Marin City celebrates milestone, legacy with cookbook 'Grandmothers Feed Us Love'

Kumasi Aaron Image
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
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Marin City is celebrating its 80th Anniversary with the cookbook 'Grandmothers Feed Us Love,' which features recipes from over 150 local grandmothers.

MARIN CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- For many, the best memories include cooking in the kitchen with grandma. For one city in the North Bay, those memories -- and the women behind them -- are a key part of the city's celebration of a major milestone.

In Marin City, grandmothers are feeding the community love and so much more.

On their own, these ingredients may not look like much. But put together with one special ingredient, they transform into one of the most requested dishes in town: Lillian Herbert's German Chocolate Cake.

"So what is it about your recipe that's so special?" said ABC7 News Anchor Kumasi Aaron.

"I really don't know," Herbert said. "I really don't know. I just go ahead and make it. And everybody loves it."

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The 92-year-old's secret is starting with the filling first.

"If you put the coconut in and then put the nuts -- and it's a little bit hard," Herbert said. "But if you mix the coconut in with the nuts and stir it up, it's easier when you put it in the pot and mix it up."

The next step is to set it aside to cool then start on the cake: a combination of butter, sugar, egg whites and buttermilk.

If you don't have that last ingredient, Herbert has a solution.

"You pull your one cup of milk in here," she said. "And one tablespoon of vinegar. And that's your buttermilk."

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Then add flour, baking soda and salt. Place it in the oven for about 20 minutes. Lastly, add the frosting, and the result is delicious.

However, you won't have to be in the kitchen with Herbert to get a taste of the famous cake. She has shared the recipe in a cookbook called "Grandmothers Feed Us Love."

Felicia Gaston is the executive director of the nonprofit Performing Stars of Marin, and the driving force behind the Marin City 80th Anniversary Celebration. It was her idea to create the cookbook.

"It all started with the whole idea of the Marin City 80-year celebration and about uplifting the Black residents of Marin City," Gaston said.

Many of its residents moved to the area fleeing the Jim Crow South to work in the shipyards during World War II. They stayed afterward, many unable to live in other nearby cities because of housing discrimination.

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She said the nearly 150 grandmothers featured in the cookbook are a reflection of the city's legacy of self-determination and perseverance.

"Many of them went worked into shipyard after the war was over," Gaston says. "Then many of them went to work in white women's homes here in Marin County, and you know, outlying cities like Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere. They all kept their dignity, they all worked hard, they were multitaskers. They would go to work, then they would come home and take care of their family, you know, take care of their husbands and always made sure that everybody had a good meal."

Georgia Wade has been making sure people have good meals for nearly all of the 70 years she's lived in Marin City.

"Where did your love of cooking start?" Aaron said.

"It started with my mother," Wade said. "And then with my sisters. When I came to California, I had three sisters living here and all they did was cook, and I love to cook."

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At 90, she's still at it, and shared her gingerbread cake recipe in the cookbook.

"Okay, so what do you start with?" Aaron said.

"Well, it doesn't really make any difference," Wade said. "I can just mix everything together and it still come out the way it's supposed to be."

Wade starts with the sugar, then adds butter, and other ingredients. She bakes it in the oven for 35 minutes on 350 degrees and soon has a fresh batch of gingerbread cake.

Wade and Herbert say the best part of cooking is creating community, a legacy that has strengthened and sustained Marin City for decades.

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"What is it about cooking for your family and your friends that's so special for you?" Aaron asked Herbert.

"If I make them happy," Herbert said, "then I'm happy."

Love for a city, its people and its legacy is felt through the love of grandmothers and their food.

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