I found this recipe handwritten on yellowing notepaper in one of her old cookbooks, which I hadn’t cracked open since taking it from the trim, bare study in their house in California. Metal desk, plain walls. They were frugal people, and he had been a “layout man.” A tool-and-die shop craft. I have a small stack of his ancient job-hunting postcards around somewhere: When Your Layout Man Is Stuck, Trust to “Know-How,” Not to Luck. The cuckoo clock was in that study, too. I remember being shown the clock every time we visited when I was little. And some helixes he’d made out of cardboard tubes, mounted upright on plywood bases with the angles between the cut segments noted in black ink.
Grandma died years ago, and I don’t remember why I finally took down Woman’s Favorite Cook Book (“She should study her guests, as it were; should allot the charming talker to the equally charming listener, and the opinionated person to the passive and yielding disposition…”) and opened it.
I remember visiting once after Show Control was published. Grandpa objected to my referring to “oral manipulation of genitalia” because women might be reading the book. I said, uh, I never used that term. He said, Oh yes you did! And pulled it out and pointed silently at the word “cocksucker.”
Oh, I get…yeah, okay.
I said, Um, I think maybe women aren’t necessarily as naïve as you think they are, and over his shoulder I saw Grandma glance back over the built-in barstool counter that served as a wall between kitchen and dining room with a little gleam in her eye.
I always liked her.
Anyway, I’ve reproduced it as she wrote it, which I like because it evokes the complete performance. It’s not a list of all the ingredients and then a separate litany of instructions; it’s how she actually envisioned herself doing it, from beginning to end, jotted down like a chord chart.
Recipe provenance unknown.
KEITH’S JEWISH GRANDMA’S CHRISTMAS COOKIES
from the library of Miriam Stein
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup chopped fruit
1 teas. lemon flavor
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teas. soda, salt, cloves & nutmeg & cardamom
1 teas. cinnamon
1/4 cup butter or olio
1/2 cup brown sugar packed, cream
add 1 egg, blend
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup strong coffee
1/4 cup sherry
add fruit & coffee & sherry to flour mixture
bake in sheet 15 min