(Note: This post was originally published in February 2013 in the Okanagan Sunday, Kamloops This Week and Prairie Post. The time and date of the reading mentioned has come and gone. But! You can join author Astrid Blodgett on Tuesday evening, October 8 instead. You can contact the Peachland Library or Astrid, via her blog, for further information.)
In my grandmother’s kitchen, there were many plastic bags.
Although I never knew her to buy a loaf of bread, somehow the bread bags of other families made their way to her.
She used and reused them, washed and hung them to dry from clothespins suspended on a string over the kitchen sink.
When they’d dripped dry, she stored her own bread in them. White bread, soft as down pillows, the dough for which rose daily in an enameled bowl, covered and set on the kitchen table.
As many of these goodies as might have been for her and Grandpa, many more were for visitors who dropped by, usually unannounced. Or they were sent home with children and grandchildren.
With the homemade bread in bread bags, the twist ties long ago stripped of their red or green paper ribbons, the cream cookies were packed in one of dozens of kept ice cream buckets.
Salvaged grocery ware, after all, were Grandma’s Mennonite “Tupperware.” A thrifty measure that predated our modern “Reduce/Reuse/Recycle” movement. And one that, some twenty-plus years later, has lately served me well.
While writing and rehearsing the talk and reading I would deliver at the book launch for Mennonites Don’t Dance more than two years ago, I wanted, also, to do something special, and sweet, for readers who have followed this column for so many years.
Arriving at the downtown library an hour ahead of the event, Chefhusband and I brought in ice cream buckets stuffed with pink-frosted cream cookies, the same as my grandmother used to bake. We put on the library’s conference-sized coffee urns. And when the reading was over, we invited the sixty or so people who’d come to listen, to join us for a Mennonite treat.
On tour in Alberta a few weeks later, my mom, sister and niece did the baking, while an aunt and uncle provided the Mennonite “Tupperware” I brought to the library in Lethbridge.
Across Canada, libraries (and independent book stores) have been very good to me: The Ontario Library Association nominated Mennonites Don’t Dance for their annual Evergreen Award, while local librarians have made me feel at home among their stacks.
In the end, the honours went, last week, to Linwood Barclay who wrote The Accident (Doubleday Canada).
Today, however, I’m getting ready for another reading, at another library. This time in Peachland, on Tuesday February 12th at 7pm. A bit of a drive, but all are welcome. And there will be cream cookies, made from my grandmother’s recipe, with a twist, and carried in Mennonite “Tupperware” from my own collection.
“Your aunt says she needs those back,” my mom said to me when she delivered the cream cookies for Lethbridge.
I’m sorry to say that when I returned them, it was minus one.
Mennonite “Whoopie Pies”
2 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted icing sugar
2 tsp cocoa powder
3 cups marshmallow “Fluff”* (store bought or homemade)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Whisk together eggs, cream, sugar, vanilla and salt. Whisk together remaining ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet, one cup at a time, mixing to form a soft dough. Divide into two parts. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate to chill.
Preheat oven to 350F. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2-inch. Cut cookies using a medium round cutter. Place 1-inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes (cookies should remain white, but be set in the centre). Cool completely.
Meanwhile, for filling, cream together butter, icing sugar and cocoa until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add Fluff* and vanilla. Mix until combined.
Spread undersides of cookies with filling and press together into sandwich cookies.
3 egg whites
2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups icing sugar
1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
Using the whisk attachment of an electric beater, beat egg, syrup and salt on high speed for 10 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla and beat on low to combine.