In my book re-packing project, I found my grandmother’s ancient kitchen notebook, filled chock full of memories from my childhood, all handwritten in her old-fashioned, spiky hand, pages faded with age, splotched from constant use, and nibbled around the edges by time and (gack!) bugs. Of course, as most really old recipes are, my Grama’s recipes are mostly just lists of ingredients, without much in the way of further instructions. And one recipe stood out…jumped out, really.
For years, my mom has told me of her adventures as the wife of an Army Air Corps cadet during the War years, following my father around the country as he learned to fly. My mom worked for Wright Aeronautical (she was formally trained at Katherine Gibbs Secretarial College in New York City, so she never had a problem finding suitable employment as she camp-followed). Although once she waited tables in San Antonio at the Chick Inn, for room and board!!! But that’s a story for another day.
Another tale of the family folklore goes like this. My grandmother’s father, a well-to-do man in the small New Jersey town of Glen Rock (he drove a Pierce Arrow!), owned several buildings in town, including one which he rented to the Post Office, where he and his second wife lived upstairs. During WWII, he and his wife baked cookies….which became a local hit, because they shipped overseas so well without shattering into crumbs. Mom calls them “sandies”. The demand for my great-grandfather’s sandies became so great that he and his wife became almost full time bakers in their second floor apartment….in order to fulfill the demand for cookies “for the boys”. My mother has very sharp memories of the smell of cookies baking, wafting down the stairs and out to the street when she’d go to visit Dad’s grandfather.
And lo and behold, I found a recipe in Grama’s little notebook…”Our Favorite Cookies”.
My good pal the Island Girl is an experienced baker (I’m a neophyte)….she’s been fascinated by both the tale and the “recipe” in Grama’s book, puzzling over it for hours. Her opinion is that it’s a “short” recipe, as in shortbread, and the Island Girl has endlessly questioned my mom about the size, shape, thickness, etc., trying to winnow out the “how”. And unlike the cookies we bake today, due to War rationing, the list of ingredients is rather simple.
So for Mother’s Day, the Island Girl surprised us, and baked up a batch (using her experience to make up for the lack of instructions) of Great Grandfather’s sandies. They are sublimely simple, but delicious, and I can see why they were so popular due to their texture.
My mom, however, says they are not quite right….so I think my grandmother left out a secret ingredient that only she knew!!! The recipe does say “add nuts if desired”, but I think there may be something like cinnamon or vanilla (probably not that due to war time rationing)…..I suspect perhaps almond extract as my father was a fiend for butter letter, which has almond paste. So the Island Girl and I are on a mission, to recreate these cookies exactly. The Island Girl’s first attempt was rather spectacular. I have to say, I kind of like them just the way they are, simple and pared down, but absolutely delicious. And a bit historic. Well, in my family, anyway. Oddly, I don’t remember eating the sandies as a kid….but don’t get me started on my great aunt’s peanut butter cookies!
~ Blonde Gator
Island Girl’s Instructions. I’ll update that link as we try to perfect the cookies that live in my mom’s memory. I’m getting a twidge in the back of my head about cookies with chopped nuts and maybe some brown sugar on top??? Stay tuned.