Wednesday , 25 April 2018

Kyra’s Kitchen: Memorial Day, a Tradition of Meals

By Kyra Effren, TSB Food Writer

This Monday is Memorial Day.  It is a Federal Holiday set aside to honor those who died in military service.

Vicki Day, whose family has been here for generations, reminisces about what they called Decoration Day:

“The family would bring a picnic to our family cemetery along with flowers or a plant of some kind and enjoy the day with ancestors and living relatives.  It was a time to clean up the grave site and perhaps the graves around it.  We also put little American flags to honor the war dead on every grave that contained a veteran.  Ours went as far back as the War of 1812.

It was officially called Memorial Day by that time, but I guess old traditions are hard to break.

I think the tradition started during the American Civil War or perhaps right after to honor the dead and clean and decorate the site.  You know we Southerners always find a reason to eat, so a picnic makes perfect sense to us.”

To me, too.

Vicki relates that the picnic always consisted of fried chicken, potato salad, yeast rolls, watermelon, cookies, cakes and pies.

To commemorate this Memorial Day on May 28, here is a recipe from Vicki’s Mom.  She made this cake for Vicki’s Dad until the last few years of her life.  It is still his favorite cake!


8 oz [2 sticks] soft butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
8 x 1.55oz Hershey’s milk chocolate bars melted [8 x 43 gms or total of 344 gms of a large Hershey Bar] ¼ – ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 ½ cups sifted bleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325. [300] Grease and flour a tube or bundt pan [or 2 loaf pans]

Cream butter and sugar until light.
Beat in the eggs one at a time.
Add the melted chocolate and mix well.
Dissolve the soda in the buttermilk.
Stir together the flour and salt.
Stir the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture into chocolate batter.
Add the vanilla and pecans and mix well.
Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 1½ hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Makes 10 – 12 servings

Note:  Vicki’s Mom’s Cake was copyrighted by Hershey in 1955.  Where there is a difference in the copyrighted recipe from Vicki’s Mom’s recipe – I have noted in red.

And here are three recipes from Blue and Grey Cookery  [Authentic  recipes from the Civil War years]

[General Grant always made sure that his army had the best or rations – although he ate sparingly himself.  It is said that he often breakfasted on cucumber and vinegar.

4 medium cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup vinegar
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Set the cucumbers and onions in a dish and pour over the vinegar and milk.  Add the sugar.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper.  Cover with saran or foil and refrigerate overnight.

If anything helped to settle this nation it was cornmeal… which got us through some hard times.  While the Yankees struggled with their hardtack… the Rebels were making do with cornbread or Hoecakes.
— ‘notation from the cookbook’ 

1 ¼ cups yellow cornmeal
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
½ teaspoon soda
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted lard *

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder and mix well.
Combine buttermilk and soda in a small bowl – beat until foamy.
Add to cornmeal mixture.
Beat in the eggs and stir in the lard.
Pour into a greased hot skillet.
Bake in a hot oven 450 for 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top

*I substituted butter – heresy I know- but much healthier and tastier!


1 qt. fresh blackberries
½ cup water
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon vanilla

Wash and pick over the blackberries.
Place in a saucepan and add the water.  Bring to the boil and cook until the berries are soft.
Mash through a strainer.
Mix together the cornstarch and sugar and add to the blackberry puree.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and boil until thick stirring constantly.
Add vanilla and chill.
Serve with cream or milk.

About the Author
McKinney resident Kyra Effren is a contributing writer for’s “Food” section.  She is a retired food stylist and contributing writer for the “Food” section of Dallas Morning News. In 1975, Effren opened Cours de Cuisine Cooking School in Dallas and in 1978, she was awarded The Commanderie des Cordon Bleu in France for her contributions to French cooking.   She has edited multiple cookbooks and served as recipe tester for a number of cookbooks including both of the Mansion on Turtle Creek cookbooks by Dean Fearing and baking books by Nick Malgieri.

Kyra welcomes any and all reader comments and suggestions.  What would you like to have for dinner?

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