Jim Auchmutey spent some 30 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a reporter, editor and award-winning food writer.
He’s also the author of two books: “The Class of ’65: A Student, a Divided Town, and the Long Road to Forgiveness” and “Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America.”
But, lately, Auchmutey has been spending a lot of time at the Wren’s Nest in West End, where he is a board member, and volunteers to help research the archives of Joel Chandler Harris.
Harris was the Georgia writer known for his Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit stories, which first came to life while he was a columnist for The Atlanta Constitution. The Wren’s Nest was Harris’ home, until his death in 1908. In 1913, his widow, Esther LaRose Harris, gave the Wren’s Nest to the Uncle Remus Memorial Association.
“I wrote about the Wren’s Nest a couple of times when I was at the AJC, because I was always so interested in history,” Auchmutey said. “And I was aware that Joel Chandler Harris had worked at the Constitution. He was certainly one of the most famous names associated with the newspaper. Probably only Mark Twain exceeded him as an author in his lifetime.”
While the Wren’s Nest has been closed to the public during the pandemic, Auchmutey has been able to go and look through its historic treasures, occasionally coming across some oddities.
“We have a lot of very cool, very old archival stuff over there,” he said. “You open a box and you find a diary of Mrs. Harris’ from 1900, and stuff like that. So, I’ve been very interested in going through the archives, and helping to organize things. One day when I was there, I found this Brer Rabbit Molasses recipe booklet. It’s from about 1950. It’s called ‘Brer Rabbit’s Modern Recipes for Modern Living,’ and it’s got a ton of recipes in it.”
One of the recipes is for molasses cookies. Auchmutey and his wife, Pam, decided they would try it out for Easter; it also happened that Pam had some rabbit head-shaped cookie cutters in her collection.
After more research, Auchmutey discovered that Brer Rabbit Molasses was still available from B&G Foods. And, interestingly, the trademark was registered to Harris in 1907. However, the Auchmuteys couldn’t find the brand at their grocery store, so Pam used Grandma’s Molasses to make the cookies she calls Molasses Ginger Rabbits.
“It was amusing that Brer Rabbit Molasses is still around, and that we have this cookbook, and the recipes,” Jim said. “We had a lot of fun decorating the cookies.”
They nicknamed one cookie Blotto Bunny. “He’s what happens when a bunny drinks too much Red Hare stout,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Auchmuteys are staying busy during the pandemic, with Jim writing and doing online events, and Pam writing for various Emory University publications.
“Both of us want to keep working, but when we get past this thing, we want to travel more, and actually start acting like we’re semi-retired,” Auchmutey said. “We put on our masks when we go to the store and all that, but we have felt less quarantined than a lot of people, probably because we have been running over to the Wren’s Nest and checking on things.”
One more thing Auchmutey wanted to pass along: You still can find the Brer Rabbit recipe booklet for sale on antiquarian book sites and Amazon.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your cooking? Have less frequent shopping trips taught you a lesson in resourcefulness? Did you prepare a recipe that reminded you of a loved one? Send your story and recipe to email@example.com.
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