11 July 2011

Snack Time Cookies

I don’t know that I ever sampled this recipe: it seems a pretty standard molasses cookie. But as an artifact, this index card opens into a volume of stories. My maternal grandmother, Esther Roof Carnall, passed this along to my mother from the kitchen of her sister, Aunt Jess. Born in Poneto, Indiana, in 1909, Esther was one of nine. She was a widow for most of my life; I have only a single fleeting memory of my grandfather, who passed when I was two. I do, however, remember meeting Aunt Jess on one or two of our Midwest odysseys. Because most of my mother’s family remained in the greater Fort Wayne area, we saw them infrequently. But my mother spoke fondly of every single cousin, aunt, uncle, and friend from her growing up years in Bluffton.
Another reason this recipe caught my attention is that I possess no culinary memories of my grandmother. She was patently not an apron-wearing, white-haired, sweet grandmotherly type. Nope: she was a Florida-dwelling, Winston-smoking, polyester-wearing, gin-sipping matriarch with a wry sense of humor and decided opinions she wasn’t at all shy about voicing. She came to visit us in Massachusetts for two weeks each summer. On the way home from Logan, we always stopped at Kappy’s to pick up some gin for her nightly cocktail.
The regular cigarettes and gin & tonics notwithstanding, Esther was around long enough for us to develop a warm relationship. She outlasted her eight siblings, living to just past her 93rd birthday. At her memorial service in 2002, I read (with difficulty) my mother’s written tribute to her. By that point, Bets's ALS was too advanced for her to travel. At the funeral home, I also had a lovely conversation with Jess’s daughter Judy who seemed to look a little like the Aunt Jess I remembered.
I didn’t expect quite so many stories to tumble out before I got to the cookies. (I actually pruned a couple of anecdotes in the name of succinctness). This recipe is quirky: the measurements are specific, but the baking directions are a bit loosey-goosey.

Snack Time Cookies Aunt Jess

Double recipe

1 ½ C. sugar

1 C. shortening (2 sticks oleo)

2 eggs

3 C. flour

1 ½ t. soda

½ C. Green Label Briar [sic] Rabbit Molasses

Drop – Don’t know oven temp. Just experiment. Jess says she uses her mixer and just sorta puts everything [missing word: in?] at once.

[In my mother’s hand] 10 min @ 350˚

After experimenting as the recipe exhorts, my mother annotated the card with an oven temperature and a baking duration.

I’m charmed here by the reference to oleo (it strikes me as very WWII-era) and by Esther’s molasses brand transcription error. (Did she miss the Uncle Remus reference?) Clearly, this stained and torn card saw some use, but I wish I recalled the cookies. Perhaps I’ll have to procure some molasses and bake up a batch.

I bet they’d pair wonderfully with a gin & tonic.


  1. Oh babe...love this post - right down to the pairing with gin & tonic! I'll never get over how much your mom's handwriting looks like my sister Terri's. They are having a blast in Heaven I'm sure :)
    Love you!

  2. Looks remarkably like one of my grandmother's (Ernstene Laughlin Masterson) cards from perhaps the 1950s or '60s for banana bread. And she also didn't include the temp or cooking time... wonder if it was a "thing" back then to experiment. Also, bet they'd taste good with a side of lemon curd. (from KFP)

  3. KFP - You bring the lemon curd & we'll talk. : )