Just Baked

October 18, 2009

Origin Story



Whenever I picture my grandmother, she's in her kitchen. Not only was it the room that she always sat in when she watched TV or ate casual meals, but it was where, well, all the food came from. And there was always food.

Within minutes of arriving at her door, she would be offering up a variety of treats -- she was just about to sit down with some tea and toast, but would you like some cookies? There's also some pound cake under the dome if you'd prefer that, or half a pie sitting in the fridge. Oh, there's some fresh fruit salad next to the pie, and biscotti in the cookie jar, as well. Would you like some whipped cream on the pie? Let me put on a pot of coffee.

She always showed her love for her family with food. Whether it was a favorite cake on your birthday, a plate of fried flounder at dinner or a bowl of chocolates while watching Jeopardy. Needless to say, once I started having weekly sleepovers at my grandmother's, I wasn't the skinniest little kid.



As I got older, I spent less and less time at her house and once I left for school visits became almost non-existent; I would still phone her once or twice a month just to say hello, but would have trouble thinking of things to talk about. My gram was old fashioned in many ways, which made a lot of conversation topics off limits -- mere mention of a boy would bring on a discussion about a lady's virture, and daily news stories were even worse.

My solution was to phone her and ask for baking advice.

"Gram," I would say,"What's the best way to make a crust for a cheesecake?" and "Why can't I use dark brown sugar instead of light brown in this recipe?" She would instantly have an answer for me (although we never did come to an agreement on the brown sugar; I still think it's mostly a matter of taste preference.)

When she passed away, my family was distraught. As per usual when someone dies, her relatives began quarreling about who was supposed to get what from the house -- THIS chair and THAT vase and THIS painting and THAT necklace... But I knew what it was that I wanted, and no one else tried to lay claim to it. I wanted her recipe boxes.





And that's how I ended up with these two long wooden boxes. They're full of index cards and folded papers reading "from the kitchen of..." and recipes cut out of newspapers and magazines. Almost all of the cut out recipes have my grandmother's notes and changes written on them, in her perfect cursive. She never could resist changing a little something here and there to make the recipe her own, and I picked up that habit from her. I seem to always be adding a little bit of this and substituting these nuts for those in my cooking.

Although my grandmother was always a bit secretive with her recipes when anyone outside of the family was involved, I've always tried to be the opposite. Food is meant to be shared, so why not the recipes? So that's what this is. A collection of my gram's recipes, collected over the decades that she spent in her kitchen.

2 comments:

sarcasmysm said...

I seriously almost cried when I read this. I can't wait to see what you post.

Love you, pookie. <3

SSSSH! said...

Your writing is like a perfect souffle. I certainly hope you continue to write your way through the treasure boxes, for this is one person who shall never get enough of your deliciously brilliant "baking".

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Honey Never Spoils by Temma Hankin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.