Home in Home Ec.

Between September 1967 and June 1968

  • Fifty thousand participants protested the Vietnam war in the “March on the Pentagon.”
  • U.S. Navy pilot John McCain’s plane was shot down over North Vietnam.
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
  • Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated.
  • The first human heart transplant was performed in South Africa by Dr. Christiaan Barnard.
  • The World Health Organization launched a program to eradicate smallpox.
  • Aretha sang “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” The Irish Rovers had a hit with “The Unicorn,” The Beatles released “Magical Mystery Tour,” and Otis Redding had the first posthumous number one hit with “The Dock of the Bay.”

It was during this time of protest, turmoil, medical advancement, and eclectic music, that I was a sophomore at Holy Family Academy, an all-girl Catholic high school in Chicago. My classes included, Religion, Latin, Biology, Geometry, English, Physical Education, and Home Economics. The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth were our teachers, and they were still wearing the “full habit.” There were only two “lay teachers” in the entire school.

My H.F.A. Home Economics teacher was Sister Mary Eymard. She was a delightful woman, who really seemed to enjoy her days in the kitchen helping young girls learn to cook and manage a home.

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In “Home Ec.” most girls disliked the white aprons we were required to wear over our uniforms. The apron had a front and back panel, to protect the uniform blouse, and was attached to the usual apron of gathered fabric which tied at the waist and covered our skirts. The back panel was secured with 2 thin strings that tied from back to front. When those were secured, we would reach behind and use the the much larger ties to secure the skirt part of the apron with a bow in the back. Even though most disliked the aprons, I think we ALL hated the hairnets which were also required.

In those years, we had no knowledge of a microwave oven. The concept of fast-food was still in its infancy. The hours invested in daily meal preparation and home baking were always considered “time well spent.” The Home Ec. class taught the basics of health and safety in the kitchen, along with food preparation. We had to write out recipes including, Scrambled Eggs, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Puffy Omelet, and Cinnamon Coffee Cake. I still have many of those original recipe cards!

At that time in my life, I was contemplating entering the convent. Little did I know  that a young man named Richard, who was my brother’s fishing buddy and a friend of the family for years, would steal my heart and help me realize that God was calling me to the Sacrament of Marriage, raising a family, and becoming a wife, mother and grandmother. That Home Ec. class was actually one of the most practical classes I took and I have used those skills almost every day of my life.

Sister Eymard and I remained friends long after graduation. I received her recipe for “Super Coffee Cake” sometime between 1970-72. It is a yeast-based coffee cake and takes about 1/2 hour to complete the dough. After the dough rests for 2 hours (or overnight), it is formed into a braid and decorated with filling. It rises for about 2 hours, is brushed with an egg/cream wash and sprinkled with a streusel topping. It bakes for about a 1/2 hour and then is drizzled with confectioners’ sugar icing.

In the forty-six years I worked outside the home, I only baked this coffee cake once every 2-3 years, on very special occasions, because of the extended preparation time. Now that I am retired, I hope to bake it more often. This weekend I will be sharing that recipe with my readers.  It will definitely be part of our Easter celebration this year and maybe you will make it part of your special celebration too! Thank you, Sister Eymard!

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