Food Memories

This is another post originally written for my personal blog. I am re-purposing it  because it's about family food memories, as well as the trials of cooking with kids around! My grandmother passed away several years ago. There are still certain foods that make me think instantly of her- pickled cucumber and onion salad, home-canned fruit, and home made cookies:

We all walk in to Grandma's house through the back door. Only strangers knock at the front- a door which sticks a bit when pulled open, from lack of use. There are two doors to walk though around back- the first leads to a forerunner of the modern mud room: an enclosed patio where my grandpa leaves his boots and coveralls on his way in to the house. The next door leads straight into the kitchen. I open the door but before walking into the room I check the cookie jar. It is located on a shelf about knee level on a grown up just to the left. Cousins older than me might have a better memory but in my mind it's a green plastic tub with a brown lid; maybe an old ice cream container? It always has cookies in it. Oh, the cookies. They're not like your grandma's cookies(which I am sure are wonderful). They are puffy and soft, with a texture more like a little bite of cake. They are full of chopped nuts and chocolate chips. They might have cocoa powder mixed in to the batter, making them doubly chocolaty. They might have raisins in them which some people like. Not me, but you might. There are lots of variations, all freshly made by Grandma, who never sits idle. In fact right now as I grab a cookie (or two) she calls up to me from the basement where she's working on a new quilt. The quilts she makes (and stockpiles for future newly weds or babies) in that basement room with the super low ceiling. As a kid it didn't matter so much but an adult has to duck to enter. I sit down and listen to her talk, polishing off my cookies as she tells me about people I've never met. I like to hear these stories because, like the cookies, they are familiar and comforting.

I have been fascinated over the past few weeks with recipes from my childhood. Is it a reaction to aging? An attempt to recapture my youth? I emailed my grandma to ask her about this cookie recipe. She is now 95 and living in a retirement community. She hasn't made a batch of cookies in over 10 years. She no longer has her old recipe box containing this recipe. She recalled having gotten the recipe from her sister in law and said it was originally for a raisin filled cookie. She adapted it into many different flavors of cookie over the years and luckily, my dad carried on the tradition. My mom sent me the recipe. Here it is:

Grandma's cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 c margarine
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
4 eggs
2 t vanilla
1 c buttermilk
5 c flour
5 t baking powder
4 T cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
12 oz chocolate chips
1 c chopped nuts

1. Cream the margarine with the sugars. Add the eggs. Add the vanilla and the buttermilk.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, whisk to combine.
3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix just to combine.
4.Fold in nuts and chocolate chips.
5. Drop by the tablespoon on a cookie sheet. (I line the sheet with parchment or silpat) Bake 12-15 minutes.

You can tell from the batter that this isn't a typical cookie recipe. The batter is much closer to a cake batter, leading me to wonder what would happen if I spread the batter in a cake pan. I have some left over. Maybe I'll try that and let you know. Here's one bit of advice for you if you want to try making these cookies: don't try to make them with Caitlin and Banjo. I kept tripping over the dog, who likes to sprawl right in the middle of the kitchen. It's not that big of a kitchen and he's not that small of a dog. Caitlin loves to help me cook. It's very sweet. Also she makes a huge mess, asks nonstop questions and in this case, coughed all over the food. But somehow we got the cookies on the tray and in the oven.

You can see that the cookies don't change in size and shape all that much. I am not sure if that's how Grandma's were too or if that is a result of the distractions I had while making the batter.

They are indeed, soft and puffy-just like Grandma's. There is only the slightest hint of crunch on the bottom of the cookie where it sat on the cookie tray. They are a little dryer than a slice of cake, which helps them hold their shape. They remind me of the cookies used in those homemade Oreos. Which makes sense, since those are actually made from cake batter. Hmmm....That's given me an idea.