Bill Rancic Defends His Wife Giuliana After Fashion Police Controversy: 'I Tried to Get Them to Release the Footage' 41 years, 2,187 covers and 55,435 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- John Rich Wants to Meet Kanye West … in the Boxing Ring
- The Style Top 5: Reese Witherspoon Channels Elle Woods,
Steal the Styles from Wet Hot American Summer and More
- The Bachelorette's Kaitlyn and Shawn Reveal the Truth About That Snapchat: 'We Felt So Bad!'
- Bill and Hillary Clinton Get a Bono Shout-Out While Attending U2 Concert in NYC
- North Carolina Man Reportedly Thwarts Robbery Attempt During His Marriage Proposal
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- April 23, 1979
- Vol. 11
- No. 16
The Dardens Also Researched Their Past—and Got Tastier Profits Than Alex Haley
The Dardens seized on the idea. But combining their interests in their black heritage and its food wasn't easy. "We tried to contact the family by mail," Norma explains. "But no one would write back. A lot of them didn't cook by recipe, and they were all very old." So the sisters, now both in their mid-30s, began to make research trips—whirring from Manhattan by Greyhound to old homesteads in Petersburg, Va. and Tuskegee, Ala. Finally they went to Wilson, N.C., where the family patriarch, "Papa" Charles Henry Darden, arrived in 1868 and became the state's first black undertaker. It was an emotional odyssey that took five years, but finally produced an affecting and successful cookbook, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine (Doubleday, $9.95), now in its third printing. "We had our first draft done before Alex Haley published his book," says Norma—though she acknowledges that Roots whetted public appetite for the work.
Reconstructing the recipes was particularly difficult. "Sorry, dearie, I can't even remember how to cook," said Aunt Lillian, who admitted to being 91. But she did volunteer her beauty secret, Violet Vanishing Cream, made from beeswax and violet oil. Aunt Lizzie Darden whipped up pecan waffles, and Cousin Artelia demonstrated her tea biscuits. Uncle J.B. (James Benjamin) volunteered his famous Smithfield ham. Cousin Thelma yielded her mix for Tipsy Cake, and Hilda Lockett hers for Heaven Cake (reserved for funerals where, by African custom, a feast was served).
"We found pictures we had never seen before, and from them could recreate a system of living we would never have known," says Carole. They also collected marvelous tales of "Papa" Darden, who brewed strawberry, grape and watermelon wine (though he was a teetotaler). Then there was light-skinned Grandpa William Sampson, born around 1865, a houseboy turned farmer and master chicken chef (see recipe) who lived to nearly 100. His father, the Dardens suspect, was a white plantation owner named Percival, but they can't prove it (the courthouse burned down suspiciously the day before Percival's will was to be read). Even the sisters' own father, Walter "Bud" Darden, now in his 70s, a Howard University-trained M.D. who has practiced for 50 years in Newark, contributed a recipe: the sweet potato biscuits his mother packed in his lunch pail back in North Carolina.
Last February Wilson (pop. 32,000) played host to Norma Jean and Carole Darden, with services and receptions in both the Methodist and Baptist churches so that no family or friends would be excluded. The subsequent banquet included Aunt Norma's stuffed eggplant, Cousin Lavern's cornbread and Uncle Kelly's barbecued chicken. For the sisters, the joyous occasion had a note of sadness: Of the 18 family members who appeared in the book, only three are still alive. There should have been a special piece of Heaven Cake for "Papa," the Darden patriarch, whose quest for learning inspired his many well-educated descendants. Of course, his uniqueness was recognized long before the book: A high school in Wilson bears his name.
August 01, 2015
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!