Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Missing Grandma

As the years pass, I still miss Grandma Goodding. She died 35 years ago yesterday, and I wasn't even able to go to her funeral. But I think of her every time I look in the mirror because as I grow older, I look more like her. She had a profound influence on me in many ways, for which I am ever grateful. She said many times, "Always pray for an understanding heart." I do, and it makes a difference.

One of her legacies is that she was an extraordinary homemaker. Grandma made fabulous jams and jellies there in Oregon, the land of abundant fruit. I've become something of an expert at it myself over the years. She practiced inspired resourcefulness that I try to emulate. I documented a few years ago the family's food experiences during the Depression and World War II in a family cookbook that showcased her special talents. This is the woman who, in 1932, found herself at harvest time with so many ripe cantaloup she bottled them. I only know that she did it, but I don't know how it tasted because my uncle, the only remaining one of her children, couldn't remember how it tasted.

This is the woman who wrote notes on all of her recipes, and thus we know that in 1902, their cake frosting du jour was Ma's Old Fashioned Icing--egg whites, cream of tartar, sugar, water, and vanilla extract. Back in the day when sacks of flour contained a fold-out recipe brochure, Grandma's noted "Hugh's favorite" [that's Grandpa] on a recipe for Butterscotch Chewy Cake, and "made for Navienne's BD [my mother] 1965." Mother was in her 40s then.

Grandma was a remarkably creative cook. On the butterscotch cake recipe she also noted that by using more flour, the same recipe could be baked as cookies. My mother developed the same habit of making notes on her successes and failures, and writing additional recipes on the inside covers of cookbooks. Thus I have her recipe for never-fail fudge, made with marshmallow fluff and evaporated milk, which I taught my fudge-loving grandson how to make.

Now, in the Christmas season, I'm reminded of Grandma's fruitcake recipe. It starts with a box of Cinch spice cake mix and includes raisins, maraschino cherries, orange peel, dates, figs, white flour, graham flour, fruit cake mix, walnuts, and a pint of her homemade watermelon rind pickles. We have the recipe for that, too, but no one makes it anymore.

Most favorite of all, however, were Grandma's Peanut Butter Cookies. These are unique because instead of rolling the dough into balls for baking, according to recipe directions, she found it faster to squeeze the dough in her hand, and when the cookie baked, it looked an awful lot like a peanut. When I taught my granddaughters how to make this, their little tiny hands made some awfully small "peanuts."

Heat oven 375. Cream 1 C shortening, 1 C peanut butter (chunky if you like), 1 C brown sugar, 1 C white sugar. Mix in 3 eggs. Combine 1/2 t salt, 1 t baking powder, 1 t soda, 3 C flour. Mix well, with your hands if you have to. For 1" balls, place on cookie sheet, flatten slightly to make a "criss-cross" with a fork dipped in sugar. Bake 8 minutes. Makes about 6 dozen. Or you can try Grandma's method of squeezing the dough into a "peanut" shape. It's impressive--looks almost like a Nutter Butter.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday Weight Control Tips

Let's say--theoretically, of course--that it's just after the holidays and you've got a doctor's appointment at which you'll have to face the music and step on the scales. Here are the top ten things you can do  to make the best of it:

10. Remember to step out of your shoes (no socks, of course), empty your pockets and take off your glasses.

9. Go without breakfast, or lunch.

8. Take diuretics the night before, eat plenty of cucumbers, celery and tomato juice, and insist on a potty break just before you step on the scales.

7. Clip your fingernails right down to the nubs, but not far enough to bleed because then you'll have to wear a bandage and that can tip the scales the wrong way.

6. Trim your hair; consider a buzz cut. (Come on, girls. Hair grows back.)

5. Total body depilatory.

4. Pedicure to rid you of that unwanted dead skin from the calluses on feet and ankles.

3. Wear summer-weight clothes, as few as possible, and no jewelry.

2. Bikini underwear.

1. One word: laxatives. Consider a colonoscopy prep.

I'm not promising complete success, but at least you will know when you follow these steps that have done your best.