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Grandmother Sumner’s Oatmeal Molasses Bread

Two loaves of bread sit on a wire cooling rack.
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Family Story

My Grandmother, Souther Writer Cid Ricketts Sumner, always had some of this bread on hand. We all loved it so! Cid (short for Placid) was a descendant of former Plantation owners. After graduating from Milisaps College in Jackson MS, she travelled North to study Medicine at Cornell University in Ithaca NY. There she met her future husband, James Batchelor Sumner, Professor of Microbiology, (eventually he won the Nobel Prizefor isolating the enzyme Eureace) and a descendant of Senator James Sumner of Boston, an Abolitionist and member of Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet. Cid and James later divorced and she returned with her four children to Jackson MS. During the Depression, she struggled to make ends meet and turned to writing magazine articles and eventually books, most notably "Quality," a radical book for it's time, which became the Movie "Pinky" and also the "Tammy" series. She did not receive any royalties from these works. I think the bread recipe may be a mixture of her Southern Roots (Molasses) and her and James's friendship with Cornell Biochemist and Nutritionist Clive McKay, who played an important role in developing soldier rations during WWII by developing the high-protein Cornell "White" Bread, which includes soy flour, dry milk powder and wheat germ. Cid's youngest son, my father, Frederick (Ted) Sumner, who traveled North to attend the Berkshire School and later Cornell on the G.I. Bill, continued baking Oatmeal Molasses Bread, throughout his life. He used " Grandma''s" brand molasses. We children helped with poking raisins in at the last minute. Ted often left a loaf outside the door of a friend or neighbor, (that's why you always bake two!). Now that Cid and Ted are gone, I have to keep it going, and I hope my daughter Chloe will probably do the same, as she has become a Pastry Chef! From My Cousin Caroline: "I have a humorous account of how Grandmother made her bread, as it appeared in the The Reader's Digest. I watched her make it in her kitchen on many occasions. Grandmother told my mother that the bread was never the same after Castro took over Cuba and she could no longer get the same molasses she had always used to. She'd tried many others to no avail. But I'm sure the bread will still be good. My mother once told me about a friend of my Grandfather Sumner who was a nutritionist. He had been commissioned to rid bread of flour bugs. His solution: The bugs are protein. Add raisins and no one will know. In other words, It can't be done. As for the letter I mentioned, I think I sent it to Meg, here is an excerpt: Duxbury, Mass. Oct. 27, 1955 Dear Miss Schexnayder, I am glad you liked my article, etc. As soon as I get out of bed on a bread-making morning I put the kettle to boil with more than enough water for coffee. I then go to the bathroom, give my hair its daily 60 strokes with a stiff brush, do it up in an old-fashioned figure-eight knot on top of my head. (You do not have to have long hair to make this bread - I have given the rule to a bald-headed sea-captain who had very good luck with it). She goes on to give in a very explicit and humorous manner the recipe. I don't think it's very much like Cornell Bread but that is just my opinion. I would venture to say that she got the recipe from someone in her family. She always said that she was not a cook but wanted to be known for making one thing well --- thus, the bread."


1 Step

Let water come to a boil, pour over oatmeal and let stand for an hour (or until tepid). Then add remaining ingredients.

2 Step

Let rise, covered, till double in bulk, stir it up and pour into two small, well-buttered bread pans.

3 Step

Let rise again, then put into pre-heated oven - about 400° for about 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350° and cook for another 20 minutes. Test with a straw.

4 Step

This bread is very moist and is simply delicious toasted.


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