How to Cook Cod Pil-Pil for Your Son-In-Law and His Mates

Drive sixty miles to La Sucursal in Lugo. They sell the best salt cod; it doesn’t flake and will leave your son-in-law and his mates (and, of course, yourself) satisfied. Why Lugo, in the interior, has better cod to offer than your town, on the coast, remains a mystery.

Immerse the cod in a bowl of water under a cloth so that it can free itself of the salt. Leave for forty-eight hours and change the water every twelve. Shake your head every time your grandchildren come into the kitchen to check if the cod is still under the cloth.

1882 Eva Ferry.jpg

In a clay pot coated with olive oil (generously), brown a chopped head of garlic and eight chilies. Take out and replace with the cod, skin on the outside. Grab the sides of the pot with both hands and shake firmly, in circles. Do it for twenty minutes: it is vital that you don’t stop, even after the sweat starts to pour. The grandchildren will stare at the cod as it lets out its fat to produce the thick, white sauce known as pil-pil.

Dish up with the garlic and chili. Join your son-in-law and his mates in the basement and enjoy your dinner. Your grandchildren will eat their soup in the kitchen, but make sure they eat a bit of cod too: fish is an acquired taste and it is important they start early.

 

- Originally from Galicia in Spain and a resident of Glasgow in Scotland, Eva Ferry's fiction and non-fiction work has been published or is forthcoming in Salome Lit, The Public Domain Review, The Corvus Review, The Cold Creek Review, Foliate Oak and Novelty Magazine, among others.

Cabbage Rolls On Vicodin

Mom and I come up to help you and Pap after you get your knees replaced. Pap’s old-school, a Greatest Generation guy who’s only comfortable cooking BLTs, maybe an egg or two. Mom and I trade off tasks, but we want to leave you with sustenance: your trademark cabbage rolls.

From your bed, you sleepily tell us the ingredients. The filling is half ground pork, half ground beef, a kind of rice they don’t make anymore (I parboil regular rice), chopped onion, eggs. The cabbage, you say, should be dense. Feel how much it weighs. For the sauce, get Campbell’s tomato soup, the big cans. We’ll also want to get a can of chopped tomatoes to put on the bottom on the pot along with the pieces of the cabbage we cut off so the bottom rolls don’t burn. The sauerkraut should be the kind with caraway seeds. Remember to squeeze it.

Gram, on the phone with the author

Gram, on the phone with the author

Pap helps you out of your room while Mom and I smoosh together the filling. We’re using your big pot to boil the cabbage—not the heavy one of my childhood that gave us your pot roasts, but a lighter one that one of your kids must have gotten you. You tell us to put the whole head in there; stick a fork in the core, and with a knife, cut off the leaves as they get tender and stack them off to the side. “Be careful. You’ll get …”—you search for words, even though you’re nothing if not precise—“… hot hands.” Mom and I look at each other and realize that you’re kind of high from your pain medication. But you’re also right. You remember all this, even behind the curtain of Vicodin, the lessons of your Polish mother.

You show us how to form the cabbage rolls, using a sharp knife to trim the edges. “Tuck in the ends. Not like that. Like this. You don’t want them to fall apart.” You do one before you need to rest. Mom and I are both amateurs at this—it’s a miracle of pharmacology and aging that we’re allowed to use your kitchen—but we do our best.

I’m assembling and layering the cabbage rolls in the pot, and I run out of tomato soup. I scrabble through the cupboards because I know I don’t have time to go to the store, not if you and Pap will eat at a decent hour. I come up with some Prego.

We wake you. We ask you if it’s okay that we use Prego in the cabbage rolls. “Some people do,” you say.

“Some people,” I realize too late, translates into “some poor fools who weren’t taught right.” (Later, you’ll tell Mom, “I don’t know why I said that!” and laugh.) We ruin the cabbage rolls and know it almost immediately—but you eat a little over the mashed potatoes that Mom made and say, “I love you, my angels.”

 

Jennifer Niesslein is the editor of Full Grown People and the author of Practically Perfect in Every Way. You can read more about her Gram, a bootlegger’s granddaughter, in Jennifer’s essay “Before We Were Good White.”

 

How To Be A Racist And Raise Your Granddaughter To Be An Anti-Racist On The Sly

My Cumby grandfather’s racism lay curled around the stoop rail like a concrete hound made alive. Heavy, slow, heaving - almost too much trouble to keep up with breathing. Somehow, it sighed.

Once, as a child, he said, he and his brothers had tied a black child to a tree and played slavery. A child myself, I put a finger in my mouth to pay excruciating attention to a hangnail. My hands my tell clear as tea leaves.

The story went on. The child was no more than three. My grandfather no more than six or seven. They were neighbors. I’ve been to the site of both houses. Nothing but glass from broken tail lights and disembodied flocks of daffodils show there was ever anything there. Lumber company land now.

“It was all in fun,” he said.

I don’t think it’d be fun to be tied to a tree. I’d be scared.

“Well no one would do that to you.”

I’d fight and scream and cry.

“I’d come a-running. I wouldn’t let them.”

No one stopped you, Hugh.

“No one needed to.”

Who would have? Stopped you.

“No one.”

Alright, then.

“No one stopped you, Hugh” could have been his epitaph if he hadn’t been cremated. His ashes blew in our mouths as we tried to say the things you say when someone dies. We pretended against the wind.

Cumby derives from Cambow. Our first American ancestor was African. Remembered now.

image by Meredith Counts

image by Meredith Counts

- Jennifer Cumby is an editor at Dead Housekeeping.

How to Name a Daughter

Don’t rush into a name for the fetus. It’s just a bump, just a lump in your housedress that will maybe come to nothing after all: you’re not eating well, he drinks too much. The Depression has its hooks in you womb-deep.

Don’t hurry to name your baby. There’s so many of them and they die so young so often. She cries when she’s born; a good sign, a strong baby, but anything can happen.

illustration by the author

illustration by the author


Take your time naming your toddler. You’ve lost children already; you can lose this one too. Farmer’s rules: don’t name the animals you’ll have to slaughter. Don’t name the children that die, unrecorded. 

Call your little girl Precious and Darlin and Princess. She is the youngest and could be any of those things, barefoot in the red clay dust of the yard. Eventually she will return from her first day of school – so big! – asking “Mama, what’s my name?”

Say the first thing that comes into your head.

 

- Rowan Beckett Grigsby is the less-censored less-palatable alter ego of an attorney who might want to work in this town again someday. Professional editor and graphic designer by day and professional knitter by night, she has been an Unchaste Reader, a contributor to Ask a Raging Feminist, a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee and one of BlogHer's 2017 Voices of the Year for work we consider required reading, including "How to survive in intersectional feminist spaces 101."   

Rowan has also told us How to Clean your Plate and How to Have Nice Things.

How to Make an Introduction

Pull your fat address book out of your overstuffed tote bag and browse the names, all of them, the old friends and the grandchildren and the people you’ve met at City Council and in elder hostels and in line at Publix. Consult your notes to find two people with something in common: a glass-paperweight collection, a love of Star Trek, children the same age. Get on the phone and invite them to your condo for lunch.

Put on your best summer pantsuit. Check your teeth for errant lipstick. Pop a Tic-Tac. Pull your shoulders back: posture is important. Roll out plastic runners to protect the carpet. Gather the piles of papers and photos and books that have accumulated on tables and in corners and put them in the bedroom, where no one is allowed to peek. Put fresh guest soaps on the bathroom sink.

Answer the door with a rush of joy and a 1930s-sorority-girl lilt in your voice. Invite your guests in. Find one unusual thing about each of them to compliment. Offer them iced tea. Tell them what they have in common. Regale each with stories about the other until their formality melts into laughter. 

Recall with a start that you have not made lunch. Open the oven. Realize that it’s full of stored photos, and that your toaster does not work. Offer to microwave some bread for everyone. 

While your guests nibble politely at their hot, soggy slices, call the Yacht Club for a lunch table. As you usher your guests out the door, stop them in a sunny spot in front of some palmettos for photos. Count down to the shutter: One, two, oops, just a second, one, two, three. 

A few months later, mail these to each guest, names and dates carefully noted on the back of each photo, with an apologetic note scrawled on the envelope: you’d addressed and stamped but then shifted them to the back bedroom and forgot to mail them. Your guests will understand.

 

- Sarah Grey is a writer and editor based in Fishtown. She writes about food, politics, society, and language. Her work has appeared in Best Food Writing 2015SaveurLucky PeachSerious Eats, BitchJacobin, and Edible Philly, and in several anthologies. She received the 2016 Robinson Prize for Excellence in Copy Editing from the American Copy Editors Society. Find her on Twitter at @greyediting and on Instagram at @FridayNightMeatballs.

How To Fold Sheets

“Tuck the corners into the ears,” you tell me from across the vast ocean of a bed sheet. You shake it, snap it, and I rock backward from your energy. Half a beat behind, I fold my corners and think of a minuet I learned in second grade. The “ears” are pockets made by the fitted corners. On your side of this housekeeping dance, one ear folds into another, makes a seashell.

My sheet ears are sloppy, soft, as if I can’t hear how to make edges.

When I was little, you made my bed with hospital corners. Why we knew how hospitals folded their sheets so tightly is another story, a long one. Tuck the bottom end under the mattress in one swipe, then tuck each hanging-over side under the mattress in two more swipes. It should look like an envelope, you say.

This is a thing I learn. With you dead three years now, and hospital corners on my beds for nearly fifty years, I wake if a sheet comes untucked at my feet. It rarely does, because those corners are tight.

The day you refolded every sheet in my linen closet, you tucked ears into ears, made origami of pillow cases. When you were done, you labeled your work with index cards. “Yellow sheets, guest room,” you wrote. “Blue sheets, king sized.”

"My mother, holding me before I could fold anything."

"My mother, holding me before I could fold anything."

- Jessica Handler is the author of Invisible Sisters: A Memoir, named by the Georgia Center for the Book one of the “Twenty Five Books All Georgians Should Read.” Atlanta Magazine called it the “Best Memoir of 2009.”  Her second book, Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss, was praised by Vanity Fair magazine as “a wise and encouraging guide.” Her nonfiction has appeared on NPR, in Tin House, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, The Bitter Southerner, Drunken Boat, Newsweek, The Washington Post, More Magazine, and elsewhere. Honors include residencies at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, a 2010 Emerging Writer Fellowship from The Writers Center, the 2009 Peter Taylor Nonfiction Fellowship for the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop, and special mention for a 2008 Pushcart Prize. She teaches at Oglethorpe University and lectures internationally on writing well about trauma. www.jessicahandler.com.

Annabelle Cleans House, Part 3: Kitchen and Laundry

The final part of three. Read parts 1 and 2 here and here.

Go down to the laundry room in the basement and start a load of wash. Go back upstairs.

Dump out your cold coffee and pour a third cup. Your kitchen is already clean—you clean it three times a day, after every meal. On Saturday you scrub the floor. Fill a bucket with hot water and Lysol, start at the sink and work your way backwards, scrubbing the floor on your hands and knees. Curse the old linoleum that has no finish left on it. Yell at the first kid brave enough to come downstairs, “Don’t you dare come in here, the floor is wet!”

Leave the bucket at the doorway and go down to the basement. Put the clean wash in the dryer. Start another load in the washer. Go back upstairs.

All the kids are in the living room now watching cartoons, shivering under afghans you’ve knitted and eating dry cereal out of the box. Tell them if they make one speck of dirt you’ll paddle their behinds—but good! Find your cold coffee, dump it out, pour a fourth cup and sit at the kitchen table to drink it.

Get up, splash some liquid wax on the floor and spread it around with a sponge mop. Finish your coffee while the wax dries. Then, give each of the kids a pair of their father’s wool socks to put on their feet and tell them to skate around on the kitchen floor to polish the wax. It’s not necessary, but it’s fun for them and their laughing makes you smile.

Close all the windows and doors and turn the heat back on.

The author with Annabelle, her mom.

The author with Annabelle, her mom.

Judith Liebaert is a freelance writer living in rural Wisconsin, where she is restoring an 11-foot vintage Decamp travel trailer to use for her escape with Gypsy Cat. Aside from her regular gigs writing for regional B2B mags, her short stories and essays have appeared in Aqueous Magazine, Maximum Middle Age, and Ravishly along with numerous now defunct lit-mags pre the interwebs. Her debut novel, Sins Of The Fathers, was released by Tellectual Press on June 18, 2016, a story inspired by the still unsolved homicide of a young boy in her small Midwestern town, in the summer of 1966.

Annabelle Cleans House, Part 2: The Main Floor

Continued from yesterday.

Throw open every door and window of the main floor, even in winter when it’s 30 degrees below zero. Turn the heat off so your husband doesn’t blow a gasket overheating the all-out-doors.

Find your cup of cold coffee and dump it out.  Pour a second cup from the pot. Take a few sips and set it down.

Go through the house relocating clutter to appropriate places. Pile upstairs things at the bottom of the staircase. Gripe about everybody else in the family having two broken arms. Make sure they hear you. If the toilet flushes, yell up the stairs, “You’d better not make a mess in that bathroom I just cleaned!”

Pick up all the scatter-rugs and toss them out the door onto the front porch. Strong-arm the sofa and chairs around while you vacuum, to get at the dust bunnies underneath. Remove all the cushions. Retrieve anything of value—pencils, small toys, loose change—then vacuum up the Sugar Smacks, popcorn, bread crumbs, and other crud while griping about how many times you’ve told the kids not to eat in the living room. Put the vacuum away. Do the dusting.

Go outside to shake the rugs, making them crack in the wind. Wait until you are back inside to curse the damnable dust, so the neighbors won’t think you’re crazy. Be sure the kid’s here you.

Lay all the rugs back in place then go look for your cup of coffee.

The House on the Lake, the last house Annabelle ever cleaned.

The House on the Lake, the last house Annabelle ever cleaned.

Judith Liebaert is a freelance writer living in rural Wisconsin, where she is restoring an 11-foot vintage Decamp travel trailer to use for her escape with Gypsy Cat. Aside from her regular gigs writing for regional B2B mags, her short stories and essays have appeared in Aqueous Magazine, Maximum Middle Age, and Ravishly along with numerous now defunct lit-mags pre the interwebs. Her debut novel, Sins Of The Fathers, was released by Tellectual Press on June 18, 2016, a story inspired by the still-unsolved homicide of a young boy in her small Midwestern town, in the summer of 1966.

Annabelle Cleans House, Part 1: Bed, Bath, & Hallway

Editor's note: This triptych of how-to remembrances was so fresh and funny, we decided to run them as a serial. See here for Part 2, and here for Part 3.

It’s Saturday. Wake up at the crack of dawn. Start the coffee. Run your fingers over a bar of Ivory, caking the soap under each nail. The soap will soften your nails and keep them from breaking while you work your fingers to the bone.

Pour a cup of coffee, take a few sips, then set your cup down and forget where it is.

Start upstairs with your bedroom, the hallway, and the bathroom. The kids can clean their own pig pens later; let them pretend to sleep for now. You know they are pretending because you’ve already made enough noise, wrestling the behemoth Electrolux up the stairs, to wake their dead grandmothers.

Vacuum first, then dust, because vacuuming raises more dust. Bang the vacuum against the kids’ bedroom doors whenever you think about the futility of that.

Annabelle’s home from 1959 until 1975, where she kept house and raised four children

Annabelle’s home from 1959 until 1975, where she kept house and raised four children

In the bathroom, rinse the tub and sink then sprinkle heavily with Comet cleanser. Wearing rubber gloves, scrub surfaces lightly with damp sponge and leave the pasty bleach to work on the stains of the worn porcelain while you clean the toilet. Cuss at the hard water stains in the bowl. Flush. Return to the tub and scrub harder, cussing more, then rinse. Repeat for the sink. Windex the mirror, then use the same paper towel to polish the faucets.

Fill a bucket with hot water and Lysol. Scrub the floor on your hands and knees, working your way backwards out the door, cussing at the mildew-stained grout between the ugly, tiny, hexagon tiles.

Carry the bucket downstairs and look for your cup of coffee.

Tomorrow and Thursday: Parts 2 and 3.

Judith Liebaert is a freelance writer living in rural Wisconsin, where she is restoring an 11-foot vintage Decamp travel trailer to use for her escape with Gypsy Cat. Aside from her regular gigs writing for regional B2B mags, her short stories and essays have appeared in Aqueous Magazine, Maximum Middle Age, and Ravishly, along with numerous now defunct lit-mags pre the interwebs. Her debut novel, Sins Of The Fathers, was released by Tellectual Press on June 18, 2016, a story inspired by the still unsolved homicide of a young boy in her small Midwestern town, in the summer of 1966.

Traveling Pies

Hugh Brown. Short-order cook, carpenter, mechanic, soldier, postman and racehorse trainer. Clown, Lutheran, baseball lover, habitual repairer and master builder. He built his family a three-story house in the early ‘50s. He built me a rockinghorse when I was a baby. He built damn good pies too ... Pumpkin and pecan at Thanksgiving (with pies it’s never EITHER always BOTH). Apple, hot with vanilla ice cream or cold with a slice of sharp cheddar. Cherry for my little brother’s birthday. Blueberry. Strawberry rhubarb. Peach when he visited us down south. Vidalia onion, once (or my memory’s wishful & hungry). Hugh knew: Damn good pies are built to be shared. A pie must travel or it’s just plain gloating. 

To ensure your pie arrives alive, you will need a pie carrier. You will build it like one of your pies: with your own hands, and alongside someone you can still teach to crack eggs or hammer straight. You’ll use simple tools, scrap wood, nails & screws, a whittled wooden handle. Your pie carrier will have a sliding door and a removable shelf. It will hold one tall cake or two classic pies. 

You’ll tape a label to the handle. Times New Roman, tiny American flag. Your name and the address of the assisted-living apartment you’ll move to when the tall house trounces your hip replacements. You’ll build pies there through your mid- 80s. 

Eventually, you will forget to put your constructions into the oven. You roll crusts, mix fillings, and end up elsewhere, derailed. The sturdy portable two-story pie carrier will wait on the kitchen table, its sliding mouth full of invisible passengers.

 

-Emily DeDakis is the daughter of a musician and a journalist. She grew up in the Southeast U.S. and emigrated to Belfast, N. Ireland, in 2005. As dramaturg & producer for Accidental Theatre, Emily has developed scripts with dozens of playwrights. Dramaturgy credits include: Gordon Osràm’s Funeral (2016); The Lost Martini (2015); The Kitchen, the Bedroom & the Grave  – winner of a Stewart Parker Trust award (2014); & The Dutiful Wife (2013). She founded the Belfast version of Fast & Loose, a 24-hour theatre project now in its 10th year. Emily’s prose has appeared in The VacuumThe Yellow NibUlster TatlerPoetry Proper, and on 2SER (Sydney). She is currently working on Shipwrecks & Lighthouses (a stage play), Stowaway City (a soundwalk) and F R E A K  FLOODS (a text-sound collaboration with harpist Úna Monaghan). 

(psst: See the companion story to "Traveling Pies" on our Noteworthy blog.)

How to Give a Thank-You Wave

When Dad jumped behind the wheel of a car, all the goodwill he had for mankind came along for the ride. Which explains his penchant for thank-you waving.

If he encountered a fellow driver who slowed down to let him merge or pull out onto a busy street, he appreciated the courtesy and thank-you waved with gusto. You could tell by his rapid, crisp delivery that Dad believed these salutes communicated great power and righteousness.

When Owen “Truck” Roberts served up a thank-you wave, you knew it came from the heart. His version was no weary, weak-wristed raise of the palm.

the author's father, Owen "Truck" Roberts had a penchant for a friendly thank-you wave

the author's father, Owen "Truck" Roberts had a penchant for a friendly thank-you wave

If our car met another at an intersection, and the opposing driver motioned Dad to go first, Truck looked through the windshield, locked eyes with his fellow road warrior and snapped his hand forward, face-high with fingers tight and upright , like tiny soldiers.

“Hey, thanks buddy,” he’d say as his hand flew off the steering wheel. Sometimes he extended his right arm across the inside windshield, so if you had the shotgun seat you had to be prepared for a hand in front of your face. If you were on the receiving end, you couldn’t miss it. Dad’s salutes could cut through the thickest morning fog or the heaviest afternoon traffic.

Those thank-you waves were a lot like him, really: quick, clear and full of life.

- Linda Miller is a freelance writer living in Berks County, PA, who devotes much of her time to writing essays and stories about a happy childhood spent with her Mom, nicknamed Mick, and her Dad, Truck, and her brother John. Truck was well known around their small town, Slatington, PA, as a gregarious teacher addicted to great jokes, Laurel & Hardy movies, fishing, working with Veteran's groups, and watching cartoons with his children and granddaughter

Preserving Time

Perfect sun-warmed peaches fill baskets slung on my arm in August. A recipe from my mother reads “Pfirsiche,” but I hardly need it. That day, my granddaughter fetches the folded paper. She is a struwwelpeter, a messy child, whose hair catches on the fly paper hanging in the barn. She needs taming, and I start with teaching her to preserve peaches.

I tie an apron behind my neck, as we begin putting time in a bottle.  We wash a dozen quart-size jars with Ivory liquid in the porcelain sink. Rainbow bubbles escape into the sunlight streaming through the wavy glass of the farmhouse windows. Her smooth young hands—a contrast to my wrinkled ones—reach out to catch them.

The author's grandmother and great-grandmother, picking peaches in 1943

The author's grandmother and great-grandmother, picking peaches in 1943

Dropping the clean glass into pots of boiling water with tongs, I set the timer to twenty. I show her how to schnibble with a paring knife, and she fills a red enamel bowl to the brim, my clever Schnookzie.

Add the zucker and the salz, I say, teaching her German as we cook—two-cups per two- cups per bowlful. Easy. I want her to remember. She rolls lemons under her palm, halves them, squeezes out the juice. Mixing everything together with my hands, I tell her, these will be the best tools in your kitchen. I sprinkle in ein kleines of vanilla, which we both pronounce a klex into the filled jars.  Sealing the lids, I say, wait for the magic.  Peng! go the tops, and she laughs.

- Ryder Ziebarth is a writer, a gardener and a mother, who lives on a hay farm in Central New Jersey where her daughter is fifth generation. Ryder received her MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2016 and has been published in Brevity, The New York Times, N Magazine and is currently working on a memoir about her life on Cedar Ridge Farm.

Caring for Cut Roses

You are not my Grandmother. You are kind. My Uncle's mom. 

We are in South Texas. You and your amiable husband snow bird here, in this mobile home retirement park, just above the border. 

My only Grandmother is thorny, cruel; pitting her daughters against each other, stepping back as victim. I'm a child. I can see this. 

I don't know how to do the things my mom and Grandmother do well--sew, cook, create. When I want to learn, I'm told no. It would be too messy. You're in the way. Just go. These are some of the familial secrets kept for the few, to hold over the rest. 'Look at all of this I did. Look at all this I made. By myself.' 

Image via the author

Image via the author

On this trip, you ask me to help you pick flowers--fragrant tea roses. We go outside after dinner. You let me cut them--vivid magenta and orange blooms. You let me hold and carry them, guiding me. When we go inside, you show me how to: 

run warm water
fill a sink or a bowl
submerge stems
trim at an angle under water, above a node
small slit the stem to force water up the bloom
transfer to vase, arrange
drop a penny in

They'll last longer. 

Image via the author

Image via the author

You are patient, teaching, content to be with me. 

Each trailer plot has a citrus tree growing on it. Each tree is in bloom. I fall asleep breathing in grapefruit, tangerine. It's Easter. 

We never meet again.

- Jill McKenna Reed stewards bees, helps beekeepers, and writes poems in Portland, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in Vinyl Poetry & Prose, thethepoetry, Gobshite Quarterly and others. She's native to Chicagoland.

Save the Bows

It’s early and you’ve barely put in your teeth and combed your strawberry blonde hair with a plastic comb made at the factory where you work, but your velour robe and house slippers are perfectly matched.

The author's grandmother at 18 years-old

The author's grandmother at 18 years-old

Gifts are opened in order by age. There is a big, black trash bag into which all the spent wrappings are collected, and you repeatedly call out over the bustle to save the bows. You will use them again next year and the year after. Sometimes you will save the boxes and flatten them to use again. You don’t call this recycling, you just have seven children.

After gifts are opened, you will leave the boys to put on football, the children will play with their toys, and the food will come out - shrimp dip, sweet mix pickles with cheddar and pepperoni, meatballs, and ham. People will yell at the television and yell at each other because that’s how you get heard in a big family. Your house is warm and full.

The author's grandmother and mother on Christmas Eve

The author's grandmother and mother on Christmas Eve

Two days before Christmas you will be taken off of life support. Your children will be gathered around you. You will be cremated over Christmas, and share your mass with Saint Stephen. Your children, their children, and their grandchildren will all gather in your house every year to carry on your traditions. There will be shrimp dip, sweet mix pickles with cheddar and pepperoni, meatballs, and ham, every year. They will save the bows.

 

- Tamara Oliver is great at banana bread but pretty awful at Twitter. Find her there and admire her socks @sensoryoverlord

Ginny's Magic Cookie Dust

Roll-out cookies are the wild child of Christmas goodies. The dough can be temperamental and sticky, but Ginny Snyder, who was practically a second mother to me, used her gentle ways---and a neat little baking trick--to tame the flour, butter and sugar.  Beneath her large, capable hands, cookie dough relaxed and became a docile, calm collaborator.

Ginny concocted a sweet, silky dust from an equal  mix of flour and confectioner’s sugar to keep the dough in line. She’d pinch a tablespoon or so between her long fingers and thumb and sprinkle it over the work surface to prevent unruly stickiness.  And with each creaky, back-and-forth of the rolling pin, she coaxed the dough into a thinner and thinner canvas.

I marveled at her firm, tender technique. With a grainy swipe, she slid a metal spatula underneath the freshly-cut shapes, lifted them off the board and onto the cookie sheet, not a tear, wrinkle or deformed Santa in sight. Even the leaping reindeer’s antlers stayed intact.

Image via Chauncer/Flickr

Image via Chauncer/Flickr

With her long torso bent over the cookie sheets, Ginny’s fingertips moved with care and lightness, and each piece of raw dough got a smidgeon of affection.

When the timer pinged and they emerged from the oven, those cookies loved her back. They required only a slight nudge to break free of the pan. No breaks or crumbles either.

- Linda Miller is a freelance writer and memoirist who has worked in newspapers, higher education public relations and magazine publishing. She's a Baby Boomer from Slatington, a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania, and grew up with the quickest, funniest Dad ever, a former RN Mom who created a loving and beautiful home, and a younger brother who never missed an episode of Combat! on Tuesday nights. 

Grandma's Bread


Grandma raised seven children during the Great Depression, baking bread every morning but the Sabbath. Even a generation later, with the house filled only on weekends, there was never a loaf of store-bought bread.

Grandma couldn’t read, so I had to watch her prepare what we all called “grandma’s bread,” writing down the recipe and guessing at amounts. “Feel the water on your wrist,” she showed me, as she mushed a cake of Red Star yeast into a glass of warm water, “and add a bissel sugar.” We waited for it to bubble and foam. Five times she scooped from the 50-pound sack of flour that lived in the corner cupboard, dumping each scoop into a large ceramic bowl. “Make a well,” she said. Into it she tossed two small piles of salt, measured in the palm of her hand, the yeasty water, a blob of Crisco, and another glass of water. “Here’s the secret,” she whispered, cracking two eggs, saving out a little yolk for the crust, and pouring in the rest.
 

the author's grandmother sitting in her yard

the author's grandmother sitting in her yard

Grandma’s large, rough hands – hands that also embroidered, and cleaned, and hovered over the Shabbos candles, but rarely had hugged her own children – kneaded the smooth white dough. I knew I gave her naches: joy from children. “Just for you,” she’d say, forming a baby loaf, back when I was a little girl who tiptoed downstairs at sunrise. It smelled and tasted of love when I ate it, hot from the oven, slathered with good Wisconsin butter.

- Enid Kassner is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University writing program. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Elephant Journal3QR: The Three Quarter ReviewRat’s Ass ReviewInscape, Switchgrass ReviewWatershed Review, and other publications. She was awarded first place in creative nonfiction by the Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation. Enid writes and teaches yoga in Arlington, Virginia.