By Tyneisha Lewis
It's a field trip to the tasty side of Maryland's history. I was online looking for the next topic to write about, when I found this article, "The Blogger Quietly Preserving Maryland's Culinary History" by Kristina Gaddy on Atlasobcura.com. You can check out Gabby’s article here.
The article is about Ms. Kara Mae Harris, blogger/author of the Old Line Plate blog. She finds old handwritten recipes, cookbooks, and recipes from newspapers from Maryland’s history. She researches, tests, shares the recipes she finds online through her blog. She also donated her oldest cookbooks to the Maryland Historical Society, so that everyone can see and try out these recipes. What makes Ms. Harris awesome, is that through her love of food, history, and data she helps to preserve Maryland's food culture and history for future generations. I just had to contact her for an interview. To my excitement, she was happy to do an interview with me and answer a few questions.
What inspired you to create a blog?
I've had a couple of different blogs as a way to reach out and connect my interests with other people. It's a good excuse to get disciplined about writing and for the Maryland recipe stuff it has allowed me to reach people who share stories, recipes, and even books.
What is your favorite recipe that you created from a cookbook?
A lot of the recipes have been really good. From the past year I particularly liked making Korean Fried Chicken, a recipe from the Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church of Baltimore. A lot of my other favorite recipes are very simple recipes like a squash pie recipe that I traced back to the 1870s.
Any advice you would give anyone looking to create their own food blog, get into photography, etc?
I watched a lot of courses on lynda.com to learn the basics of photography. I could stand to learn more but it gave me enough knowledge to at least know what looks acceptable and what doesn’t. (A previous version of my blog had very bad photos unless I got a friend to do it, which was a hassle.)
I try to keep working on my writing skills. Enoch Pratt Library has some books and even audiobooks to that end. I really liked "The Great Courses: Becoming a Great Essayist" and "Dreyer's English". I also sometimes use computer text-to-speech and paste my blog posts into it and have it read back to me. That helps me find spelling & grammar errors or repetitive sentences. But on the other hand, sometimes I try to not take it too seriously, and just keep writing.
Do you have a favorite food and/or cookbook?
I have lots of favorite foods but my favorite cookbooks reflect a sense of place. In Maryland I of course love the history and seafood of the Eastern Shore and all the cookbooks there but I think that St. Mary's County is my favorite. They have the Stuffed Ham dishes there but also a lot of very 'southern' specialties and a historically rural culture. Like elsewhere in Maryland there was a tobacco plantation system where many people were enslaved. Michael Twitty has written a great deal about the 'Creole' food culture that resulted. Then after reconstruction, there were black farming communities whose strong ties and resilience you can see in the recipes like the ones in "300 Years of Black Cooking in St. Mary's County". It's probably my favorite book because it's done so much to document that culture.
Where can people find out more about you and your blog?
My blog is a good place to check out although sometimes the latest posts are about topics that I couldn't find much about. So, my post about "300 Years of Black Cooking in St. Mary's County," the post about a history of crab cakes, stuffed ham, are good ones to check out. They're linked on the front page. On the Facebook page for my blog, sometimes people share their own recipe stories and I just love interacting with people there about food as well.
You can check out her blog, Old Line Plate here: https://oldlineplate.com/. It takes a lot of time, effort, and research to do the work Ms. Harris does. I hope Ms. Harris will continue doing her awesome work in preserving Maryland's rich and tasty cuisine history. We can all learn from her, to preserve our history for the future. Have a favorite family recipe? Write it down, make a family recipe blog, or make a cookbook. Don't let treasures like these be lost and forgotten.