Cabins from NW

Hewn-Timber Cabins:
African-American life in rural South Carolina
1840s to 1950s

Ms. Catherine Waiters tells of ash cake....
Recorded June 29, 1988

Archie Waiters
Click the "Podcast" button to hear Catherine Waiters talk about cooking ash cake in her fireplace.

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(Will launch a separate MP3 playback box.) Or access the MP3 file directly at CWaitersAshCake.

When Catherine Waiters was a little girl, she spent a lot of time with her great-grandmother, Irene Charles, who was born about 1850 and was still practicing the old ways of cooking in 1930.  On this recording, Ms. Waiters is telling how her great-grandmother made ash cake.

C. WAITERS:  And what do you call--used to call ash cake.

VERNON:  Yeah, tell me about it.

C. WAITERS:  You cook the ash cake along in the winter time.  She'll tell nobody don't come around the chimney while the ashes be burning.  You know, don't spit in the chimney.

VERNON:  What?  Tell me that.

C. WAITERS:  So she could get the ashes.

VERNON:  Oh, she didn't want anybody to come spit in the chimney cause she wanted the ashes to be clean.

C. WAITERS:  Clean.  And she'd put the ashes back on one side.  Then she'd--  I don't know how she'd make her meal dough but she'd put it in there. She'd clean the ashes back and then put the ashes up on top of it. But it would heat in the ashes.

VERNON:  It would be made out of corn meal and what?

C. WAITERS:  Corn meal and salt.  I don't know whether she put flour in it.  I don't believe she put flour in there. And then she'll watch it--and take it out of there--when it get done, she'll take it out, and then she'll wash it and wash it and wash it.

VERNON:  What did it look like?

C. WAITERS:  It look like corn bread, a big thick corn bread. 

VERNON:  And she'd wash the outside with a rag and wet?

C. WAITERS:  She wash it with a rag.  To get the ashes off it.

VERNON:  It would be in a pot?  And it would be covered, the pot, wouldn't it?

C. WAITERS:  It wouldn't be in a pot.

VERNON:  She'd just pour it down on the hearth?  Where the hot ashes had been.  And then she'd take the hot ashes and put on top of it?

C. WAITERS:  On top of it. They had the pots to cook it in, but she didn't.  Ash cake don't be cook in no pot.

VERNON:  Why did they?  Did it taste better than the one cooked in a pot?

C. WAITERS:  Well, I reckon that along in that time.  Seemed like it eat better though at that time you know.

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© Amelia Wallace Vernon. All rights reserved. Revised, 2011.