It's true: Feminists are in the kitchen

NOW: The women's group has published a cookbook. The recipes are good

the history is fascinating.

July 14, 1999|By Sylvia Rector | Sylvia Rector,Knight Ridder/Tribune

Did you hear that the National Organization for Women just published a cookbook?

No, really.

It's no joke, although NOW -- which used to have buttons saying "Don't Assume I Cook" -- admits it sounds like one.

The group even named the book "Don't Assume I Don't Cook."

See? Feminists do have a sense of humor.

The book is dominated by the kinds of down-to-earth dishes I call real-people food: red beans and rice, Italian sausage lasagna, chocolate cheesecake and appetizer spinach balls. You'll find lots of salads and one-dish dinners, and there are two chapters of desserts.

As a cookbook, it's quite nice. But as a history, it's downright fascinating.

People of a certain age -- those who grew up in the '60s and '70s, or even the '80s -- might have forgotten how different things used to be. But there among the recipes and photos are anecdotes that remind you.

In 1966, women in some parts of the country were still being x fired from teaching jobs when they became pregnant. As recently as 1975, one major oil company didn't want women to own gas station franchises. And until 1980, men in Louisiana were legally in charge of their wife's finances, even their paychecks, the book says.

If you're still hungry after reading that, you might be inspired to try the first recipe in the book: Susan B. Anthony's Cream Biscuits.

As the story goes, Anthony's brother-in-law told her he thought it was more important for women to make good biscuits like hers than it was for them to master algebra -- a subject not taught to women in school.

To which she replied: "I see no reason why she should not be able to do both."

That's still the point, says Karen Johnson, NOW's vice president for membership in Washington.

"Well, you have to eat. ... And I think it's important that people know that there are many women who are feminists who cook," she says.

"Once we got over the initial shock of talking about doing a cookbook, we discovered all these underground cooks. Everybody said, 'I have a recipe.' "

The cookbook is a fund-raiser for NOW, but it also may help destroy myths about the organization and women's rights advocates.

"The book is for folks who like cookbooks. This will be a collector's item, I believe. It has these recipes from feminists and anecdotes and stories.

"It's a conversation piece, for sure. People read it and say, 'That happened in my life, too,' " Johnson says.

The 192-page hardcover book is $18.95. It's available by calling 1-202-331-0066, Ext. 748, 9:30 a.m-6 p.m. weekdays, or by checking NOW's on-line catalog at

Susan B. Anthony's Cream Biscuits

Makes 12 biscuits

2 cups sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add the whipped cream to the flour mixture and fold gently until almost blended.

Knead the mixture on a lightly floured surface for 1 minute. Pat the dough 1/2-inch thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter or knife and arrange on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve piping hot.

Spinach Balls

Serves 8 to 12

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach

2 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix

1 1/2 teaspoons dried onion flakes

2 extra-large or 3 medium eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/3 cup melted butter or margarine

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

dash of red or black pepper

Cook the spinach using the package directions, drain and squeeze dry. Place in a large bowl. Add the stuffing mix, onion flakes, eggs, garlic salt, butter, Parmesan cheese and pepper, and mix well. Chill the mixture for 2 hours or longer.

Shape into 1 1/2-inch balls and arrange on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the spinach balls, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until firm and light brown. Serve hot.

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