Red House offers samples of fritters and corn bread

Sunday, June 17, 2007
Phyllis Johnson sewed a sample quilt Saturday at the Red House Interpretive Center in Cape Girardeau to demonstrate how the three layers of a quilt are held together. (AARON EISENHAUER ~

The Red House Interpretive Center offered a taste of the past Saturday in celebration of African-American Month at the Cape Girardeau landmark.

Visitors were encouraged to take a nibble of hoe cakes, corn fritters and hot-water corn bread, courtesy of House of Prayer Outreach Ministries.

"This is what my grandma used to make," said cook NaTika Rowles, who had no previous experience preparing the dishes.

Although the food was cooked by modern means, the ingredients were the same as those in the early 19th century.

February is Black History Month nationally, but June made more sense for the Red House because "it's too cold down here in February," said director Jane Randol Jackson.

Last year, the Red House dedicated one day to black history with a program about York, the slave who accompanied William Clark on the Corps of Discovery 200 years ago.

"The African-American community was extremely important in 1803, and though 99 percent were slaves, they were a huge part of history," Jackson said.

One free black woman, Priscilla Johnson, came to the area from Kentucky. Jackson is doing further research on her.

Some visitors had not previously been exposed to a program such as the one held Saturday.

Two of them were Morita Hiroe and Hara Kazutakam of Japan. Kazutakam is planning to attend Southeast Missouri State University in the fall, and Hiroe is in Cape Girardeau for eight weeks. The two students are staying with university Spanish teacher Debbie DiStefano and her family.

"They are here for the intensive English program, and I thought it would be interesting for them to see something about African-Americans in the U.S.," DiStefano said.

Hiroe tried the food and liked it, but Kazutakam was not as daring.

The Red House porch was also occupied by Cape Girardeau quilters Louise Ayers and Phyllis Johnson, representing the Circle of Friends Community Outreach Sewing Circle.

Ayers and Johnson explained about the quilt patterns that were typically in use during the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Johnson said most of the quilts she had on display were hand-stitched.

Next Saturday, the Red House will feature other events for African-American Month. At 10 a.m., Louise Duncan and Elnora King will present a storytelling program. A box of African artifacts will be opened at 2 p.m. From 2 to 4 p.m., Jackson will give a presentation on African-American genealogy.

The Red House is also looking for more docents. Fifteen active docents enable the historic reconstruction of Louis Lorimier's home to be open weekends and on special occasions.

"But if we had more docents, we could be open during the week," Jackson said. Wednesdays might be a possibility because of a farmers market there that day.

Also, "we would like to have more African-Americans involved in the Red House," Jackson said. "We have one exhibit inside that's dedicated to African-Americans."

Those interested in being docents may call Jackson at 204-2331.

335-6611, extension 133

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