"THE HOME is the center of the children's lives and there the grandmother rules. Her kitchen is her command post and everyone -- kids, parents and grandfather -- is dependent on her table." Thus it was said in "Grandparents, Grandchildren, the Vital Connection," by Arthur Kornhaber and Kenneth L. Woodward. And thus, after reading it, Pat Christopher was inspired to turn the annual Grandparents' Day at her children's school into a publishing venture.
For seven years Sheridan School has invited grandparents each spring to a special day at the school in their honor. This year they were invited to lunch, too, and the RSVPs were to be filled in with a recipe for the child's favorite grandmother-made dessert. Nearly 50 recipes came back to the school, one of them a turnabout--from Virginia Knauer, special assistant to the president for consumer affairs, a recipe for ultra-sweet no-mix bar cookies which her granddaughter, Frances Burden, makes for her.
The response was greater than expected, as well as prompt, "as is this generation," Christopher said of today's grandparent-age people. Also, more typical of this generation, the recipes were all but one from grandmothers rather than grandfathers, and mostly from maternal rather than paternal grandparents.
There is something about being a grandmother.
At the luncheon where the booklets, "Goodies from Sheridan Grandparents," were being given to the grandparents, one parent said that her mother had never baked a cake, never in all her motherhood. But one day she baked a cake for her grandchild.
Indeed, the book is filled with the treats that parents dare not indulge: fudgy and ice creamy and sugary and buttery things that are a generation away from whole wheat and alfalfa sprouts. In fact, some of these recipes are so sweet that when we tested them even some children shunned them.
There was one grandmother who protested in a letter that the proposed collection was to be a book of desserts.
She had a point, said Ruth Cogen, the school's director of development. In fact, the school serves only fresh fruit for dessert in its daily lunches. But after all, she added, "grandparents are special and do special things for their grandchildren--including making desserts." Christopher agreed, adding that she sees the children constantly under pressure to achieve, but all that disappears when the grandparents show up at school. They show affection, care and interest unsullied by everyday pressures. It is a time for treats.
Nobody would mistake Sheridan's 50-page grandparents' gift for a cookbook of substance. The recipes are in the grandparents' own words, and have the asset of brevity but not necessarily of explicitness. And the recipes were not tested before being included, nor were duplicates weeded out.
Of course everybody loved it.
And Christopher was so moved by the results that she tossed away her typewritten transcription and rewrote the recipes in longhand so that they would look more homey.
The book was easy, she insisted, just a matter of writing out the recipes and taking them to an offset printer. Jane Loeffler and her second-grade son, James, did the illustrations. The book was so successful that parents began asking the school if they could buy it, but it was produced as a single-occasion book, to be given to grandparents rather than to be sold to the public.
In return for the recipes, the Sheridan first-graders made cookies for the grandparents. Those recipes, written on huge sheets of paper and hung on the wall, became the first hand-scrawled additions to the cookbook's "Notes" pages.
Eighty grandparents came, another 20 prevented by the spring blizzard. One grandfather was moved to call the event the highlight of his week's visit to Washington. And second-grade teacher Sharyn Miller's father, who made himself available as an "adopted" grandfather for any child whose grandparents couldn't come, was inspired to provide the first grandfather's recipe:
POP-POP IZZIE'S BREAKFAST DESSERT
1. Pop-Pop calls the kids to come for breakfast.
2. Pop goes to Posin's.
3. Pop shops.
4. Pop pops raisin buns into the oven.
5. Pop serves them for dessert after his lox-and-egg specialty.
6. Pop loves every minute of it.
It is a recipe destined to be duplicated all over town.
MINIATURE PECAN PIES (Makes 12)
Pastry dough for shell: 4 ounces cream cheese 4 ounces butter 1 cup flour
Filling: 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla 3/4 cup brown sugar 2/3 cup broken pecans 1 tablespoon butter
To make pastry dough, cream together cream cheese, butter and flour and place in refrigerator overnight.
The next day, shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place in small muffin tins, not greased. Pat into shape of cup.
To make the filling, combine egg, brown sugar, butter and vanilla. Fill each cup in this order: pecans on bottom, then sugar mixture, then pecans. Bake in 325-degree-oven for 25 minutes. Dr. and Mrs. Carl Basch (Martha Shapiro, Grade 5)
GREAP'S DEEPDISH VERMONT PIE (Makes 1 pie) 2 pounds blueberries 1 cup sugar Juice of 1 large lemon Butter for dotting
Crust: 2 cups flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 stick butter 1/3 cup shortening 4 tablespoons water
Send the kids out to pick blueberries (enough to fill bowl very full).
Place a teacup upside down in pottery mixing bowl and pour in berries. Add about a cup of sugar and juice from one lemon, and dot with butter.
Prepare crust by mixing flour and salt, cutting in butter and shortening to the size of small peas, then stirring in water just until dough holds together. Roll out crust large enough to cover the bowl, then place the crust over berries and teacup. Prick crust with fork. Bake about an hour at 350 degrees. Remove the teacup and serve. Great with ice cream. Mr. and Mrs. James Truesdall (Jesse Johnson, Grade 5)
LEMON SQUARES (Makes about 3 dozen) Crust: 1/2 cup melted butter 1 cup flour 1/4 cup sugar Topping: 2 eggs 1 cup sugar 2 tablespoons flour
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
Powdered sugar to cover
To make crust, mix butter, flour and sugar. Spread in a buttered 8-by-8-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
To make topping, beat eggs, sugar, flour and lemon together. Pour over cooked crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with powdered sugar and cut into squares. (Hint: Loosen edges while warm with knife.)
Note: This filling is quite sweet; sugar could be reduced to 3/4 cup if a less-sweet filling is desired. Mrs. Bertie Havig (Brandon Sutcliffe, Grade 5 and Shelby Sutcliffe, Grade 2)
PEANUT COOKIES (Makes about 6 dozen) 2 cups sifted flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 3/4 cup butter 1 cup light or dark brown sugar 2 tablespoons milk 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1/2 cup peanut butter 1 cup toasted unsalted peanuts, halved
Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in milk, eggs and sifted flour mixture. Add peanut butter and mix. Fold in peanuts. Drop in heaping teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Dr. and Mrs. Peter Comanduras (Christina Christopher, Grade 8 and Caroline Christopher, Grade 7)
HERMITS (Makes about 2 dozen) 1 cup butter, softened 1 cup white sugar 1/2 cup brown sugar 3 eggs, beaten 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon allspice 1 teaspoon cloves 1 teaspoon nutmeg 1 cup seedless raisins 1 1/2 cups flour
Cream butter and add sugar. Add beaten eggs. Mix and sift dry ingredients and add raisins. Combine dry ingredients with butter and sugar mixture. Flatten on jelly roll pan or oblong baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Mrs. Frederick A. McLaughlin (Elizabeth McIntyre, Grade 1)