Meryll and Grandma Rae away from the stove in Mississippi in 1961
Grandma Rae was not a very good baker. To her grandchildren, however, a single mandelbrot or poppy seed cookie that weighed more than the entire box of Oreos meant love. It was a cookie with heft, a cookie to dunk, a cookie that sated your hunger for hours. When Grandma Rae died, the one heirloom all of the grandchildren lusted for was the cookie tin—a giant blue cylinder that contained Pennsylvania Dutch pretzels in the 1930s but had the aroma of decades of Grandma’s baking etched into the metal. Cousin Mike was the best eater so we conceded that he deserved the tin. How did it happen that Grandma Rae defied the stereotype of the power baker Grandma of the 1950s? She didn’t have to bake until 1961 when her mother died. Her mother was the doyenne and ultimate boss of the baking, shooing Grandma away when she was stretching strudel pastry or kneading bread dough in the early hours of the morning. The recipes were given to me by Grandma Rae and then adapted for better digestion and a modern twist (see chocolate sprinkles). Even so, we grandchildren remember with fondness the hockey puck size poppy seed (mohn) cookies. Most of all, we remember in her world that food was love and accompanied by tea and talk.