Recently I drove up the nine-mile curvy road to the summit of Mt. Greylock in Adams, MA. Once out of the car, be prepared to step into a different time, albeit not necessarily colonial. One is now at the highest point in the state of Massachusetts – 3,491 feet above sea level. The unimpeded and breathtaking 360 degree view from the top gives one the illusion of a different era, for at certain perspectives seeing a town or much civilization below is difficult and the natural landscape runs as far as the eye can see.
Over tea with a slice of ‘busy day cake’ with Peter Dudek (one of the partners of the Bascom Lodge Group, the operator of Bascom Lodge and facilities atop Mt. Greylock) and resident artist Sharon Butler, we discussed recent programs held in the stunning dining room. To simply describe Dudek and Butler as exhibiting studio artists would not be doing them justice, for both are dynamic in the scope and reach of their practices. Butler, a teacher at Brown University and University of Connecticut, writes and edits the highly respected blog “Two Coats of Paint” and is regularly asked to write for art publications and to serve as a guest lecturer and critic throughout the Northeast. Dudek, a professor at Hunter College, curates exhibitions, makes public art, serves on non-profit boards and gives countless opportunities to other artists.
One of the programs that I am sorry to have missed was a presentation by Pat Willard, in which she discussed her book, America Eats ! On the Road with the WPA. Willard unearthed a project started by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in which out-of-work writers and photographers, employed by the WPA, were tasked with finding
“…stories about local events where food was to be served: political, church, and community fund-raisers; religious revivals; possum dinners at Elks Lodges; ladies’ tea socials; family reunions; rodeos; state fairs; harvest festivals; cemetery-cleaning parties; and hobo encampments.”
Willard has retraced the steps of these writers and drove across America in search of true American food and stories. For the program at Bascom Lodge, chef John Dudek (Peter’s brother) and Willard created a menu true to the region with ‘busy day cake’ as the dessert.
As I drove down the mountain, I recalled interviewing Edna Lewis in 1999 where she discussed seasonal food, different meals and menus from her childhood, and ‘busy day cake’ as part of her repertoire. Indeed, in her The Taste of Country Cooking, Lewis describes
“A busy-day cake, or sweet bread, as it was really called, was regular cake batter, measured out and stirred in a hurry while the vegetables cooked on one end of the old wood stove and canning was carried out on the firebox end. The batter would be poured into a large biscuit pan and set into the oven to bake.”
Enjoy Lewis’ menu for “A Busy-Day Summer Dinner”:
Chicken Gelatine, Pork-Seasoned Rape, Boiled New Onions, Sliced Tomatoes with Special Seasoning, Assorted Breads from Breakfast, Butter, Wild Blackberry Jelly, Compote of Stewed Blackberries, Busy-Day Cake or Sugar Cookies, Coffee
Sharon Butler will be discussing her residency on Monday August 19th at 6pm in Bascom Lodge with a dinner to follow. I am looking forward to hearing her talk about the itinerant painters of the colonial days, her current work as well as her other residencies. And, I made my reservations for the dinner and am looking forward to the seasonal menu of Chef Dudek.
[Pat Willard, America Eats ! On the Road with the WPA, (Bloomsbury, 2009), pg 4 downloaded from Willard’s website] [Edna Lewis, The Taste of Country Cooking, (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), pg. 82]