Local Kids Build Edible Lincoln Logs, Remember Honest Abe

Robin Seeley  Leila, Abby and Roan show off an edible replica of Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace on the 208th anniversary of the great statesman’s birthday. The edible log cabin made of pretzel logs and molten chocolate calls to mind President Lincoln’s humble birthplace in Kentucky.

Local Kids Build Edible Lincoln Logs, Remember Honest Abe

 

On Feb. 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky. Although we may romanticize log cabins now, they typically had packed dirt floors, no plumbing and a very dark interior. Glass was hard to come by, so many settled for windows made of greased paper, to let in some dim light. 

Lincoln spent his youth in Kentucky and Indiana. His life ended on April 14, 1865, in Washington, D.C., five days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse. John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at close range in the balcony of Ford’s Theater and our president “belonged to the ages” several hours later.

The locations of our 16th president’s birth and death loom large in Lincoln lore. So why is it that every single license plate in the state of Illinois proudly proclaims: “Land of Lincoln?” He wasn’t born there and he died over 600 miles away in our nation’s capitol.

It’s true that Lincoln began practicing law in the Prairie State and then launched his political career there. But if that is sufficient basis for Illinois’s boast to be the “Land of Lincoln,” then perhaps Alamedans should consider claiming him as well. Unlike many Bay Area cities, our first permanent European settlement began during Lincoln’s lifetime, in 1853. And for the centennial of his birth, in 1909, we named an avenue, a middle school and a park after him.

So if Illinois is the “Land of Lincoln,” why couldn’t Alameda be the “Island of Lincoln?” But seriously, the Culinary Academy of Post Street wanted to remember the president who guided our nation through the worst rift in its history, the Civil War (1861-1865). To appreciate Lincoln’s genius for finding common ground during the conflict that cost more American lives than all our other military ventures combined, there’s an excellent resource.

Check out Garry Wills’ book on the 272-word speech that let the healing begin: Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America. Sneak preview: The Union president was reminding his audience that our real roots were in Greece, whence the founding fathers got the then-radical notion that all men are created equal and democracy was a “thing.”

Many today are quick to call this hypocrisy, since women couldn’t vote and slavery was legal back then. But in 1776, when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, people still believed in the divine right of kings. By shaking their fists at King George III in England, the American colonists were doing something truly revolutionary: claiming that they knew better than God, and could govern themselves.

Obviously King George didn’t agree, but the point remains: This was the first time in the history of the world that a nation wasn’t founded on shared ethnicity or religion, but instead on a shared ideal. We may not have always been true to that ideal, but it’s always been our founding principle. That’s what Honest Abe sought to impress on his listeners as he dedicated the battlefield at Gettysburg on Nov. 19, 1863. He wanted to ensure that government of the people, by the people, for the people, would not perish from the earth.

But the Culinary Academy of Post Street focused on Lincoln’s modest origins, not his historic word-smithing. We hit that point home by building our own rustic log cabins with pretzel sticks. The young scholars appreciated how easy their construction job was compared to the ordeal of building a real log cabin. If the kids needed another log, they simply reached into a plastic bag.

The woodsmen of Kentucky had to search for an appropriate tree of the correct size and shape, determine how and in what direction it had to fall for safety, and then whack away at it with a heavy axe. Perhaps the worst chores came next: lopping off all the branches and transporting the hefty trunk to the construction site. Very difficult, time-consuming work to create sturdy, small and very spartan living quarters.

Our 16th president may not have had much formal education, but his no-frills childhood in a log cabin played a role in forming his character. The kids were eager to show off their own little log cabins as a reminder of all that Lincoln achieved despite, or perhaps because of, his humble beginnings.

 

Robin Seeley is the First Lady of the Culinary Academy of Post Street.