The Best Maine Recipes Are Wrapped In Love
Well, I just finished making a batch of my Grandmother’s molasses cookies, and boy, they sure look beautiful, if I do say so myself. Just like I remember.
I have Grammy’s recipe written in her shaky hand on white (now yellow) lined paper. The thing even has Grammy’s molasses stains on it. My mother had it laminated for me years ago, and I’ve used it so much it’s starting to separate along the edges.
The thing I like most about this recipe is that in the margin at the top of the page, over “Old Fashioned Drop Molasses Cookies,” my Grandmother has written, “My best.” Underlined, just like that. With a period, not an exclamation mark. It was a truth she was certain of.
Grammy used to make these cookies like crazy around the holidays, and give them away in fancy tins. But she always baked up a batch toward the end of March, beginning of April, too. Molasses cookies are a cold-weather dessert, so these end-of-winter cookies had a special meaning. They were a signal that spring was around the corner, that we wouldn’t have molasses cookies again until October. So, as the crocuses are just starting to poke their hopeful green heads up between our dwindling patches of snow already melting from last week’s storm, I try once again to follow Grammy’s lead.
Her recipe yields about sixty cookies, so making them takes a long time. I’ve tried cutting the recipe in half, but it doesn’t work. It calls for “sour milk,” or “buttermilk,” or “regular milk, to which vinegar has been added.” And after you mix it up, you have to “let it stand 1 hr.”
But here’s the deal: while the cookies smell like my Grammy’s as they’re cooking, they don’t taste like hers. Why, I’ve always wondered?
It’s the same with “Mom’s Dessert.” This is a treat my father’s mother, who we called “Mom,” used to make. Not only is it delicious, but easy as all get out.
What you do is whip up some cream, then add Hershey syrup to it for flavor. Then you take the chocolate whipped cream and slather it over both sides of a graham cracker, and one by one, stick a bunch of graham crackers together to form a loaf. As if this wasn’t enough, you frost the outside of the loaf with more chocolate whipped cream, and put it in the fridge to sit overnight. The next day, decorate your creation with some multi-colored sprinkles and serve. The graham crackers absorb the whipped cream and you end up with this dense, rich, chocolaty dessert which is good, but not as tasty as when Mom made it.
Now, I think I know why the baked chicken or roast pork of today don’t taste like my grandmothers’. The animals are raised different, and they put I-don’t-want-to-know what into the feed. Even the organic meat my niece Caitlin gets don’t taste like what I remember, (though it’s closer).
But dessert ingredients are basically the same, right? I mean, flour is flour. Whipped cream is, well, heavenly, and Hershey syrup can’t have changed that much. Still, I can follow these recipes to the letter, and please most everyone who eats ‘em, but to me, they’re not the same. To me, they taste more like the memory of Grammy’s molasses cookies or Mom’s dessert: almost, but not quite. It’s like the full flavor is just out of reach.
Maybe it’s my taste buds that have changed, and nothing’s going to ever taste as good as it used to. Maybe those desserts tasted better ‘cause someone else made ‘em; or that in my child’s mind, they were all wrapped up in love.
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
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