An Interesting Dinner with Shirley Chisholm

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Shirley Anita St. Hill was born on November 20, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York, to working-class immigrants from Guyana and Barbados. She spend much of her childhood in Barbados with her sisters and grandmother, and acquired a slight British accent that lasted the rest of her life. She attended school in Barbados as a girl and moved back to Brooklyn to excel in her studies.  She graduated from Brooklyn’s Girls’ High in 1942, and from Brooklyn College in 1946 with honors.  In 1949, she married her first husband, Conrad Q. Chisholm.  Three years later, Shirley Chisholm earned an M.A. in early childhood education from Columbia University. She was an educational consultant for New York City’s Division of Day Care from 1959 to 1964, when she was elected to the New York state legislature, the second African–American woman to serve in Albany.

Barbara Winslow wrote in her biography of Chisholm: “Albany at that time was not particularly welcoming to African Americans, and in the mid 1960s, respectable women did not go out to restaurants or bars on their own…Once the day’s legislative session ended, the male legislators would go off to bars, movies, restaurants and clubs. Not a single one of Chisholm’s colleagues ever invited her to their social gatherings.”

In 1968, Chisholm was the first African-American women to run for Congress. Chisholm faced Republican–Liberal James Farmer, one of the principal figures of the civil rights movement, a cofounder of the Congress for Racial Equality, and an organizer of the Freedom Riders in the early 1960s. Although they had similar position on most of the issues, Farmer maintained that “women have been in the driver’s seat” in black communities for too long and that the district needed “a man’s voice in Washington,” not that of a “little schoolteacher.” Chisholm won the general election by 67 percent.

Not bad for a little schoolteacher.

On March 26, 1969, she gave her first floor speech, and spoke vehemently against the war in Vietnam. From 1971 to 1977 she served on the Committee on Education and Labor during which time she became a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Women’s Caucus.  In 1977, she became the first black woman to serve on the Rules Committee, and from 1977 to 1981, Chisholm served as Secretary of the Democratic Caucus.

In 1972, she became the first black woman to run for the Democratic nomination for president. At the Democratic National Convention she received 152 delegate votes, or 10 percent of the total, a respectable showing given her modest funding.  She did not have the full backing of the CBC due to opposition from male members, and noted: “Black male politicians are no different from white male politicians. This ‘woman thing’ is so deep. I’ve found it out in this campaign if I never knew it before.”

Shirley Chisholm said of her bid for the presidency, “I ran because somebody had to do it first. … I ran because most people think the country is not ready for a Black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate.”

In 1977 she divorced her first husband and married Arthur Hardwick, Jr., a New York state legislator.  Chisholm left Congress in 1982 and accepted a teaching position at the women’s college Mount Holyoke. “Shirley Chisholm would like to have a little life of her own,” she told the Christian Science Monitor.  Still, after leaving Congress, she cofounded the National Political Congress of Black Women, campaigned for Jesse Jackson’s presidential bids in 1984 and 1988. She declined president Bill Clinton’s nomination for U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica due to health issues, and eventually retired to Florida in 1991, where she died on January 1, 2005.

Barbara Winslow wrote of Chisholm’s childhood in Barbados: “Grandmother’s large house sat on a plot that provided the family’s food: Sweet potatoes, yams, corn, tomatoes and root vegetables.  The waters around the island provided abundant seafood, including the Barbadian staple flying fish.”

The recipe I’ve chosen is for that staple that Shirley Chisholm likely ate many times as a young girl, with her impressive future lying ahead of her.  Flying fish with cou-cou is “the national dish of Barbados.”

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An Interesting Dinner with Emmy Noether

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Amalie Emmy Noether was a revolutionary in the field of mathematics.  She is known for her work in abstract algebra, ring theory, and Noether’s theorem.  She was born today, March 23, in 1882 in Erlangen, Germany, daughter of Max Noether (1844–1921), a prominent mathematics professor.
As a girl, she attended a school for girls where she studied foreign languages, sewing, and cooking.  We’ll get to that later.
In 1904 she enrolled in University to study mathematics, the only woman among 46 male students. She was the second woman ever to earn a doctorate at the University of Erlangen, with her thesis on invariant theory. However, her career was hindered by her pro-Soviet politics, anti-semitism, and opposition to women taking professorships, and Noether never drew a regular University salary.  She was known as a radical, a member of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany, who was unapologetically political and “hated war and chauvinism in all its forms and with her whole being.”
Mathematicians Felix Klein and David Hilbert established a “centre of excellence” for mathematics in Göttingen, where Emmy was the first woman to receive a teaching license, but she received no salary. In 1932, Emmy Noether and Emil Artin were awarded the prestigious Ackermann-Teubner Memorial Prize for arithmetic and algebra.  Just one year later, the Nazis revoked her teaching license.  She was invited to teach in the United States as a visiting professor for a year, at the women’s college Bryn Mawr.  She also lectured at Princeton. In 1935, Emmy Noether died unexpectedly during surgery at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
The number theorist Olga Taussky-Todd said of Noether, “not everybody liked [Noether], and not everybody trusted that her achievements were what they were later accepted to be. She irritated people by bragging about them.”  However, she also had her fans. Albert Einstein was noted to remark of Noether, “In the judgement of the most competent living mathematicians, Fräulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.”
Emmy enjoyed good debate and good food.  Taussky-Todd recalled that during a dinner, Emmy talked constantly and “…gesticulated violently when eating. This kept her left hand busy too, for she spilled her food constantly and wiped it off from her dress, completely unperturbed.”
What did Emmy eat?  Well, absent a menu, we can narrow it down.  She studied cooking, as all young girls did at school, in Bavaria in the late 19th century.  She likely made and ate traditional Bavarian dishes.  I’ve chosen one that won’t be too messy during a lively dinner debate- though I suggest using a napkin nonetheless. As Noether could tell you though, a dress will do fine.

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An Interesting Dinner with Marilyn Monroe

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Marilyn Monroe isn’t best known for her cooking, but it turns out she was probably fairly accomplished.  This recipe for stuffing in her handwriting was published in “Fragments” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $30), a collection of writings, assorted letters, poems and back-of-the-envelope scribblings that span the time from Monroe’s first marriage in 1943 to her death in 1962.

Marilyn Monroe had a difficult life.  Norma Jeane Mortensen was born on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles.  She never knew her father, and her mother was deemed unable to care for her and placed in a mental institution. Ms. Monroe spent much of childhood in foster care and in an orphanage, where she was on several occasions sexually assaulted. She dropped out of high school at 15 and married her first husband at 16. She was discovered by a photographer while working in a factory in Burbank, CA. She changed her name, dyed her hair, built a career as a model, and divorced her husband in 1946—the year she signed her first movie contract.

Marilyn Monroe first earned attention and acclaim in small roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve.  In 1953, Ms. Monroe starred in Niagara, as a young married woman out to kill her husband with help from her lover, and in the hit musical comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), followed by a series of comedies.

Ms. Monroe struggled with mental health issues.  Throughout her career, she was signed and released from several contracts with film studios due to her chronic tardiness and absenteeism.  In an attempt to shake off her typecast, she moved to New York City to study acting with Lee Strasberg at the Actors’ Studio. However, it was in the 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot, that she won her Golden Globe aware for Best Actress in a Comedy.  Her famously tragic love life was very public, to her dismay.  While dated her second husband, Joe DiMaggio, she attempted to keep a low profile, spending evenings at home or in a back corner of DiMaggio’s restaurant.  The press swarmed their wedding, however, which didn’t last very long.  He took objection to her sex-symbol status, and they were divorced within 9 months.  They remained close, however.  After her marriage to her third husband, Arthur Miller, who wrote that she disappointed and embarrassed him, she struggled more and more with insomnia and depression and was admitted to inpatient psychiatric care.  Her ex-husband Mr. DiMaggio secured her release, and they remained good friends until her death.  She died of a drug overdose, an apparent suicide, on August 5, 1962, at only 36 years old.  Mr. DiMaggio arranged her funeral, and for 20 years until his own death, had flowers sent to her grave twice a week.

Ms. Monroe may have married a baseball legend and a literary legend, and had an affair with a political legend, but that’s beside the point.  She made her mark on the world because of her own accomplishments.  During her career, Marilyn Monroe’s films grossed more than $200 million.  She was one of the first women to own her own production company.  She was a brilliantly funny, shrewd self-marketer.  And apparently, she could make a mean turkey stuffing.

The recipe is written in shorthand, but here is my attempt to translate it:

note: the amounts are not always specified, so this recipe may take some adjusting.

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