Amherst College, Flickr // Public Domain
Amherst College, Flickr // Public Domain

Bake Like a Literary Hero With 3 Recipes From Emily Dickinson

Amherst College, Flickr // Public Domain
Amherst College, Flickr // Public Domain

Poetry wasn’t Emily Dickinson’s only talent. She was also an incredibly talented baker who boasted that hers was the only bread her father would deign to eat. Writer Emily Temple gathered some of the poetry legend’s personal recipes at Lit Hub, and they’re some of the more delicious-sounding historical recipes we’ve come across. At least, as long as you’re willing to crack 19 eggs into a single cake.

Many of Dickinson’s papers are held at Amherst College and Harvard University, and there are handwritten recipes mixed in with the poetry drafts and letters. Unfortunately for us, Emily was a talented enough baker that for many recipes she didn’t need to write down instructions (or even the full quantity of certain ingredients), so 21st-century amateur bakers will just have to muddle through on their own.


Handwritten pages detailing Emily Dickinson's doughnut recipe
Amherst College

Who is Kate? We don’t know. But she seems to have had good taste in breakfast pastries.


1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 ct. yeast
1/2 nutmeg
2 cups milk


Handwritten pages of a recipe and a poem by Emily Dickinson
Amherst College

She didn’t write the directions for these coconut cookies down, but Dickinson did write a poem. The recipe currently held at Amherst College, labeled as "Mrs. Carmichael's," shares a page with a copy of her poem “The Things that never can come back, are several.” Dickinson seems to have liked coconut quite a bit—she also has a coconut cake recipe in her papers. (In this particular recipe, she may be using the dash marks in the image above as ditto marks to indicate pounds, but it's unclear, since she used dashes quite liberally in her other recipes.)

1 pound sugar
1/2 — butter
1/2 — flour
6 eggs
1 grated coconut


A handwritten recipe for black cake
Houghton Library, Harvard University

In 2016, several Harvard librarians took home a prize at the Association of Research Libraries’s first film festival for their video about trying to make Emily Dickinson’s famous black cake. The monstrous recipe ended up making a full 20 pounds of batter. Before you try this one, just know: Like a fruitcake, this cake requires three months of aging in a brandy-soaked cloth before it’s ready to eat.


2 pounds flour
2 sugar
2 butter
19 eggs
5 pounds raisins
1½ currants
1½ citron
1/2 pint brandy
1/2 molasses
2 nutmegs
5 teaspoons cloves—mace—cinnamon
2 teaspoons soda

Handwritten directions for baking black cake
Houghton Library, Harvard University


Beat butter and sugar together
Add eggs without beating and beat the mixture again
Bake 2½ or three hours, in cake pans, or 5 to 6 hours in milk pan, if full

See more Dickinson recipes at Lit Hub.

Job Alert: The UK Needs a Chicken Nugget Taste-Tester

Do you like highly-processed chicken molded into mushy, breaded bites? Are you willing to relocate to England? Can your palate distinguish a savory nugget from a mediocre one? Your dream job awaits, reports.

British retail chain B&M recently posted a job listing calling for a "chicken nugget connoisseur" to help the company get feedback on their new line of frozen food products. The chosen applicant—or applicants—will get a monthly voucher worth £25 ($34) to spend on frozen goods. Job duties consist of eating nuggets and other items and then providing B&M feedback.

The post describes the position as "temporary," so it's unlikely there's opportunity for advancement. If you care to apply, B&M will accept a paragraph describing yourself and why you’d be good for the job—though if you actually have a CV full of previous nugget-related positions, we're confident they'd love to see it.


Switzerland Just Made It Illegal to Boil Live Lobsters

No, lobsters don’t scream when you toss them into a pot of boiling water, but as far as the Swiss government is concerned, they can still feel pain. The path most lobsters take to the dinner plate is supposedly so inhumane that Switzerland has banned boiling lobsters alive unless they are stunned first, The Guardian reports.

The new law is based on assertions from animal rights advocates and some scientists that crustaceans like lobsters have complex nervous systems, making death by boiling incredibly painful. If chefs want to include lobster on their menus, they’re now required to knock them out before preparing them. Acceptable stunning methods under Swiss law include electric shock and the “mechanical destruction” of the lobster’s brain (i.e. stabbing it in the head).

The government has also outlawed the transportation of live lobsters on ice or in icy water. The animals should instead be kept in containers that are as close to their natural environment as possible until they’re ready for the pot.

Proponents of animal rights are happy with the decision, but others, including some scientists, are skeptical. The data still isn’t clear as to whether or not lobsters feel pain, at least in the way people think of it. Bob Bayer, head of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, told Mental Floss in 2014 that lobsters “sense their environment, but don’t have the intellectual hardware to process pain.”

If you live in a place where boiling lobsters is legal, but still have ethical concerns over eating them, try tossing your lobster in the freezer before giving it a hot water bath. Chilling it puts it to sleep and is less messy than butchering it while it’s still alive.

[h/t The Guardian]


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