Whatever happened to Dinah? For some days now she’s been on my mind. Am I the only one thinking of Dinah or are we as a collective concerned that Dinah has been forgotten in the annals of history?
Dinah’s sister Jemima, as we know, left her humble roots in the South and became a superstar. We see her face in aisle six of the supermarket, peeking out of pantries, and gazing at us from the freezer. Ah, that Jemima, always smiling and concerned about our nourishment. Jemima’s focus on one thing– breakfast– propelled her to such fame that we began to consider her family (kinda like how God became our father, Jemima became our aunt). By concentrating on pancakes, waffles, and the requisite syrup, Jemima became the best in her field of breakfast. Many black women today count Jemima as a role model, alongside Oprah, the black singer in Josie and the Pussycats, and the journalist who got fired from ABC in 1971 for wearing her hair in its natural state.
But, the refrain remains whatever happened to Dinah? After a stint as a hat model (reputedly for her perfectly shaped head), Dinah decided to become a full-time cook. Her reputation as the best cook in Eatonville spread all over the South, and multitudes would come from far (as far as the North) to sample her fried catfish, honey-braised ribs, fried turkey wings, and homemade chili stuffing. Dinah’s hands led her to an acclaim that her head never could. Her nicknames piled up: honey-handed Dinah, sweet-fingered Dinah, Dynamite Dinah. Her little sister Jemima admired her, and hoped one day to cook like her (that never happened, as Jemima soon realized that she could only make carb-based breakfast foods). Dinah outshone every woman in Eatonville with the the sparkle in her eye, and the glaze on her babybacks.
So whatever happened to Dinah? Well, Dinah faded into obscurity after she met Sam and moved out west to Lakeport. Sam, the very epitome of tall, dark and handsome, swept into Eatonville (on a broom), and Dinah knew immediately that her life would change. She told her best friend friend Janie over biscuits and tea that she was moving to Lakeport to work for a “nice family of kid detectives;” and in two days she left town.
It seems that Dinah had the Midas touch, because everyone who came in contact with her became celebrated: her sister Jemima, her best friend Janie C. memorialized in a novel, and her young charges touted as the best, smartest kid detectives ever (The Bobbsey Twins are pretty impressive, aren’t they?).
But what happened to Dinah in Lakeport, alone in the kitchen, standing quiet in the shadows? Is she still with Sam? Is she still the best cook around? Are her hands still “honey?”