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Hattie McDaniel's holiday menu reflects the culinary trends—warm coleslaw, "pepper mangoes" (aka green bell peppers)—of the 1930s. Photo by Margaret Herrick/The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Thanksgiving with Hattie McDaniel

The Academy Award–winning Gone With the Wind actress and one-time Coloradan left behind holiday recipes with the flavor of history.

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Most people remember Hattie McDaniel as “Mammy,” the enslaved servant in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind, for which she won an Oscar. Few, however, know about her life up to that point—particularly, her Centennial State connection and off-screen love of cooking.

McDaniel was born into a family of talented performers who moved to Fort Collins around 1901. When she was six years old, they settled in Denver, a community McDaniel called home for the next three decades. She attended East High School, worshipped at Campbell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in City Park West, sang on KOA radio, and performed in musicals and plays around town and across the country. The death of an older brother forced McDaniel to work as a restaurant cook to help pay the bills between gigs. Before long, art began to imitate life.

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In 1931, when McDaniel followed two of her siblings to California to pursue film acting, roles for African-American actresses were often limited to servant or cook. After casting McDaniel, Gone With the Wind producer David O. Selznick capitalized on her real-world culinary expertise by having her create a set of recipes to promote the film. They may not earn you an Oscar, but we’re presenting McDaniel’s menu and recipes—as she wrote them—so you can throw a celebrity-worthy Thanksgiving at home.


Hattie McDaniel’s Thanksgiving Dinner: 

Oyster Soup, Crisp Oyster Crackers, Celery, Pepper Mangoes, Bread Stuffing, Giblet Sauce, Cranberry Jelly, Mashed Potatoes, Baked Hubbard Squash, Sweet Corn, Creamed Onions, Spiced Pears, Hot Slaw, Thanksgiving Pudding, Drawn Butter Sauce, Pumpkin Pie, Mince Meat Pie, Fruits-Nuts-Raisins, Stuffed Dates, Biscuits, Cheese


ROAST TURKEY

A turkey weighing about 10 lbs. dress, clean, stuff and truss in shape; place it on thin slices of salt pork laid in the bottom of dripping pan; rub the turkey with salt, sprinkle with pepper and dredge with flour. Sometimes I rub butter all over my turkey first and it gives it a wonderful flavor. Place in a hot oven and brown delicately with breast down. This makes the breast full of juice, then turn breast side up. Continue browning and basting every ten minutes until bird is evenly and richly brown.

Add two cups of water to fat in pan; continue basting every 15 minutes until bird is tender. It will require from 3 to 3 ½ hours, depending on the age of the bird. Do not cook too fast or your turkey will be too dry.

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If the turkey is cooking too rapidly cover with a piece of heavy brown paper well buttered place over turkey butter side down. Remove the skewer and strings before placing it on serving platter.

Cook turkey 450 degrees.

MINCEMEAT PIE

2 pounds lean beef
1 pound finely chopped suet
6 cups sugar
4 pounds tart apples, diced
3 pounds currents
2 pounds raisins
½ pound citron, cut fine
Juice and grated rind of 2 oranges
Juice and grated rind of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon mace
1 recipe plain pastry

(1 Package of mince meat may be substituted)

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Simmer beef until quite tender. Cool and chop; add sugar, fruits, salt and spices; mix thoroughly. Cook for 1 hour. Seal in sterilized jars and keep in a cool place. Use 1 pint or 2 cups for each 8-inch pie. Fill pastry shell and adjust top crust as directed for two crust pies. Bake in a hot oven (450 degrees) 35 minutes. (This makes 10-12 pints or 5-6 pies).

NOTE – I found out another little extravagance. In these days of balanced diets I find the nut meats give that extra special flavor.

Plain Pastry
(8-9 inch pie)

1 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ cup shortening
4-5 tablespoons cold water

Sift flour and salt together. Cut in shortening with two knives or a pastry blender. Leave shortening in pieces about the size of small peas. Add water a few drops at a time, pressing ingredients together until dough is just moist enough to hold together. Form into 2 balls and roll. It is easier to handle dough if chilled before rolling.

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MAMMY’S STUFFING

Remove crust from two small baker’s loaves. Slice and pick in bites. Season with 2 ½ teaspoons of salt, ½ teaspoon powdered sage, one medium sized onion chopped fine. Mix well, using two forks. Add 2 cups corn bread. Melt 2/3rds cup of butter in ¾ cup boiling water and add to first mixture. Toss lightly with two forks. Add two eggs slightly beaten. Mix well and fill the body and breast of turkey. If crumbly dressing is desired, omit eggs.

NOTE:- I make my corn bread for my dressing like I make for the table, only not as rich.

PARTY BISCUITS

2 cups flour
¾ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar.
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons shortening
¾ cup of milk.

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If you care for more flaky biscuits use 4 teaspoons baking powder.

Mix together and sift dry ingredients. To this add 2 tablespoons of your favorite shortening. Mix well with finger tips then add milk. This will give you a spongy dough. Pour out on floured board, knead lightly. Hae greased pan ready. Roll about ½ inch thick, spread melted butter half way over dough with knife, fold over and roll again; cut out and bake in hot oven, 12 minutes. Oven must be hot before baking biscuits. Very good.

CORN BREAD
¾ cup of meal yellow or white
1 ½ cups of flour
2 Tablespoons of sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 egg well beaten
2 Tablespoons fat or butter
4 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 Cup of milk.

Mix dry ingredients, add milk, beaten egg and your favorite shortening. Beat thoroughly, bake in well-greased pan in hot oven 25 minutes. You will find this recipe very good.

For lighter corn bread use 5 teaspoons baking powder.

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CRANBERRY JELLY

Pick over and wash 1 quart of cranberries; add 1 cup of boiling water and boil 20 minutes. Rub through a sieve, add to pulp 2 cups of sugar, cook five minutes, stirring constantly.

Turn into a mold wet with cold water. Chill and serve.

SWEET CORN

Chop 1 can of corn or 2 cups of green corn fine. Add 3 eggs slightly beaten, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, pinch of pepper, piece of melted butter the size of a walnut and about 1½ cups of scalded milk. Turn into casserole and bake until custard like.

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CREAMED ONIONS

Remove skins from about 8 or 10 onions, uniform size. The way I do to prevent the odor from penetrating my fingers, I grease my fingers before peeling them; holding them under water while peeling is good too. Drain, place them in a sauce pan and cover with cold water; bring quickly to boiling point and boil 5 minutes; drain and cover with boiling salted water; let cook one hour uncovered until tender but not broken.

Cream Sauce

Mix 3 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of flour together until smooth. It would be a good idea to let butter be soft then it is easy to mix; put about 2 cups of milk in sauce pan let come to a boil and stir butter and flour mixture in milk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add onions to sauce.

PUMPKIN PIE

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11/2 cups steamed and strained pumpkin.
2 tablespoons of flour
1 cup brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ cups of milk.
Grated rind of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs slightly beaten

Mix in order given. Turn in pie pan lined with pastry. Bake in a hot oven first 5 minutes to set pastry; then reduce heat and bake slowly 25 minutes.

GIBLET SAUCE

Drain the liquid from the pan in which the turkey was roasted. Take 6 tablespoons of fat, add 7 tablespoons of flour, stir until smooth, brown, strain, return to pan and place over fire. Add about 3 cups of stock in which giblets were cooked and bring to boiling point. Season to taste. Chop giblets fine and add to sauce.


Recipes courtesy of the David O. Selznick Collection, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

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