Recipes from the Past
Now and then my mother will come across some documents from my grandparents’ house in Amite and share them with me. They’re always fascinating, but this weekend she gave me a bunch of recipes, most of which were handwritten by my grandmother.
The first one I saw was actually addressed to me, on her stationary.
Here are the instructions for your cake and I’m sending you some cake too.
Your Irish potatoes have come up.”
The other side of the paper has the recipe, which I will share with you shortly so that you will understand why it was my favorite birthday cake.
My grandmother was a frugal woman, and the particular piece of her stationary on which she wrote the note and recipe was originally dated April 9, 1973, addressed, “Dear Olga,” and started, “We want to express our… ” The date and the salutation were scratched out.
My grandfather was the president of SLU for many years, and they both had a lot of friends. I suspect she wrote a lot of notes expressing regrets, condolences, happiness and pride. I do remember their garden when I was a child and when I go back to their house in Amite I can still see the remnants of the furrows in the back field.
I wish I could remember planting potatoes with my grandfather, because apart from the fact that it had to be after April 9, 1973 and couldn’t have been much later than March 7, 1979, I don’t know when she wrote it. It’s not the most important thing, because I have the recipe and I hope to share some more of them in the near future – including those which call for canned soup and “Oleo,” which is a thing I am old enough to remember.
Here is the recipe as she wrote it in her beautiful script:
Heavenly Hash Cake
Preheat oven to 350°
1 stick of butter melted & cooled
1 cup sugar
¾ cup self-rising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup chopped pecans
To melted butter add sugar and beat lightly, add eggs one at a time. Add remaining ingredients. Pour into pan lined with waxed paper, bake 30 minutes only.
½ large bag marshmallows cut in half. Place on cake while cake is still hot.
1 box powdered sugar
½ stick of butter
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 or 3 tablespoons cream or milk
Mix and pour over cake.”
Kids it doesn’t get any better than this. When you put the marshmallows on the hot cake they start to melt and then you pour the warm “frosting” (which is more like fudge) on top and it’s go-time. The pecans really make it, so don’t skimp on them.
There are things missing from this recipe that my grandmother didn’t think worth including. Also it was a pretty small piece of paper. Things like the size of the pan in which you bake the cake: I know it was square and in my memory it was huge. It was probably a square, 9” pyrex-type dish. I also suspect she was using a stand mixer as opposed to beating everything by hand but I can’t say that for sure.
I know I’m not the only member of her family that wishes we could have gotten her to write down recipes for a lot of the things she cooked, because most of what we have are things she didn’t cook all that often. She wouldn’t have understood why we’d want a recipe for fried chicken with milk gravy any more than I feel like my kids need a recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich.
It’s always possible she wrote more recipes that we’ll find tucked into one cookbook or another. But I’m happy with what I have and my memories of her whistling in the kitchen. I do that too, now and I also have the bad habit of being over-critical of my own cooking. She gave me those things and a love of cooking and I’m grateful.
It’s nice to feel grateful these days.