There’s a lot more to a recipe than a list of ingredients followed by a set of instructions. Recipes are an insight into a culture, a time, or even a person ― and handwritten recipes can provide you with all three. Like this recipe right here:
This recipe for “featherlite pancakes” was written on the back of a bank envelope. It not only provides us with an old fashioned pancake recipe, but Rosa Parks’ pancake recipe.
The recipe was written after 1955, when Parks famously refused to sit at the back of the bus. At the time of this recipe, Parks had already relocated to Detroit, where she worked hard to start a new life.
The recipe ― now publicly available at The Library of Congress ― is intriguing because it provides a personal look at a civil rights hero. And also because it calls for an unusual ingredient: peanut butter.
Peanut butter does not commonly make its way into pancake batter, but this ingredient tells us something about the time and the person who wrote it. Dan Pashman from the podcast The Sporkful did some investigating into this recipe. He found that the use of peanut butter was significant.
Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama ― home of Tuskegee Institute, where George Washington Carver gained fame for his work with peanuts ― so this ingredient grounds her to her roots. Additionally, peanuts were introduced to the American South via the slave trade, adding context to this recipe as it relates to the tragic history of America as a nation.