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Aunt Jemima – She’s Not Just For Pancakes Anymore!

By Gini Rainey

Growing up in a small, north-western town in Minnesota wasn’t as bad as you might imagine.  Sure, Moorhead has the distinction of being right across the river from the third coldest city (Fargo) in the United States (which pretty much tells you just how cold it is in Moorhead!) and winters can seem to last forever, but when the sun comes out, so do the people.  I remember my childhood being filled with lots of parades, fireworks displays, trips to the lakes, and fun events such as Greater Moorhead Days.  The earliest reference I can find for Greater Moorhead Days is 1957, and according to Dewey Bergquist, a long-time air personality in the area, “I don’t recall ever seeing a community with so much good natured get-together spirit as Greater Moorhead Days generated.”

GMD had parades, city-wide treasure hunts, and a fun-filled Saturday that boasted live entertainment, prize drawings, and an all-you-could-eat pancake breakfast with Aunt Jemima herself flipping the pancakes!  This extravaganza was always held in the Moorhead Armory which was built as a federal depression relief project in 1934 on 5th Street, just about 6 blocks from where I lived.  Another distinction for the Armory is that it was the venue that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper were to perform at the evening of their deaths in a plane crash, February 3, 1959.

So, I think it might have been the GMD of 1962 that I decided I would walk over to the Armory, eat some pancakes, and maybe win a prize – and win I did!  I won a bushel basket filled with groceries and an aluminum step ladder that I still have.  But, I’m here to tell you that walk home seemed more like a mile or two with the step ladder hooked over my shoulder and my arms getting longer by the minute carrying that basket – but I was a winner!

(Segue) I have a cute little “Morning to Midnight Cook Book: 340 Unexpected Treats from Aunt Jemima” sitting here in front of me! Published by Follett Publishing Company in 1969, it’s interesting to note that not all of the recipes use Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, as you might be expecting.  If you’re like me, you weren’t aware that Aunt Jemima, Flako Pie Crust, and Quaker Oats are all owned by the same company, so that definitely broadens the variety of ingredients used in this book.

Let me share with you an unexpected use for Aunt Jemima Syrup – a recipe for Chinese Barbecued Spareribs.  Using 4 pounds of lean, separated spareribs, rinse in boiling water and place in a shallow roasting pan with meaty side up and bake in a 450° oven about 30 minutes until browned.  Remove the drippings and combine ½ cup chili sauce, 1 cup vinegar, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tablespoon instant minced onion, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ cup soy sauce, and ¼ cup Aunt Jemima Syrup in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and pour over the spareribs.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and continue baking 30-45 minutes longer, basting occasionally with the sauce.  Serve with plenty of napkins – and oh my, this is some mighty fine eating.

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