The nice thing about being wifely in this day and age is that everything can be made by simply adding water. Like today, Jon and I started the process of making our Thanksgiving contribution. It called for corn bread. Corn bread! Who knows how to make corn bread? Well, Jon's grandmothers, my grandmother, probably any American girl who can both open a cookbook and read it. That last really ought to be me. However, some genius out there has developed a lovely thing called "corn bread mix". Let the fun begin!
Pour corn bread mix into a bowl.
Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
Mix until all the lumps are gone.
Pour into baking pan.
Hello world! I can cook!
Okay, I know that's going a bit far. I know that it doesn't actually count as baking. (I also know that I'm blurring the lines between baking and cooking... but, I didn't burn the bread, so cut me some slack, people!) After popping the pan in the oven, I stopped to open my recipe box. No one will be surprised to hear that it isn't exactly bulging with potential cullinary masterpieces. There are the recipes I received at my bridal shower, all neatly written on cards that match the apple-decorated box. Then there are some smaller, bordered cards with recipes from William-Sonoma (mailed to me as a "Congrats on being a bride" thing... girls, look forward to it!).
But last, and neatest, are the slightly yellowed cards, laminated, covered with tiny, spiraling script. They belonged to my grandma. A few months ago my aunt mailed them to me. "Dear Audrey, I thought you might like to have these." She was right.
Today I took out a card labeled "Ice Box Cookies", and as I turned it gently in my hands like a wish, I thought about all the times she might have made those cookies for my dad, when he was a little boy, and his brothers and sister. And how maybe she made them so often that she didn't even need to read the recipe after a while, but she would place the card near the stove out of habit.
Unfortunately I can't tackled the "Ice Box Cookies" until I figure our the conversion equation between Oleo and butter. I barely know what Oleo is!
The best part of having these little pieces of Grandma's past is reading the notations she'd made years ago, reminding herself of possible substitutes or extras. Like on the card marked "Butterscotch Coffee Cake", below all the ingredients, it reads:
In case of emergency, use 2 c white sugar, mix with other dry ingredients, add 1/2 c golden brown molasses. (Thank God! An answer to the inevitable three-alarm sugar crisis!)
Thanksgiving isn't just a day, in my opinion. It's a season, even a state of mind. Right about now we begin mulling over all the things we're thankful for. My parents and brothers and I never lived near our extended family. I don't remember the very few times we all got together, noisily in Grandma's dining room, awaiting a next course of fabulous, home-cooked food. I never stood on my tiptoes in the kitchen, leaning slightly over Grandma's shoulder as she taught me just the right way to test and see if the turkey was done. I don't associate cooking or baking smells with my grandmother.
But I also don't resent that I didn't have any of that. Today I am thankful that I have been entrusted with a precious part of who my grandmother was, as a young bride, young woman, young mom... and I hope that, in time, I will be able to do justice to her fudge, or "Mother's Oatmeal Crispies". (And I have a sneaking suspicion Jon is hoping for the same thing!)