mississippi mud

Mississippi Mud


This post originated in a recent exchange on Facebook.  Certain Northampton School for Girls alumnae were reminiscing about favorite ‘Hamp meals — perhaps with an emphasis on ‘Hamp desserts.  Happily, some of these delights were collected in Anna’s Cookbook, compiled by Ruth Jeffers Wellington ’41 in 1967 to honor cook Anna Kowalski on the occasion of her retirement, after 40 years managing Northampton School’s kitchen.

Anna’s assistant, Ceil Desmarais, succeeded her, so the transition was seamless.  And Ceil made the not-entirely-seamless pilgrimage to Easthampton when ‘Hamp and Williston joined forces in 1971.

A personal note.  I was a Williston Academy student with the unique privilege — and privilege it was — of having a parent on the Northampton School for Girls faculty.  Among the perks of being a faculty brat was the ability to show up at the Montgomery House dining room and get fed.  Now I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by suggesting that having lunch with Mom was a major incentive in bicycling six miles after Saturday class.  There were other attractions.  Only one of them was the food.

Mississippi Mud is frequently cited as the best ‘Hamp dessert ever.  To this day it appears every so often in the Williston Northampton dining commons.  (Click recipe images to enlarge.)That’s 6 – 8 tiny servings.  In my house, 4.  Four.  I strongly suggest you make a double batch.  Note that Baker’s Breakfast Cocoa is no longer manufactured; any good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder will work.But oh, my, it was good food — with all due respect to my late friend Alphonse Barry, who styled himself Williston’s “chef” and got something at least edible, if occasionally unidentifiable, on our plates three times a day.  Meanwhile, Northampton School meals came as close to home cooking as anything I’ve ever seen in a school or college dining hall.  I think I remember (someone please set me straight) that there were always white tablecloths and decent china, as well.  Those were rare commodities at Williston meals; tablecloths appeared only on special occasions and we ate off green Bakelite plates whose principal virtue was that they didn’t shatter when a waiter dropped a tray.  In aesthetic fairness, the green matched the walls.

The following rivals Mississippi Mud for chocolate overdose.  I confess; I’ve made this, too.  It takes all afternoon, but it’s worth it.Someone cited cheese soufflé as one of the great ‘Hamp meals.  Alas, it’s not in Anna’s Cookbook.  But a couple of people mentioned Yorkshire pudding.  That we can provide, along with a roast beef that is simplicity itself.  (At Williston, “rare” beef was obtained by basting it with beet juice.  Seriously.)

There is, of course, much more.  And to whet your appetite, we have other recipe collections, including a Northampton School cookbook compiled in 1948 by, believe it or not, founder Dorothy Bement herself.  (Who knew?)

Mrs. Coolidge’s Pudding 

(also known as Mississippi Mud)

This beloved recipe has been called the queen of the NSFG desserts. Served by cook Anna Kowalski, the recipe was published in a 1967 cookbook to honor her after 40 years at the school.

Cake Recipe

1/2 cup sifted flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon good-quality, unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon melted shortening

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped nut meats (optional)


1/2 cup packed brown sugar 

2 tablespoons good-quality, unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup boiling water

Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder, salt, granulated sugar, and first amount of cocoa and sift together in a bowl. Add milk, melted shortening, and vanilla. Mix only until smooth. Add nuts if desired.

Turn into small greased baking dish. Mix the brown sugar and the second measure of cocoa and sprinkle this mixture over the batter. Pour the boiling water over the top. The liquid forms a rich sauce in the bottom of the dish when the pudding is baked. Bake in a moderate oven 350º for 30–40 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.