I recently received a very special gift.
Ben’s late Grandma’s – Gwendolyn’s – collection of cook books.
His family has started the long process of sorting through her belongings after she passed away last year, and among the many items a woman in her 80s possesses – letters, knickknacks, pictures and notes – was her well used collection of cook books, which they thoughtfully entrusted to me.
Cook books she used everyday, jotting down notes to indicate a "family favorite",
or re-writing ingredients to better suit her tastes.
Cook books stuffed with handwritten recipes that Grandmas seem to always make best,
like "Mystery Bars"
and "Honey Peanut Bar Cookies."
Cook books with pages that were stained and splattered with the evidence of lovingly made family dinners and desserts.
Let me tell you about the desserts… If there was any question in my mind that Gwen had a sweet tooth, I am now completely clear on the matter.
The worn and well used tabs for "Cookies," "Cakes & Frostings" and "Candies" stuck out in every cook book I opened.
A woman after my own heart.
Her favorites, from what I can tell, were Chocolate Cake, and Lemon Bars. Variations of the same two recipes were ear-marked in book after book – saved to be easily found and made again and again.
"Yep, she loved her Lemon Bars…" Ben confirmed after I informed him of my suspicions. And we all know about Grandma’s famous Cookie Cake which, if the chocolaty fingerprints covering the cake page of her favorite cook book are any indication, she made often.
There was a big lump in my throat as I was going through Gwen’s collection, flipping through the faded pages and catching glimpses of her handwriting every now and again, but it was more sweet than sorrowful. And given my love for cooking, I only feel closer to her now. Is that cheesy?
Hang on, I think I saw a recipe for a cheese ball a few pages back…
"My Grandma/Grandpa makes/made THE best _______."
My Grandma on my Mom’s side makes THE best chicken noodle soup. My Grandma on my Dad’s side made THE best homemade caramels.