As everyone knows a prospective politician needs to have a strong popular platform to run on and be scandal free if he or she wishes to be successful. What is just as important in the electorate’s eyes is having an attractive, gracious and charming spouse. Avalynne fit these qualifications to a T and was there throughout he husband’s political carrier. In the 1930’s Millard Tawes was elected Clerk of the Somerset County Circuit Court and later became State Comptroller and State Banking Commissioner. Finally in 1958 Millard Tawes was elected Governor of Maryland which he held for two terms and served eight years. Avalynne was there every step of the way and her love of Maryland cookery played an important role in her husband’s political aspirations.
“For a hundred years, certain of our (Maryland) specialties have been famous. In the great days of society-with-a-capital-S, no dinner was adequately elegant unless it included our diamond-back terrapin. On the more democratic level, fried chicken was “Maryland fried” everywhere. Maryland beaten biscuits, Maryland spoon bread, Lady Baltimore cake-these were some of our State’s delicacies that carried their fame beyond our State’s borders”
“But it has been only recently that the glory of Maryland food-not just a few dishes-could be generally known. That was because many of our finest food products were perishable.”
“Now, however, with air transportation and freezing, it is possible for us to send our most delicate specialties all over the world. From Government House, Annapolis, I have dispatched Maryland terrapin soup, ready to serve, to Sir Winston Churchill in his country home in England.”
Mrs. Tawes marveled at the role her states food and her cooking played in politics.
“I helped him (Millard Tawes) in his campaigning every way I could, but, when I had time, I worked on my own project-in my kitchen. The result was that, to my astonishment, I produced what politically experienced people have called a “piece of campaign literature.”
“It was a cookbook, nothing more.”
“It contained just twenty-two recipes and not a word about politics. O about anything except food. Yet Mr. Tawes’ friends assured me that it had been very helpful in his campaign for the governorship. I am still amazed at that.”
Mrs. Tawes never set out to write one of the most comprehensive cookbooks about a single state’s cuisine every attempted but as you will read that is what happened.
“I never sold a single book. I had it privately printed and meant to distribute it just among my friends. But news of it spread and I was overwhelmed with requests for copies. Since then, by demand, printing has followed printing. This showed me that, politics aside, many women, like myself, wanted recipes for traditional Maryland dishes that could be prepared in modern kitchens and still keep their traditional excellence. So I went on with my experimenting.”
In the following paragraph, Mrs. Tawes sums up her view and what will become every great chef’s view of cooking with fresh, local ingredients long before the Bobby Flays and Mario Batalis of the world came along.
“The basic conclusion I have reached is simply this-it is not the mere lavish use of rich ingredients that produces excellence, but an appreciation-precise, intense and respectful-on the part of the cook, of the individual flavor of the food being prepared. That Flavor is the material of your art, and that you must know how to handle.”
A woman well ahead of her time and we should be proud to call her a fellow Marylander. Here are a few more of the Maryland recipes as they appear in her “cook book” .
Maryland Crab Cakes
Makes 8 to 10 cakes
One 1-pound can of lump crab meat
2 Tbl mayonnaise
1 Tbl horseradish mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
5 drops Tabasco
1 Tbl chopped parsley
Fat for frying
Combine all ingredients except crumbs and mix together lightly. Form into desired-size cakes. Do not pack firmly. Prepare cracker crumbs by rolling out saltine crackers into fine crumbs, then pat or roll lightly on the crab cake. Fry in 1 ½ inches of hot fat in iron frying pan on both sides until golden brown. Remove and drain on absorbent paper and serve immediately.
Maryland Oyster Pie
Serves 8 to 10
1 stick butter
1 quart fresh oysters
1 quart milk
2 Tbl flour and 2 Tbl water mixed to a paste
2 tsp salt
Dash of pepper
Melt the butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Strain off all the liquid from the oysters and save. Wash oysters thoroughly to remove all grit and add to hot butter. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the strained oyster liquid and stir. Add milk and continue to simmer. Then stir in flour paste and simmer until thick. Add salt and pepper and pour into a buttered baking dish. Cover top of baking dish with rich oyster crust rolled to ½ inch thickness, prick with fork, dot with butter and bake in hot oven (400) for 20 to 25 minutes, or until brown.
Rich Oyster Crust
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
6 Tbl shortening
¾ cup milk
Sift dry ingredients and cut in shortening. Add milk all at once to make a soft dough. Place on a floured board and knead lightly a few seconds, using as little flour as possible on board. Roll out dough about ½ inch thick and use as instructed above.
Old Maryland Fried Chicken
One 2 ½ to 3 pound chicken, cleaned and drawn
1 cup flour
2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 cup lard
Wash chicken and cut in pieces for frying. In a brown paper bag mix the flour, salt, pepper, add chicken; twist top of bag securely and shake until chicken is well covered with the flour mixture. Melt lard in iron frying pan and heat over moderate heat. Place chicken in the hot fat and fry until chicken is tender and golden brown, turning continuously. Drain on absorbent paper. Serve while hot.