Stirring up memories
The battling lady of Battle Creek
March 9, 2005
Think about Battle Creek, Michigan and you think cereal—Rice Krispies,
Corn Flakes; don’t forget All Bran and Grape-Nuts. You may not know that there’s more to
this city than cereal, and there’s
a famous citizen besides Mr. Kellogg and Mr. Post.
But let me go back and start at the beginning which is far away from
City and long before Mr.
Kellogg put the crunch in the corn flakes.
Along about 1797 (no one knows for sure) a baby girl was born into a
Dutch-speaking family in upstate New
baby was not the daughter of the family; she was a slave born to slave
(Does it surprise you to learn that there were slaves in New York State? It does lots of people.)
Baby Isabella grew up speaking Dutch. No one is quite sure about her last
name. Some accounts of her life say
that as a child of slaves she had no surname; others say she was Isabella
Baumfree. That name comes from the
low Dutch dialect of the area and means tree, for the story is that her father
stood straight and tall as a tree.
His daughter grew equally tall—and strong. New York began the emancipation of slaves in
1827, but Isabella could not wait.
The year before, she ran away from her masters, her husband, and her five
children to find shelter with a sympathetic family who bought her freedom. Later when she learned that one of her
newly-freed sons had been sold into slavery in the South, she brought a court
suit and gained his freedom.
Isabella moved to New York
City and began her crusade for emancipation of the slaves
and rights for all women. When she
was in her forties, she had a stunning religious experience. She recounted to her friend and
supporter Harriet Beecher Stowe that she was called to travel the land to
declare truth to the people. From
that day forth she was known by the familiar name of Sojourner Truth.
Sojourner did travel the country, often sharing a platform with Fredrick
Douglass. A contemporary account
says that audiences were “melted to tears by her touching stories.”
Her travels continued throughout the country until in 1856 when she
visited a meeting of the Michigan Friends of Human Progress, a group usually
known as the Quakers. She felt at
home at last and moved into the community of Harmonia about six miles from
she moved into the town itself and became a much loved citizen.
During the Civil War. Sojourner went all over Battle Creek collecting
food and other donations for the soldiers in the First Michigan Colored
Infantry. She also went to
Washington D.C. to work in the Freedman’s Hospital. While there she visited in the White
House and met Abraham Lincoln. At
the close of the war she returned home to Battle Creek.
This fiery lady never retired.
She continued to make appearances, though as she grew older she stayed
closer to home. The city recognized
her as a “distinguished townswoman.”
In 1881, the Battle Creek Nightly
Moon reported that her appearance at the county fair outdrew the
presentation of former president Ulysses S. Grant a year earlier. The paper went on to tell how
octogenarian Truth was “drawn about in a miniature carriage by a pair of
Shetland ponies” as she led a small parade of citizens.
Sojourner Truth died in her adopted home town in 1883. She is buried there and remains a source
of great pride to the city. Her
country has honored her as well. In
1986 her face appeared on a United States postage stamp. In fact, her face appeared twice. The double portrait honors her efforts
as an abolitionist and as a proponent of women’s rights. In 1996, NASA named the Mars micro
rover “Sojourner” in her honor. It
landed on that planet during the two hundred-year anniversary of her birth as a
I don’t have any of Sojourner Truth’s recipes. I doubt if she had time to cook. It’s
hard to think about Battle
Creek without remembering these two classics.
Like you remember bran
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups Kellogg's All-Bran
1 1/4 cups fat-free milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large
mixing bowl, combine the cereal and milk. Let stand
about 2 minutes or until cereal
softens. Add egg and oil. Beat well. Add flour mixture,
stirring only until combined.
Portion evenly into twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin-pan cups
coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 400° F about 20 minutes or until
golden brown. Serve warm.
Here are some variations: For muffins with reduced calories, fat and
cholesterol, use 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons oil and substitute 2 egg
whites for 1 egg. You can substitute a spoon-for-spoon artificial sweetener such
as Splenda for the sugar. Or
substitute 2 egg whites for 1 egg and 1/4
cup sweetened applesauce (or 2 oz. jar bananas baby food) for 1/4 cup vegetable
oil. This one may yield a slightly
different texture than the standard muffin.
I remember making these with my grandmother, my mother and my Brownie
Scout troop. Later, when I was a
Den Mother, I taught the Cubs of Den 2 to make them. They are everyone’s
favorite and fun, if sticky, to do.
Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats
3 tablespoons butter
1 package (10 oz. about 40) regular
or 4 cups miniature
6 cups Kellogg's Rice Krispies
Melt butter (you can substitute
margarine, but not the diet kind) in large saucepan over low heat. Add
marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Add the cereal. Stir until it is well
buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture evenly into
13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with
cooking spray and cool. Cut into
2-inch squares. They are best served the same day.
The variations on this are as endless as a Den Mother’s imagination. Try adding a half cup of peanut butter
or some chocolate chips, raisins or chopped peanuts.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network