Monday, May 23, 2011

Moms and Grandmoms

Inspired by Satid and Trilety to write my own story, I have a few things to say about my early years as an amateur baker...

I didn't really do any baking. Ha! Well, not until I was older, but I want to talk about the very first inklings and memories. So I'll tell you that I loved to help my mother and my grandmothers when they did it. Chocolate chip banana bread and decorated Christmas sugar cookies from Mom, special birthday cakes from Grandma Anderson; and apple pies from Grandma Butch.

At first I couldn't remember my Mom baking very much. She was busy. A single mother of three for most of my childhood and she worked full time. When the heck did she have time to bake?! But she did it. She made time, which is something that I appreciate more and more as I get older. And I remember her baking cookies and birthday cakes for us as we watched with big eyes fixed on the amount of batter left in the bowl and on the beaters.

One thing Mom made time for every year during the holidays, was sugar cookies. My brothers and I helped decorate these. A nice layer of icing made from powdered sugar and milk, tinted with some food coloring was the... icing... on the... cookie. We decorated with blues and greens, reds and yellows, and white as well. I don't remember having brown colored icing which makes me wonder what color went on our reindeer cookies ... perhaps red or blue? And we had sprinkles too, red hots and nonpareils and silver balls. A thoughtful activity on Mom's part that resulted in one of my fondest memories. It's interesting to see what ends up having an impact on us later in life...

Mom also made banana bread. It was fabulous! She would save up our browned, goopy, ripe bananas and store them in the freezer. A freezer full of bananas! And while in there they got to be as black as night. Those are good banana bread bananas, the black ones. And she put hundreds in her banana bread, or so it seemed. And chocolate chips too. Oh my! The result was such a moist, banana and chocolate affair, it was futile to resist. My older brother Jason still speaks of it as if it were legend.

Grandma Anderson, this is my mom's mom. She and my grandpa raised my mother and her sisters on a farm in northwest Iowa. Grandma did a lot of cooking, and baking. By the time her grandchildren began showing up, she had mastered the family meal. And she was thoughtful enough to make birthday cakes for each of us when we came for a visit. Looking back, it seems as though the cakes were all different. I remember brown ones and white, yellow and pink. And the best part was the sprinkles on top. Birthday cakes have become something special to me. A birthday is a day to have a cake of your very own. Everyone deserves a birthday cake!

Grandma Butch babysat us often while we were on summer vacation from school and Mom was at work during the day. She was a perfect combination of strict and loving. And she made pies, which was part of her love. In our backyard grew three crab apple trees. Those apples were tart and gross to eat, but that makes them great for baking! So Grandma Butch had us gather apples from our trees; bigger apples with minimal holes from bugs. As we brought them in she began peeling and slicing. I remember her wearing a green cobbler apron with white patterns. And as she sliced apples, she would talk and I would learn. The apple slices went into a large Pyrex bowl with sugar and cinnamon. The pie crusts were rolled carefully and evenly. Once the bottom crust was in the plate with the apples piled on top, Grandma would let me pinch the top crust on around the edges and slice the vent holes too. There is a lot of bonding done through baking. I see now how the passing on of information this way is so precious.

It turns out that the time and presence and love my family gave through their baking, have inspired me to do the same.


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