Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tender Moments

On August 7th, my beloved grandmother passed away. Her death has been difficult to bear, and I've struggled to adjust to a world in which she no longer lives. However, as difficult as her passing has been, it has also been a beautiful time of reflection for me, and I've been able to spend a lot of time thinking about my beautiful grandmother, and teaching my children about her.

One of my grandma's greatest legacies is her food. There is such a rich tradition in food. Food is comforting. Food brings people together. Food marks milestones and holidays and other such celebrations. As I've spent time in the kitchen recreating a couple of her signature dishes, I've felt close to Granma (how we spell it when we are referring to her), and the emptiness I feel at her passing becomes filled somehow. Filled with gratitude, and love, and joy at her memory.

The first thing I made, was Granma's famous Peanut Butter Finger bars. This was a special treat Granma would make us for birthdays, special occasions, family parties. I followed the recipe as best as I could, but they didn't quite turn out as perfect as Granma made them.
 Then I attempted to make a traditional Ulster fry. Grandma was born in Belfast Ireland, and immigrated to the United States when she was a young wife and mother of three, bringing with her a rich, Irish and British heritage that she taught to her children and grandchildren. Granma once wrote, "America has been good to us but then we have been good to America. We always vote and have encouraged our children to vote. We have taught them to be good citizens at the same time recognizing their British culture. We feel we have done a good job." They sure did, and do. 

"Sody" bread 

"Tady" bread

Let's pretend my Ulster fry looked like this. It didn't, but it tasted good.
As I prepared the Ulster fry, I listened to traditional music, and cried, fried and cried. The tears were equal parts bitter and sweet. Her death was certainly not wanted, nor has it been easy, but there has been a lot of tender moments had by my family and I, and more than anything, I'm grateful for my Granma and the legacy she gave us.

In honor of my Granma, I wanted to share her famous Peanut Butter bars (they might as well be called Beanut Butter Bars) in her own words: 

3/4 cup marg.

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 sugar

cream together

add 1 egg

1tsp vanilla

3/4 cup p'nut butter  (I always use creamy but you can use chunky)

Then stir in:

11/2 cups oatmeal

1 cup flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

bake at 350 for 13 minutes.

As I spread the dough in the cookie sheet I do not spread it to the full extent of the pan. I make a "well" about 3/4 inch around the perimeter. This allows for expansion. This expansion happens because we use margarine. I have tried Crisco shortening which does not expand but I do not like the taste. Also, I have used the mixer to mix in the flour but decide I like the texture better with stirring the flour etc. with a wooden spoon.

When cool, spread peanut butter, a thin layer. I do it while there is still some heat in it as it will be easier to spread. :o)

When completely cold cut into bars and spread with frosting.  I will freeze it for an hour, it makes it easier to spread the frosting.

I use Betty Crocker frosting, but you can make your own:

2 cups powered sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

1stick marg.

Mix together with mixer and add milk, about 1/4 cup. Until you get the consistency you desire.

I do not put thick layers of p'nut butter and frosting. I do not like too much frosting anytime.

"I took these to work one time and upon request gave the recipe to one of my co-workers. She came back and accused me of leaving out something because hers did not taste like mine. I tried to assure her i had given her the proper recipe but she would not be pacified. So eventually I said you are right Laree, I did leave out an ingredient, Then I showed her how I licked my finger and stirred it into the mixture. LOL 
She gave up."--Bea Marsden

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