in a field that I’ve had no professional training, I’ve delved into the life stories of James Hemings, George Washington Carver, Edna Lewis, Zephyr Wright and Abby Fisher. I’ve learned food histories through reading books like The Cooking Gene, The Jemima Code, Rufus Estes Good Things to Eat, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America and Jubilee. The recipes are secondary to the rich stories told of where our food came from and how it’s evolved. I've also been privileged to sit at the tables of some fine home cooks who generously shared both their homes and their recipes.
My Mom kept well used copies of the McCalls Cookbook and The Good Housekeeping Cookbook and she clipped recipes from local newspapers, including the Long Island Press and the New York Daily News, which were scattered in folders on the dining room table. I’m a recipe clipper (or online book-marker to be exact) and enjoy reading recipes for inspiration. I dream about what could be, just like Mom. Moms biscuits and Parker House rolls were legendary and I continue to make them using her rolling pin.
Biscuits and breads gave rise (no pun intended) long before I was born in home kitchens across this country. The Jemima Code included a recipe for Emma Jane Jackson's biscuits (from Emma Jane’s Souvenir Cook Book And Some Old Virginia Recipes 1937) which is basically how my Mom made biscuits. The secret is to never over handle the dough.
Emma Jane’s Buttermilk Biscuits
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup lard, cut into pieces and chilled
- 3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Cut the lard pieces into the flour mixture using two knives or a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly and lard is evenly distributed. Using a fork, stir in the buttermilk, adding just enough to make a slightly sticky dough. The amount may vary because buttermilk is thicker than milk. When dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, pour out onto a lightly-floured board. Sprinkle with a small amount of flour and knead the dough about 10 times to make a light dough. Do not add too much flour or handle too much. Pat dough into a 1/2-inch thick disc (or use a rolling pin). Cut with a floured biscuit cutter. Place on a shiny baking sheet, about 1/4-inch apart, or in a baking pan just barely touching. Do not re-roll scraps. Gather into one biscuit or scatter the leftover pieces on the pan and serve as a snack. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Number of servings: 12
Food brings people together in more ways than one. As I sit at the kitchen table giving thanks for a new day, I express gratitude to all those known and unknown people who contributed to the journey I'm now taking.
Here’s to all the dreamers who want more. Dreams do come true for those who do the work.
Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food company. Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at several Northeast Ohio businesses including:
Troubadour Coffee Roasters www.troubadourcoffeeroasters.com
Sports and Spine Physical Therapy www.sportspine.com
Local Flavors Shoppe www.localflavors.net
Rittman Orchards and Farm Market www.rittmanorchards.com
Locle Box www.loclebox.com
Market Wagon Northeast Ohio www.marketwagon.com
Made Cleveland www.madecleveland.com
Mister Brisket www.misterbrisket.com
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport www.clevelandairport.com