Baking up a Storm -Winter 2018

by: Marianne R. Stanton

My nana infused in me a love of baking. Her kitchen was warm and inviting and equipped with everything a serious baker needed back in the 1950s: a large keddigan always filled with flour, well-worn baking pans and a small brown box filled with recipes handed down from aunts and other relatives dating back to the 1850s.

Aunt Lu’s molasses cookies used ginger and spices from the East Indies. My nana made dozens of these cookies the size of saucers every Saturday, packaged them in brown bags to fill orders from islanders she’d received throughout the week. There must have been a dozen bags, folded over at the top and lined up on her washing machine by noon every Saturday, waiting for regular customers to come pick them up.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Nana was famous for her molasses cookies and spent hours trying to teach me how to make them. Though there was an official recipe, following it did not yield nana’s cookies, which were soft in the middle, fragrant and utterly delicious. As any seasoned cook or baker knows, the true genius lies in the baker’s intuition, experience, fingers and sense of taste that can’t be duplicated exactly by anyone else.

My first memory of cooking in nana’s kitchen was the end stage, sitting on the linoleum floor, legs splayed, with her large green mixing bowl between them and a spatula in my hand, scraping and licking the chocolate-cake batter from the bowl. I still have a mental picture of myself, about 4 years old with short blond hair in a Dutch bob, courtesy of Joe the Barber, who made me presentable after I’d decided to give myself a haircut and had to be taken to Joe’s for remediation.

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