Thursday, July 1, 2010

Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine, by the Matinicus Ladies Aid Society; Tomato Soup Cake

I love The Wine Lover's Cookbook but have to admit that after a week of glossy pictures, perfect binding, and lengthy descriptions of every little thing, I'm psyched to go a little more rustic. So, it is with more than a little bit of glee that I present Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine by the Matinicus Ladies Aid Society.

Matinicus Island is a small island off the coast of Maine, about the size of Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland -- the comparison might not mean much to you, but I had a heck of a wonderful day tromping about Rathlyn last summer. Anywho.

I've never been to Matinicus Island (or any other part of Maine), so have to assume that my friend Jeannette's grandparents went there at some point. I owe much of my cookbook collection to Jeannette's grandmother's pre-move book culling. Many of those books are comb- or spiral-bound fundraiser fodder, and old enough that the regional books still have some regional flair. Too often nowadays, collections from all over are woefully homogenized. Not so with Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine -- the recipes use both local ingredients and, vital for a remote island, canned goods. Yes, canned goods. Nothing wrong with a canned good or three! And, if you're on an island in New England during a winter storm, when boats aren't going out and ferries aren't coming in, what the heck else are you supposed to use to feed your family. Canned goods, for the win.
Tomato Soup Cake

8 tablespoons shortening
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons soda
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons soda
2 teaspoons cloves
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 can tomato soup
1 can water
2 cups seedless raisins and fruit

Cream shortening and sugar; then add soup and soda; then add the water gradually. Bake 1 hour in 350° oven. I use the candied can fruit.

--Verna Ames
We're back in the land of assuming you know how to cook, folks. If you're used to making cakes, you don't need step by step here, just the skeleton to show how and when you're adding the liquid to the mix. I'll step by step it a bit more for you:
Cream the shortening and sugar together in a big mixing bowl. Add the soup and the 2 teaspoons of baking soda -- though the recipe as printed calls for a total of 4 teaspoons soda, we're pretty safe in guessing it's just a misprint. The soup and baking soda are standing in for eggs in this recipe, so they go in when eggs would go in otherwise. Have you stirred in the soup yet? Stir, baby, stir. Then, add the water, and stir some more. Sift all dry ingredients together, and then add the dry mixture to the sugar/soup mixture, but not all at once. Add in a quarter of the dry, stir. Add another quarter, stir. You get the gist. Once that's all come together, add the fruit and stir some more. Ta da! Cake batter. Pour that into a prepared cake pan -- butter and flour it, or spray it with baking spray. Size of pan we'll have to guess at: I say try it in a 9 x 13, but that surprises you not in the least.
I think it bears saying it in its own paragraph: the soda in the ingredients list is baking soda. It is a dry ingredient, and is added with the liquids, not sifted in with the other dry ingredients (unless the aforementioned typo wasn't actually a typo -- if your cake comes out a little flat, add the extra soda to the dry ingredients next time). Baking soda, not club soda. All clear? Good.

This recipe is vegan-friendly, as long as you're grabbing a vegan-friendly tomato soup. No, really! Vegan cake! That will taste good! That you can serve to your vegan friends and make them feel pampered and loved, and you'll still want to eat it, too! If you're in/from the US, you might want to try this out for your Independence Day party this weekend.


  1. Does that make the island the size of Wales/New Jersey? Isn't everything the size of Wales/New Jersey?

  2. So very much smaller, John. Smaller, and more parochial.