Thought About Food Podcast

Megan Birk on the History of Farms for the Poor

April 12, 2021

This episode we spoke with Megan Birk about the history of "Poor Farms" in the US.

Show Notes:

  • Follow us on Twitter at @FoodThoughtPod, and you can drop us a line at ThoughtAboutFood on Gmail. Leave us a review! It helps people find the show.
  • Megan Birk is an Associate Professor of History at UTRGV.
  • Megan has written the book Fostering on the Farm: Child Placement in the Rural Midwest, and her new book is The Fundamental Institution: Poverty, Social Welfare, and Agriculture in Poor Farms which is under contract at University of Illinois Press.
  • The main article about Poor Farms which we discussed in the interview was The better the farm, the better the food: institutional diet, agricultural practices, and nutrition in U.S. almshouses
  • Megan shared a recipe for Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake (!) Here's what she has to say about it:

    "This is a cake that my mom used to make regularly when I was a kid, and I make it for friends, family, and holidays because it's delicious and people love it.  It's also very Midwestern to use mayonnaise as a shortcut in baking 

    Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake 

    1 and a half cups white sugar

    1 and a half cups mayo (do not use miracle whip) 

    4 TBS baking coco 

    ---- mix together 

    3 cups cake flour

    3 tsp baking soda

    1/4 tsp salt 

    ----- add these to mix above

    1 and a half cups warm water

    2 tsp vanilla

    ----- add to above and mix ---- the mixture will be pretty loose (or runny) that's ok

    I grease and flour a cake pan before pouring in the mix and baking at 350 degrees for 25-30 on the top rack

    Frost with whatever you're into, I don't make my own frosting because I hate the texture of powdered sugar on my hands (I know I'm a weirdo) "

  • The intro and outro music is "Whiskey Before Breakfast" which is both a great traditional song and a good thing to try before baking Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake. It was performed and shared by The Dan River Ramblers under a Creative Commons license.

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