I have over the years asked my husband Randy if there were any recipes that his mom made that were his favorite. He always answered the same, “I don’t know, I can’t think of any”. Just recently he recalled that when he was a boy she made Ice Box cookies that he really liked.
So, when his sister came to visit recently I asked her if she had kept their mom’s recipes books/cards and did she remember any cookie recipes among the collection. A few days after her return home to California she emailed me the following recipe. I was very excited.
1-cup brown sugar
1-cup white sugar
1 ½ cup hot lard
3 beaten eggs
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda mashed in sugar
¼ lb. Nuts
Place outdoors over night. Slice thin and bake.
Now the thing that struck me as odd was the direction ‘Place outdoors over night’. I’m looking at this and thinking that this recipe could not have been his mom’s after all she lived in sunny San Diego, California. Can you imagine what the dough would have looked like if placed outdoors? So, I thought perhaps this had to have been his grandmother’s recipe as she had lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Randy had never talked much about his grandmother so I asked him if he remembered much about her and had she ever baked him cookies. He replied, “I remember her as a good cook and did her washing with a wringer washer, in the basement. She cooked on a gas stove and loved to cook for large gatherings. She was not very tall, as I towered over her when I was 12. She cooked a lot of wonderful pastries when she had the time. I always remember her as having white hair. When we visited, there were always cookies in the cookie jar and I made it my job to make sure it was emptied as quickly as possible.” Very nice memories I thought.
Back to the kitchen to make the cookies I went. I put the sugars into my Kitchenaid mixer along with the baking soda, melted the lard and poured it into the sugar mixture, then the eggs. I mixed the nuts into the flour and slowly added them to the wet mixture until it became well blended and easy to handle.
On the counter I divided the dough into four sections and rolled in waxed paper to make a log wrapped them in waxed paper and placed them in the freezer for the day.
I can’t tell you how excited I was that I was finally getting the opportunity to make something that was going to make Randy feel like a kid again. At least that is how I had imagined it would happen. I imagined that he would be giddy with happiness and as he was eating them he would regal me with stories of his childhood over cookies and milk. Well, that didn’t happen.
First of all, the cookies remained the same size as they went in the oven. They were this light brown color and tasted more like crackers than cookies. The cookies left a residue on your tongue that was hard to get off. I imagine it was the aftertaste of the lard.
When Randy came into the kitchen his face was all lit up with this great smile of anticipation but as soon as he bit into the cookie it was clear they weren’t what he remembered. He just stood there, the cookie still in his mouth. I asked, “What’s the matter?” All he said was that he remembered that they were darker and his mother used bacon grease. Darker, what do you mean darker, I used the dark brown sugar. Are you sure they weren’t chocolate. He said, “No, they were not chocolate”.
Now some women would have just called it a day but not me. So I started to think well maybe his mother modernized the cookie recipe a bit. So I went on the hunt in my recipe books to see if I could find a recipe that was similar and try again. I found a recipe in The Pillsbury Cookbook: The All-Purpose Companion for Today’s Cook called “Basic Refrigerator Cookies. Now the only differences I could find between the two was the use of butter/margarine instead of lard, baking powder instead of baking soda and the inclusion of vanilla.
Back to the kitchen I went. I followed the same procedure as before and baked yet another batch of cookies. I presented a plate of cookies and milk to my love and as he ate them said that they were good but he remembered that they were darker, again with the darker comment, and he seemed to remember that his mother used bacon grease. Bacon grease?
Later that evening he was talking to his sister and she asked if I had finally made the cookies and he told her how they turned out and they just weren’t the same. She said, “I remember mom using bacon grease when she made the cookies.” So for the next few days I mulled over what to do next abandon this project or become more determined than ever to recreate this recipe even if it meant using up all the flour, sugar, eggs, etc. in the town of Belleview, Florida to accomplish it.
Okay, so I’m like a dog with a bone I would not abandon my hunt for his favorite cookie and would instead go on the hunt for bacon grease. Oh, the things we do for love!!!!!!! Stay tuned for Part II.