Monday, August 23, 2010

“C” is for Comfort… “M” is for Memories…

What’s your favorite comfort food? (Feel free to share recipes with this one.)

Picture this…

A modest clapboard farmhouse with a steeply pitched and rusted tin roof. Hand-poured cement steps led to a faded and worn plywood porch. Entering the home’s small but cozy living room, the scent of fresh ginger and warm sweet cane syrup permeate the air as laughter rises from multiple sources in the adjacent and equally humble dining room.

This isn’t the beginning of a thriller, a mystery, or a slasher flick. This is one of the memories I carry with me of my grandmother’s home and my favorite comfort food: her famous ginger cookies.

My grandmother – affectionately known as “Maw” to both her family and everyone in her community – was a formidable woman. After my grandfather died in 1940 and left Maw to raise their five children alone (the oldest only eight years old), she set about to do precisely that and accomplished her goal. She reared three girls and two boys as a single parent during a time when single parents were virtually nonexistent.

Maw wasn’t simply a homemaker content to accept handouts. In fact, I can’t recall her ever being too fond of handouts of any sort. She was an entrepreneur. Maw ran a small “eating place” from what was essentially a shed close to the dusty rural road on which she lived. Farmhands from neighboring properties would walk to “Maw’s Place” for a meal of red chili, chicken and dumplings, pot pie, meatloaf, or whatever she’d cooked that day as an entrée, along with any vegetables that were in season, and freshly baked bread. She would always have something sweet for them to take back with them, whether it was pie, cake, a slice of watermelon, or her famous ginger cookies.

I personally never saw “Maw’s Place” because she closed her business after the last of her children had grown, married, and moved on to start their own families. However, the recipes she created and sold to the farmhands kept her family afloat during very hard times, and generations have continued to enjoy them even though she’s been gone for many years now.

How can I possibly describe Maw’s ginger cookies? Think of a gingersnap cookie but soft and maybe just a little gooey in the center because of the syrup. Now take that cookie and magnify it times twenty, not in size but flavor. Oh, yeah. These are cookies men would kill over. Their power is undeniable. I made a batch one year at Christmas for my husband’s co-workers and every year (a total of five now) I’ve been asked (and tempted with bribery) to make the cookies.

I’ve also been asked for the recipe. While I have few issues with making them (other than they’re time consuming), I can’t share the recipe. It’s a closely guarded family secret and like any Southern worth my salt, I take such matters very seriously. I know it’s not fair to get you all worked up for ginger cookies only to yank the rug out from under you here at the end. So, while it isn’t Maw’s cookies, I can share another family favorite that’s just as good for comfort food…and far less time consuming.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

In a boiler combine:

2 cups white granulated sugar*
1 cup of milk
1 stick of butter or margarine
1/4 cup of cocoa powder

Bring to a hard rolling boil and let boil for three minutes. Remove from heat.

Add :
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2/3 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
2 cups quick oats

Stir quickly until mixture forms a thick chocolaty mass. Drop, quickly, by large rounded tablespoons on to aluminum foil. Allow to cool completely.

*No Splenda can NOT be substituted for the sugar. We’re going for comfort here. Tiny waistlines are irrelevant.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I do....and if you're ever in my neck of the woods, and you ask nicely, (although bribery doesn't hurt) I may make a batch of Maw's ginger cookies for you. :)

- Jeannie


Meredith Cole said...

Yum. I knew this week all the posts were going to make me hungry!

I hope I get to taste your Maw's ginger cookies someday, Jeannie...

Sophie Littlefield said...

awww jeannie. love that story. my own gramma - mother of five, and plenty of hard times to go around - ran a roadside restuarant in the spare building for a while too. They sold handpicked wild blueberries and Gramma made the best pies in the world. What a hard life - just thinking about it makes my back hurt, and i never heard her complain either.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

What a wonderful memory, Jeannie! Thanks for sharing. Your grandmother sounds tough and wonderful.

So, if I'm ever in your neck of the woods, what might a suitable bribe be? It might be worth taking on my wheat allergy just to have one cookie....

Gabi said...

If you're not going to share the recipe, I guess I'll just wait for my care package. I love ginger snaps.

Jeannie Holmes said...

Hey, Meredith!

If you ever make it to the Mobile area, I'll try to hook ya up. ;)

Jeannie Holmes said...

Thanks, Soph. I can't imagine the amount of work it took for her to raise five kids, run a business, and a farm. (I forgot to mention that part in my post.) Maw was a strong woman. She's definitely one of my heroes.

Jeannie Holmes said...

A suitable bribe? Hmm...I'll have to think-- KONA!!! Duh. ;)

I'm not responsible for any allergies incurred by the consumption of ginger cookies. Although, I will say, my diabetic aunt and uncle both braved the cookies.

Jeannie Holmes said...

LOL, Gabi. Why do I suddenly have the feeling that I'm going to see a lot of care package requests very soon? :)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

But remember that Gabi and I got there first.

And I have Kona coffee...

Shane Gericke said...

Mmmmm. I love cookies or bars with oatmeal and chocolate. Great stuff. And Maw is cool too.

Jeannie Holmes said...

Yes, Becky. You and Gabi were first in line. And Kona lets you move to the front of the line ahead of Gabi.

Jeannie Holmes said...

Thanks, Shane. Maw had other great recipes as well. Too bad I hate to cook.

Kelli Stanley said...

OMG--I want those ginger cookies. And I loved the story, Jeannie ... reminded me of my own grandmother, who started out working in factories when she was a child, was entirely self-educated, and still managed to support her family.

BTW--I can't believe it, but you just listed the recipe for my favorite SIN (well, the eating kind). Those chocolate peanut butter delights are known around here as "killer cookies" ... and they were my ultimate childhood favorite.

Sigh. Nothing is more comfortable than that!!