Brooks Cooks | Newberry

Brooks Cooks

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Gwendolyn Brooks’s birth, Liesl Olson, Director of Chicago Studies at the Newberry, recreated the poet’s signature frozen fruit salad. The concoction offers a mayo-streaked window onto the culinary predilections of mid-twentieth-century America: whipping cream, cream cheese, and the afore-mentioned mayonnaise combine with maraschino cherries, canned pineapple, and walnuts to create a dessert that’s as textured as Brooks’s poetry. But the recipe, which Brooks shared with Chicago writer Jack Conroy after a dinner party in 1961, also reveals the social connections among the city’s literary community.

Brooks Cooks by Shelf Life, from the Newberry Library

Show Notes

1:22 – What Brooks’s fruit salad recipe, which she shared with Chicago writer Jack Conroy, reveals about the city’s literary community at the time.

5:36 – Step-by-step instructions for making Gwendolyn Brooks’s frozen fruit salad.

6:36 – What can we learn about Brooks as a person from this recipe? The fact that she shared it with Conroy after a dinner party indicates a closeness with the proletarian writer. Brooks’s correspondence with Conroy coincided with the poet’s turn toward more political subjects in her work.

11:54 – Liesl reads a poem Brooks dedicated to Jack Conroy called “Jack.”

14:25 – How did Brooks address food in her writing?

18:08 – What inspired Liesl to recreate Brooks’s recipe?

20:15 – Newberry staff taste the frozen fruit salad and give their reactions.

Further Reading and Related Resources

In the Mecca, by Gwendolyn Brooks. New York: Harper & Row, 1968.

Maud Martha, a Novel, by Gwendolyn Brooks. New York: Harper, 1953.

A Street in Bronzeville, by Gwendolyn Brooks: New York: Harper & Brothers, 1945.

The Jack Conroy Papers, 1898 - 1990