For our third installment of Recipes from the Archives, I chose Helen Abernethy’s “Oatmeal Crispies (Children love these)” from the 1965 “The Village Cook Book: Recipes from the P.T.A. Pantry, Davidson, North Carolina.”
According to the February 15, 1965 Mecklenburg Gazette, “A group of young Davidson housewives, who are also busily engaged in Parent-Teacher Association work, have begun a determined campaign to raise funds to buy a new 50-star American flag for the Davidson Elementary School auditorium… The proceeds of the cookbook will be used also for a recorder and filmstrips for the school library.” The cookbook cost $1.50, and could be purchased at the Davidson College Store, as well as local shops Cashion’s and P. Nicholls.
Helen McLandress Abernethy (1901 – 1992) was a longtime Davidson resident and prominent community member. Raised in Indianapolis, Helen earned an art degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1923 and an M.A. in arts education from the University of Chicago in 1932. In her obituary, the Mecklenburg Gazette (November 18, 1992) noted that she “worked in ink and oils, she had her own kiln and did beautiful, original work in ceramics and mosaics.” Helen worked as a commercial artist in Chicago and taught art in public schools in Birmingham, Alabama, Champaign, Illinois, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. She founded the art department of Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina, in 1957 and worked as an associate professor of art at the college until 1964. Her work was exhibited at the Mint Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Barber-Scotia College, and Davidson College.
In 1936, Helen married George Lawrence Abernethy (1910 – 1996), well-known to many Davidsonians as the founder of the College’s Department of Philosophy and as a co-founder of the Humanities program. George Abernethy taught at Davidson from 1946 through 1976, after earning a B.A. at Bucknell University in 1932, an M.A. from Oberlin College in 1933, and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1936. In 1962, George was the first recipient of Davidson’s Thomas Jefferson Award , given to a faculty member who demonstrates “the highest example of personal and scholarly integrity” (Charlotte News, May 15, 1962). Helen and George had two children – Robert John Abernethy and Jean Helen Abernethy Poston. Both Abernethys requested that their memorials be made to Davidson College at the time of their deaths; George to the George Lawrence Abernethy Endowment, and Helen to the Helen Abernethy Art Book Fund.
The recipe Helen Abernethy submitted to the Davidson PTA Cookbook in 1965 is a fairly simple one. I selected it for this blog series because I was intrigued by the title addendum (“Children love these”), and because the crispies sounded delicious.
As an amateur baker, I had to look up what creaming shortening and sugars meant – essentially, using a hand mixer to fluff up the shortening and then slowly adding the sugars in while continuously mixing. I took some liberties with the recipe: I used tin foil instead of wax paper to wrap the cookie dough rolls in (because I don’t have any wax paper at home), and I put the dough rolls in the freezer for roughly 2 hours, instead of into the icebox (read: refrigerator) for an unspecified amount of time. I baked the crispies for roughly 12 minutes per sheet, checking the color every few minutes or so. My batch made about two dozen cookies instead of five – I must have sliced mine considerably thicker than Helen Abernethy would have done.