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.
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.