Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter. It Smells Just Like Yesterday.

tom+aimee+mel b+wCertain smells always bring me back.  Flood my brain with memories.  Ones I thought were long gone and forgotten.  I love it when this happens.  It’s enough to send me on a scent hunt.  Digging up recollections like hidden clues to buried treasures.

Then becomes now in a heartbeat.

I can’t walk into a kitchen where baking has taken place without thinking immediately of Ma’s cookie baking emporium at 204.  Oatmeal raisin.  Hermits.  Ginger Snaps.  Sweet and spicy.  Rich with love and motherly goodness.  One whiff of Italian food and it’s a Spaghetti Saturday Night.  The best comfort food smack dab in the middle of a brutal Northwestern Ontario winter.  Cold as the Arctic outside but warm and deliciously cozy inside. Turkey roasting in the oven conjures up decades of Christmases enjoyed with our family.  This mouthwatering array of aromas reminds me to count my blessings.

I can close my eyes and smell Ma’s Second Debut face cream. Breathe in her presence.  Inhale it’s gentle loveliness as my lips brush against her cheek.  Just like I did every morning before I headed off to school as a kid.  This fine scent not only evokes memories of the softness of her skin but the kindness of her heart.  In her later years she treated herself to a weekly hairdo.  She would return feeling pampered and pretty, filling the house with the beauty parlor scent of freshly coiffed hair.  Set for the week.  I’m reminded that although true beauty blossoms from within, it’s also nourished with a dab of cream and a nice do.

When I wash with Ivory soap I think of The Old Man.  A grimy bar sat in the soap dish next to the bathroom sink.  As soon as he got home from work he washed off the grunge that clung to his face and hands after a long day on the road delivering Holsum bread and Persian buns.  He’d emerge from the bathroom a new man.  An Ivory man.  Pure and simple.  Now when I stand in the shower preparing for my day, lathering on this creamy white soap, I am reminded that hard work of any sort is honorable.  No matter what you do.  Sell bread.  Or shoes.  Fly to the moon.  Or stand on your feet all day.  Work, especially in service of others, is good.

Old Spice makes me think of Sunday mornings and going to church.  Once a week The Old Man donned a suit and tie, and escorted Ma and me to Christ Lutheran Church on Walkover Street.  We drove there, despite the friendly invitation to hoof it.  All week he wore his stiff blue twill uniform that smelled of flour dust, sweat, and when I was really young, tobacco.  But on Sundays, he dressed for the occasion.  He was a stylish confident man with his two favorite girls in tow.  Old Spice has always been a feel good scent memory.  Yet also contradictory. Like The Old Man, in many ways.  A peculiar blend of spirituality and carnal pleasure.  Old time religion and hedonism.  Fear of the Lord and the folly of the man.  Imagine all that in just one sniff.

The mauve lilac bush at 204.

The mauve lilac bush at 204.

There’s nothing like the perfume from a mauve lilac.  One hint and I’m instantly transplanted to the front yard at 204.  There, a charming little tree bloomed every year in June.  It marked the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation. It was a symbol of freedom and carefree days.  A simple bouquet adorned Ma’s kitchen table and filled the room with such exquisite inimitable beauty.  I’m reminded of the wonder and splendor just outside our door.  The natural abundance of the earth.  It’s symmetry and grace.  And for that I am grateful.

Then there’s the fragrance of first love.  I can’t walk in the early morning rains of April or May without thinking of him.  Not every time.  For the memory to come, the rain must possess a particular scent.  A bittersweetness.  Sadness in the joy.  Longing in the reverie.  Then I go back to this love that was beginning to unravel.  So new yet tired of itself.  Still, all these years later I think tenderly of him.  Of us then.  I know the smell of him.  It reminds me to be inspired by love.  To carry on.  Love again.  And again.  Enlarge my heart.  Grow it bigger. Until it beats no more.

And oh, the sweetest of all perfumes.  My newborn babies.  Tender. Innocent.  Still so close to heaven in their scent.  Still so filled with the essence of the divine.  Without earthly tarnish.  Nor painful sheaths sullying their pristine souls.  Just perfection.  I have been blessed to enjoy this redolence three times.  Three times I breathed in their beautiful newness.  Each time I was reborn.

I’ve read that the science behind this sentimental journey originates with the olfactory bulb in our limbic system, which is associated with memory.  Called the “emotional brain” it allows us to conjure up memories in an instant just by smelling something.

I am grateful for this bulb in my brain that allows me to go back.  Not just remember.  But to be there.  Time travel does exist.  And the beautiful thing is, we all possess this wondrous gift of uncommon sense.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: I Love To Do Lists.

I knew one day I’d start a list. In the meantime I stood in front of windows and smiled.

I love To Do lists.  They keep me organized.  Help me to remember.  Remind me of what’s important.  They keep things orderly. Sweet and simple.  Neat and tidy. I love the symmetry these lists bring to my life.  Balance.  Ease.

I’ve always been a compulsive list maker.  As I age my appreciation for this practice has grown exponentially.

There is this list that I have been compiling in my book of “boo’s to do’s for today” that just keeps growing.  It appears to be never-ending. And for this I am grateful. These are the eternal things. The timeless. The constants in my life.  And the infinite. The daily reminders of how good life is.  How lucky I am to have been born in the time and place that is now, to the parents who raised me with love, to the children I have done the same, to the family and friends who I have been blessed to have walked the earth with, for their presence and presents.  For grace and forgiveness. For hope. For faith in us all to create a better, kinder, gentler place.

It’s all a wide-eyed wonder to me.  It’s humbling. I am thankful every day that I am here now with you. And you. And you.

So this is the ever-growing list of Boo’s To Do’s for Today.

The cover of my book of to do’s. It’s nice.

Today I will:
Thank God for my human being-ness
Be curious but not nosey
Be helpful but not pushy
Be funny but not hurtful for the sake of a joke
Be a dreamer but keep my feet on the ground
Be happy but not at someone else’s expense
Be honest but not brutal
Be smart but not a pompous know-it-all
Be supportive but not a door mat
Be a seeker but look for Light not darkness
Be God-minded but not God

Today I will:
Thank God for the little things in my life
Kiss my husband good morning
Tell my kids that I love them always, forever and a day
Eat mostly healthy stuff today
Eat chocolate, devour the entire bar
Smile at strangers, even the scary ones
Be helpful and kind and generous
Laugh at myself
Practice patience with everyone but especially the very old and the very young
Say my prayers and let go of the day

Today I will:
Thank God for a new perspective
See people in a different light
Recognize the truth
Appreciate an opposing opinion
Give everyone the benefit of the doubt
Understand that there are other sides to the story
Look for a new perspective in an old place
Offer grace so I can also receive it
Read between the lines and hear the words not spoken
Say my prayers and settle into the quiet

I like the red ribbon and yellow sticky note.

Today I will:
Thank God for the playful
Play it as it lays and learn acceptance
Play for keeps with those who matter
Play for real with everyone
Play around and square and mix it up
Play full with all I’ve got
Play games that are fun not hurtful
Play back again and again, especially if it’s good
Replay and repeat tomorrow
Say my prayers and sleep lighthearted

Today I will:
Thank God for all the wonders of Nature
Chase double rainbows across the sky
Sing with wild abandon in the rain
Blow free like a leaf in the wind
Spread my wings and fly
Soak up the sun and catch some rays
Dig in the dirt and get mud on my face
Soar with the eagles
Set the world on fire
Reach for the stars and make three wishes
Howl crazy at the moon
Say my prayers and drift into the waters of heaven

Today I will:
Thank God for this new day of simple things
Forgive everyone, even those I don’t want to
Do yoga and be grateful that my body still moves
Eat an apple, possibly an orange, but not a banana
Paint my toenails red and smile at my feet
Take my dogs for a walk
Drink water right out of the tap
Be polite and mannerly, please and thanks
Listen better to everyone but especially to the very old and the very young
Say my prayers and plump my pillow

Thank God for all the wonders of nature.

Today I will:
Thank God for the givers
Give a helping hand
Give advice only when asked
Give away the good things I no longer want, need or wear
Give to a charity besides the usual ones
Give love even to the unlovable
Give someone a surprise gift for no reason, just because
Give others the benefit of the doubt
Give of myself even when I’m tired and don’t feel like it
Give someone else the credit and the glory
Say my prayers and give thanks

Today I will:
Thank God for the journey through this day
Applaud the achievements of others
Eat more red foods
Be respectful and considerate of others
Play my guitar even when it sounds painful
Be honest, starting with myself
Bake chocolate chocolate chip cookies, then pig out
Sit quietly and breathe easy
Take the long way home and enjoy the trip
Say my prayers and drift into dreamland

Today I will:
Thank God for healing
Mend all bridges in my life that are broken
Sew buttons on tattered open wounds
Stitch time that has been squandered
Mend a broken heart
Seam together a fragile friendship
Repair all hurt caused by my good intentions
Fix things that can be fixed and bless what cannot
Patch the worn and the weary with love and kindness
Say my prayers and hug my love

Today I will:
Thank God for countless things in my life
Count my blessings
Count the red smarties in the box
Count the steps from the couch to the fridge
Count my friends who count
Count the birds at the feeder
Count the calories in the chocolate cake then eat it any way
Count the purple tulips in my garden
Count the number of sleeps until my summer holidays
Say my prayers and count sheep

Thank God for the Makers.

Today I will:
Thank God for all my senses: the first five, the sixth, common and Spidey
See the beauty in all things, even the unusual
Listen with an open heart to hear the unspoken
Breathe in all that is around me, especially the smells of nature and of the kitchen
Touch someone in need of a gentle hand
Taste the sweetness in life not the bitter
Trust my inner voice when in doubt
Remember the sound and reasonable advise of my mother
Pay attention to the goose bumps
Say my prayers and welcome a sense of peace

Today I will:
Thank God for the lazy days
Take it slow and easy
Relax and chill with a cup of green tea
Read a gossip mag from cover to cover while watching my fav soap opera
Eat a bag of Oreo cookies
Consider practicing yoga
Contemplate meditating
Think about going for a walk
Exercise my option to do absolutely nothing
Take a long soak in the tub
Say my prayers and rest gently

Today I will:
Thank God for the makers
Make believe and have fun like a five year old
Make memories without Kodak
Make amends to everyone I’ve hurt
Make love with the light on
Make up not down
Make music without an instrument
Make peace with myself first
Make better all my owies
Make good on all my promises
Make muffins, blueberry lemon
Make magic without a wand
Make friends with myself
Say my prayers and make ZZZ’s

Today I will:
Thank God for housework
Change the sheets and flip the mattress
Do laundry and maybe iron
Wash the dishes by hand
Scrub the floors, the old fashioned way, down on my knees
Vacuum even the hidden places
Polish the furniture with lemon oil
Clean the windows
Stop to admire the “clean and shiny”
Say my prayers and fall quickly into a deep sleep

Thank God for the lazy days.

Today I will:
Thank God for chance to begin again
Turn over a new leaf, discover the mysteries hidden there
Start a new chapter that begins with hope
Wipe the slate clean of all past doubts
Start fresh with a different perspective
Begin anew with novel ideas
Embrace the blank page and let go of fear
Clear the deck and make space for possibilities
Close the book and make peace with the past
Say my prayers.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daugher: The Wonders Within Ma’s Recipe Box

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These are some of Ma’s basic everyday recipes.  I’ve described them as she either prepared them or wrote them down for me.  Over the years I have added my own spin to The Savories.  Adapted them to my own family’s tastes or in some cases allowed my creative inspiration to take hold.  For example, her Meat Pie recipe has become Shepherd’s Pie, a Christmas Eve tradition to honor the Great Shepherd.  I don’t add tomato soup to my Chili but I do add a variety of beans and chic peas, for my youngest who loves them.  I rarely do meatballs in my Spaghetti because I’m too lazy.  Her Barbecue Ribs are quite simply the best.  Perfect the way they are.  Wouldn’t change a thing.

The Sweets are exactly as the recipes describe.  Lovely.  Perfect. Easy to make.  I’ve only attempted the Christmas Cake once.  It turned out good, but not as good as Ma’s.  I made them two Christmases after she died to honor her.  Never again.  Way too much work.  The Brownie recipe is so easy and foolproof.  So chocolatey. Kids of all ages love these!  And the Ginger Snaps are a family favorite.  The recipe for these can also be found at the back of my novel, again placed there in honor of my dear sweet Ma.   I tried making the Angel Food Cake once or twice but it was too finicky for me.  Ma always made me this cake for my birthday.  It was her specialty.  When my youngest daughter turned one,  Ma baked one for her too.  The Butter Tarts are my Granddaughter’s favorites.  We love baking together, especially these family recipes.

The Savories

Saturday Night Spaghetti

Tomato Sauce
2 tins tomatoes (ground or chopped)
1 tin tomato paste
1 onion chopped fine
1 stalk celery chopped fine
1 green pepper
Seasoning to taste: Italian seasoning, bay leaf, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper
Before we had a blender Ma chopped everything fine and put it in a big pot to simmer all day.  After we got the blender, she put the tomatoes, onions and celery in the blender until smooth.  Simmer all day on low until rich and thick and delicious.

Meatballs:
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 egg
1 slice of bread
Seasoning to taste: Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper
Roll into 1” balls, fry in oil.  Add to sauce.

Meat Pie

1 lb. lean ground beef
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tbsp prepared mustard
1 cup mixed vegetables
1 small onion
1 tsp brown sugar
1 cup water

In frying pan cook meat and onions. When brown add ketchup, mustard and water to meat.  Add vegetables and sugar.  Simmer until vegetables are tender.  Fill pie shell.  Top with second shell.  Cut steam vents in top crust.  Bake at 350 until crust is golden brown.

Barbecue Spare Ribs

Sauce
Combine and mix well:
1 cup tomato soup
1/4 cup mild vinegar
1 tbsp celery seed
1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika

Cut 2 1/2 lbs. spare ribs in serving pieces.  Put in baking dish and cover with sauce.  Back at 350 for 2 hours.

Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1 1/2 – 2 tsp soy sauce (or more)
Coat ribs in flour and fry in oil until brown.  Ad sauce and cook 45 minutes until tender.

Old Fashioned Baked Beans

1 lb. dried white beans
1 quart cold water
1 small – medium onion, sliced
1/4 lb. salt pork or bacon

Seasoning:
1/2 tbsp salt
2 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp prepared mustard
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup ketchup, pinch pepper

Pick and rinse beans.  Add 1 quart water and soak over night.  Simmer 30 minutes or so.  Drain, keeping liquid. Place onion slices in bottom of 6-cup casserole or clay bean pot.  Mix seasoning and add to pot. Add beans and hot liquid or water to cover.  Arrange pork slices on top.  Cover and bake in slow oven 250 for 7 hours.  One hour before serving remove cover to allow salt pork/bacon to brown.

Chili Con Carne

3 tbsp oil
1 large onion
1 green pepper
1 lb. ground beef
1 28 oz can tomatoes
1 10 oz can tomato soup
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp chili powder
1 glove garlic
1 tsp salt
1 14 oz can kidney beans

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add onions, green pepper and meat.  Cook until brown, stirring occasionally.  Add tomatoes, soup, paprika, cayenne, bay leaf and chili powder.  Simmer about 1 hour adding water if mixture gets too thick.  Mash garlic and combine with salt.  Add to hot mixture and stir well.  Add beans and heat thoroughly.  Pour into large serving bowl and garnish with onion rings.

Lasagna

2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion
1/4 tsp pepper
1 15 oz tin tomato sauce
2 cups hot water
1 clove garlic
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
8 oz package lasagna noodles
1/2 lb. cottage cheese
1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese

Brown lightly garlic and onion in hot oil.  Add meat and cook stirring frequently to brown meat evenly.  Season.  Add hot water to tomato sauce and pour mixture over meat.  Mex well and simmer.  Uncover 30 minutes. In a baking dish pour a few tbsp of sauce.  Place half the cooked noodles over the sauce, the cottage cheese and half mozzarella cheese.  Add rest of noodles, remaining sauce and top with mozzarella.

Meatball Stroganoff

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
Pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley
3 tbsp butter
1 medium onion chopped fine
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms
1/4 tsp paprika
2 tbsp flour
1 cup consomme or beef stock
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Meatballs: Combine beef, milk, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and parsley.  Blend and shape into small meatballs.  Melt butter and fry.
Remove and add mushroom and onions.  Saute.  Sprinkle fry pan with flour and paprika.  Pour in consomme stirring constantly.  Cook until thick and add meatballs.  Add worcestershire sauce.  Heat to boiling point. Add sour cream.  Serve over buttered egg noodles.

Cabbage Rolls

1 cup rice
3 cups water
Cook for 45 minutes until rice is tender

1/2 lb. ground pork
1 onion
Spice to taste: garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper
Combine rice and meat mixture in bowl.

1 medium cabbage
1 small tin tomato juice

Cook cabbage in large pot of water until partially cooked.  Remove and roll with meat/rice mixture.  Place in casserole/covered baking dish.  Pour tomato juice over cabbage rolls. Top with left-over loose cabbage leaves.  Bake at 350 for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Popovers (Yorkshire Pudding)

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
Pour into well-greased muffin pans till 3/4 full.  Bake at 450 for 40 -45 minutes. Serve immediately with roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy.

Pie Crust

5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Cut 1 lb. shortening into flour mixture.
Beat 1 egg + 2 tsp vinegar in bottom of measuring cup.  Fill measuring cup with cold water and mix well.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour liquid.  Mix well.
Form big ball, then divide into 6 smaller balls. Wrap each ball individually and freeze.

The Sweets

These are perfect for dunking into milk.

Ma’s Chewy Ginger Snaps

Cream Together:
3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup molasses

Sift Together:
2-1/3 cups flower
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp each ginger & cinnamon
1/2 tsp closes
1/4 tsp salt

Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well.  Shape into 1-inch balls.  Roll in white sugar.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheets @ 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Cream together:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
Gradually beat in:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
Add:
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
Beat well.
Blend or sift together:
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Add to creamed mixture and combine.
Shape dough into balls which are about 1” in diameter.  Place on baking sheets and press down with a fork.  Bake in 375 oven for 10-12 minutes.

Serve warm just as it is or with vanilla ice cream. Divine.

Apple Crisp

6 cups sliced apples
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter

Arrange apples in greased baking dish and sprinkle with lemon juice.  Mix flour, oats and sugar.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs, sprinkle over apples.  Bake at 375 until are tend and topping is lightly brown.  (35 – 40 min.)  Served with vanilla ice cream if you like.

Rich. Moist. Dreamy. Impossible to eat just one piece!

Chocolate Brownies

Mix all together in one bowl in this order:
1/4 lb. butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
2 heaping tbsp cocoa
Optional: 1/2 cup walnuts

Bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes.

Chocolate Glaze
Mix together:
1 cup icing sugar
2 level tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp butter
Hot water – enough to form glaze
Pour on brownies while hot (straight out of the oven)

Chocolate Oatmeal Globs

3 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of coconut
6 tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla.

Mix first 3 ingredients in a large bowl.  Heat butter, sugar and milk in saucepan until almost boiling.  Pour over dry ingredients and add vanilla.  Stir well.  Drop by tsp on wax paper and chill until set.

Make it square. Or make it round. Sweet and spicy either way.

Tomato Soup Cake

Beat together in large bowl until light:
4 tbsp butter
1 tin tomato soup
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
Blend/sift together:
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp of each of these spices: cinnamon, cloves, allspice & nutmeg.
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Combine dry ingredients with wet and mix together.  Pour into 8” square pan and bake one hour at 350.

Butter Icing
1 cup icing sugar, 2 tbsp butter and milk to make thick.  Beat until smooth.  Add 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Spread on cake when fully cooled.

Dark Christmas Cake

Wet Ingredients:
1 lb. butter
2 1/3 cup brown sugar packed
7 extra large eggs or 8 large (separated)
1/4 cup molasses

Dry Ingredients:
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves

Fruit Ingredients:
1 lb. raisins
1 lb. currants
1 lb. candied cherries
1/2 lb. candied mixed fruit
1/2 lb. nuts
3/4 cup orange juice,
2 tbsp lemon juice
Pour juice over fruit mixture and let stand overnight.

Instructions:
Beat egg yolk, sugar and butter together.  Add molasses.  Combine half the flour mixture with the fruit mixture.  Add to the wet ingredients. Mix well and add rest of the flour mixture.  Beat egg white and fold into entire mixture.  Bake in 250 or 300 oven for 2 /12 hours.

Ma’s specialty birthday cake. Heavenly.

Angel Food Cake
(One large tube pan)

1 1/2 cups fruit sugar
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup egg whites (8 – 10 eggs)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp almond, lemon, pineapple or raspberry extract
3/4 tsp vanilla

Sift sugar and flour together four times.  Beat egg whites until foamy, and then add salt and cream of tartar.  Continue beating until the whites are stiff, but not dry.  Sift 2 tbsp of the flour and sugar mixture at a time over the egg whites.  Fold in carefully after each addition.  Add vanilla and almond extract.  Turn into an ungreased tube pan and bake at 275 degrees F for 25 minutes and then at 300 degrees F for 45-50 minutes.  Remove from oven, invert pan for 1 hour and cake will then slip easily from pan.

The best butter tarts ever. And so easy to make! Child’s play.

Tasty Butter Tarts

1 egg, well beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp rich milk
1/2 cup raisins (or currants)

Add brown sugar to well-beaten egg and beat thoroughly.  Add vanilla, milk and raisins.  Line tart tins with pastry.  Add 1 tbsp of the above mixture to each.  Bake at 400 for 20 – 25minutes.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: A Little Piece of Heaven on Earth.

Ma’s Recipe Box.

I bake.  Cookies mostly.  But sometimes cakes on someone’s birthday.  Or pies at Christmas or Thanksgiving.  I love everything about baking – the ingredients, the utensils, the smell, the warmth, the kitchen, the bittersweet memories.  Simply divine.

Ma taught me how to bake and cook.  Not by instruction but more by osmosis and illustration.  And by surprise.  My fondest memory from childhood is that of walking in the backdoor after school and inhaling the delicious aroma of something freshly baked.  Heaven scent.  Growing up, our kitchen was the hub of the house.  A Mecca that attracted all, not just us kids but our friends as well.  It was where we ate of course, but it was also so much more.  In a way it was Sacred Ground, the place where things got discussed, prayed about, laughed and cried over, and most importantly, where Ma served tea with delectable treats.  This was her turf, the place where she was most at ease where she could express herself creatively through the things she made with her hands.  Not just the food but other things too.  The curtains embracing the windows, the paintings adorning the walls, the cheerful tablecloth.  All wonderful expressions of her God-given talent to make much with very little.

Little back story.  Ma taught herself how to do pretty much everything.  Her mother died when she was three and her father at ten.  She was raised, along with her four sisters, by her maternal grandmother who taught her manners; how to pick lettuce from the garden and turn that into the best sandwich in the world; how to embroider and transform the drab to lovely with a few colorful stitches; and how to love unconditionally.  Ma learned how to bake and cook by doing and perfecting.  I learned by watching and eating.

Ma shared a lot of her favorite recipes with me over the years.  She even gave me the recipe box that came with her first “modern” stove.  A Gurney.  I still have the box.  It’s a magnificent piece of vintage memorabilia, tin construction, red and cream enamel with “Recipes” embossed on the front.  I cherish this gift.  The Gurney Box came complete with a set of recipes covering everything from Beverages to Vegetables. No A nor W X Y Z.  The best categories were in the middle – Cakes, Cookies and Pastries. The super stars of the box.  But my favorite recipes are Ma’s handwritten gems.  These are the ones that have seen better days, are tattered, smudged, splattered, greasy, barely legible. But it doesn’t matter.  I know them by heart.

The days prior to Christmas I become a marathon baking fiend, along with my sugar-sweet grand daughter, who has my mother’s beautiful dark eyes and easy smile.  I pull out all of Ma’s ancient recipes.  Sometimes I cry when I see her handwriting but mostly I’m comforted by these artifacts of her, little pieces of Ma on scraps of paper torn from a memo pad or jotted on 3×5 recipe cards.  It takes me back to a small divine kitchen, a little piece of heaven on earth full of activity, laughter, tears, flour and lots of sugar.  Love.

Ma’s Chewy Ginger Snaps

Cream Together:
3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup molasses

Sift Together:
2-1/3 cups flower
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp each ginger & cinnamon
1/2 tsp closes
1/4 tsp salt

Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well.  Shape into 1-inch balls.  Roll in white sugar.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheets @ 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Sweet and Simple.  Just like Ma.