One of the current fads on Facebook is to post a photo of something from the 1960s and ask your friends if they recognize what it is.
The vintage objects on Facebook have included the plastic adapters that allowed us to play 45 rpm records on a spindle record player and metal frames that were used to dry men's pants so they didn't have to be ironed. (There was always a pair of Dad's work pants stretched out on them and drying on the line.)
One of the latest photos was of the treadle of a vintage Singer sewing machine, posted by a friend from high school who lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. I quickly hit the "like" button to indicate I recognized it.
Did I recognize it!? That contraption was the bane of my existence when I was in seventh and eighth grade.
Once a week, the girls in those grades at each of the city's elementary schools were bused to Freeman School (formerly across the street from the exit at North Adams Regional Hospital), for a home economics class with the formidable Miss Sophie Kwazniowski.
Don't get me wrong, I liked Miss K, although her passion for the home arts scared me. My mom was an excellent seamstress and had tried to teach me the art of sewing, but quite frankly, I didn't have the patience for it then -- and I still don't.
The first week with Miss K, we were given a list of things we would have to bring the next week to begin making aprons, including common pins, a tape measure, material,
Miss K then introduced us to IT -- the treadle-operated Singer sewing machine (there were actually about 15 in the room, one for each of us). Our first lesson was making the machine run by pumping the treadle with our feet -- and that's where she lost me. No matter how I tried, I couldn't get it to run forward.
Two classes later, everyone was well into making their aprons. I was still trying to get the right rhythm with my feet. Miss K explained and demonstrated the process over and over, and finally resorted to begging and pleading with me. I finally got the apron made, but I ran it backward through the machine and Miss K ended up doing most of it. I won't even discuss the skirt we had to attempt the next year.
To this day, my friend Pat says she hates aprons and doesn't wear them because of her home ec experience with Miss K. What she remembers is being given a large potato to peel -- which she peeled until it was the size of a golf ball. She then had to beg Miss K for another one. "I felt like Oliver Twist," she said as we reminisced about Miss K the other night. "Please, can I have another?"
My friend, Nancy, gave me the recipe (OK, it was more describing the method over the phone one night) for a cake that even Miss K would love for its simplicity, ease and versatility. I have no idea what it's properly called, but that's of little consequence. Make it once (no apron needed!) and you'll be hooked.
Nancy's No-Name Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 small package cook and serve vanilla pudding (not instant!)
1 12-ounce package butterscotch bits
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Prepare the pudding according to the directions on the package. After the pudding has come to a boil and thickened, take it off the heat and stir in the package of dry cake mix. The mixture will have an airy, spongy look to it.
Spoon the pudding and cake mixture into the 9x13-inch pan and smooth out to fill the pan. Top with the butterscotch bits. Bake the cake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.
Now here comes the fun part -- you can change the flavor of the cake mix and the pudding, and the type of chips, and have a completely different cake.
I have tried:
Chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding, topped with white chocolate chips, mint chocolate chips, raspberry chocolate chips, peanut butter chips or toffee candy bits.
Yellow cake mix and vanilla pudding with chocolate chips, peanut chips, toffee candy bits, and a combination of chocolate chips and butterscotch bits.
Lemon cake mix and lemon pudding with white chocolate chips.
You get the idea -- the combinations are endless! Let me know what winning combination you come up with!
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.