Day 538: Connections...
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
My mother's mother was 20 when my mother was born; my mother was 20 when she had me. I've written of my grandmother (and even my great-grandmothers) before.
I don't think I've written much about my other grandmother, my father's mother.
My paternal grandmother was nearly 40 when she had my father - he was the baby of the family. Hence, my other grandmother was almost the same age as my mother's grandmother.
Back to today:
I'm sorting papers. There are so many boxes of papers. My mother kept EVERYthing: old cash register receipts... a brochure handed out through AT&T (where my Dad worked) in 1960... newspaper clippings... instructions for long-gone appliances... birth announcements and Christmas cards and schoolpapers &c.
It will take the rest of my life to go through it all, because (as crazy as this drives Himself) I want to check everything before I toss anything. You never know, right?
Back to today, take 2:
At the bottom of a box of unrelated ephemera, I find a small batch of handwritten recipes.
I'm pretty sure - sure enough I would bet money, and I'm not a betting woman unless I know I'll win - they are from my father's mother. My parents lived with her (she was widowed by then) for the first few years after they married, and as a young bride my mother learned to cook from her more than from her own mother, and it makes sense that my mother ended up with many of them.
I don't really know my grandmother's handwriting, but I'm reading through recipes with titles like "Ruth's Cake" (Ruth was Gram's sister-in-law), or "Florence's Sugar Cookies" (Florence was her best-friend from school), or "Gertrude's Dill Pickles" (Gertrude was a next-door neighbor). You can understand why I'm confident where these came from.
They are not on cards: I doubt my grandmother ever had a recipe box, as such. They are written on scrips and scraps of paper - the back of an envelope, the bottom of a torn-off paper, and even on the back of a "Bill of Lading." The few that bear dates are from 1924 and 1929 and 1917.
I came across a recipe labelled "Mamma's Coffee Cake." I cannot help but think it came from my Great-Grandmother Crawford. The handwriting matches that of the others, and that my grandmother wrote it down from a recipe of her mother's seems plausible.
My Great-Grandmother Crawford was the youngest of seven or eight; her parents emigrated from Germany in about 1850; the oldest kids were born there, but the rest were born in America. I've wondered if my great-grandmother spoke German, or at least understood it.
Back to Mamma's Coffee Cake: if this recipe came from my Great-Grandmother Crawford - was it her own? copied from someone else? might it have been her mother's, based on a German recipe?
Mamma's Coffee Cake
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup sour milk
1 cup cold coffee
1 cup shortening
3 cups flour
2 T.P. (presumably "teaspoons") soda
cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt
That's it. No pan size, approximate temperature, how-to's, nothing.
Gramma cooked on a woodstove, and wouldn't have had an assortment of baking pans. She'd have used the broomstraw-test for doneness, and experience would've taught her when the oven was at the right temperature. In other words, no surprise that she didn't bother writing those details down.
I'm tempted to try this recipe, out of curiosity if nothing else, although it nags at me that there are no eggs. It reads like a 'Depression Cake,' or one of the eggless cakes from WWI / WWII, except that those often rely on dried fruit for moistness and to help them stick together - no fruit here.
Still, I might experiment with this one day, if only to see how it turns out.
And it doesn't matter where the recipe originated: I choose to believe it's a link to that distant, great-great-grandmother. At the age of about 25 with two toddlers and another child on the way, she and her husband packed up some meager household items and a few clothes, leaving everyone they'd ever known to make a new start in uncharted territory.
Courage comes in all forms.
Hope you're having a good 'un, Sparklers - carpe diem!