"Shinny" in Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Fri Mar 30 06:01:04 UTC 2001


   Maybe I should send this to that MOCKINGBIRD dialect guy who passed by here recently.
   From the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE (Clementine Paddleford column), 29 May 1963, pg. 16, col. 3:

_What Is Shinny?_
   Just before the news strike we ran a query from Mrs. Elizabeth Tuccinardi of Elmira, New York.  She wrote "I've been reading 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and came across the mention of shinny cake.  What is it," she asks.  "Do you have a recipe?"  Later in the book shinny in jugs is mentioned.  "What is it?" she questioned.  We did not know but our readers have answers.
(Col. 4--ed.)
   Paul Kamey of Universal Pictures Company, Inc. replied, "You probably didn't realize it but in your column you had a case of where the mountain came to Mahomet and Mahomet was making a return trip to the mountain.  I'm referring to reader Elizabeth Tuccinardi's letter asking for the recipe of a concoction called shinny cake which she remembered reading about in 'To Kill A Mockingbird.'  By the law of coincidence I had luncheon recently with Harper Lee who wrote the book.  I showed her the item and she was both pleased and amused.  'The cake,' she said, 'was an old Southern preparation known as Lane cake.'"
   When she was writing the book she was not certain of the recipe and called the Herald Tribune Kitchen to inquire as to its origin.  The staff didn't know what she was talking about and so the wheel turns.  According to Miss Lee the best she could tell me was that Lane Cake is somewhat similar to our holiday fruit cakes and the 'shinny' your reader refers to is an old Southern folk medicine better known as moonshine.  Apparently, someone mixed the fruit cake and added generous quantities of moonshine or shinny.  As a result, it sometimes is called shinny cake.  I hope this satisfies your reader's curiosity.  (Col. 5--ed.)  Unfortunately, I don't have a source for moonshine."

_Terrific in Cake_
   Hank O. Norton of New Milford, Connecticut bulletins: "I was intrigued by the question 'What is shinny?'  The only mention I could find of shinny which seemed to fit the context of the question was in Webster's International Unabridged (the old reliable second edition).  Here an entry referred to shinny as a Southern expression for moonshine.  Out of a considerable collection of recipe books, however, we could find only one which seemed to fill the bill, a Bourbon Pecan Cake in the first volume of Gourmet's terrific cookbooks."
   A last word from Eileen Gaden of Seranne and Gaden:  "I was introduced to shinny as a bride when my husband was training to be a naval aviator in Pensacola, Florida, during the prohibition era.  It was the local hard liquor made from corn.  All the officers bought this in gallon or larger kegs, which had been buried in the ground for aging and to avoid being discovered by the revenuers.  If shinny was well aged it was smooth and as good as any of our present day premium liquors.  The older residents often put a tablespoon or two of shinny in their cakes for flavoring."

   DARE has "Lane cake" from only 1951, but acknowledges in a 1985 citation that it probably comes from Emma Rylander Lane's "A Few Good Things to Eat" (1898).  Mariani's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICA FOOD & DRINK notes that the 1898 book calls it a "Prize Cake."
   I have not seen the DARE "shinny."

   From the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE (Clementine Paddleford column), 23 May 1963, pg. 18, col. 2:

_The Hot Dog_
   One of the troubles we find when digging into the hot dog's genealogy is that the trail grows cold after 3,000 years.  Shall we start as now?
   The first hot dog to bear the name is said to have appeared at the Polo Grounds in New York in 1900.


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