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Grandma Stauffer’s Plate, Dust Bonnets, and Chocolate Chip Cookies

September 17, 2016

grandmastauffer

My mother’s mother was Ruth Loucks Stauffer who lived a rewarding long life; she succumbed to complications of a fall which put her in a nursing home for several months until she died in 1991 at the age of 95.p1090875

Grandmas are often remembered for their cookies. I remember her more for her roast beef, perfect beef or ham gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, and pickles. I loved all these things at her house, where we would often go for Sunday dinner and always, Christmas dinner. I’m sure we had dessert—perhaps canned fruit and cookies, or, seasonally, certainly pumpkin pie, for which I have the best recipe from her.

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This was not the china she used for Sundays, but I received one plate which was her mother’s, and of course I treasure it. Her mother was Fannie Martin Loucks, but I never knew Fannie. I do remember Grandma’s father though, my great grandfather Melvin Loucks. He was the only living great grandparent I ever had.

And sadly, my Grandpa Stauffer, Ivan, died in a car accident when I was just a baby, about eight months old. Grandma lived the rest of her life as a widow, supporting herself by doing sewing alterations, making “dust bonnets” which homemakers wore doing heavy-duty cleaning so as not to get dust and cobwebs in their hair.

dustbonnetscropped

Two dust bonnets my grandmother made.

We wore them in the chicken house to keep the awful smell of poultry manure off our hair.

The devotional coverings we wore as Mennonites in the 50s and 60s. Many women in the Wakarusa area of Indiana would have had their little white “hats” made by my grandmother in those years.

mycovering

My covering worn at some point in college. Made by Grandma Stauffer.

Unfortunately, this is the best example I still have of my grandmother’s handiwork along those lines.

But I digress. This is more about the cookies and this plate. On a piece of adhesive tape, my grandma wrote these words “My mother’s as long as I can remember.”

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She also wrote on it “Bertha” which means she passed it on to my mother, who passed it to me. My mother has written similar lines and “who is to get this” instructions on a paper in her dining room hutch. I have not yet done so. One of these days I will do so, too. (I wrote about other notes I found from this grandma, here.)

I asked my mother what cookies she remembers her mother making and her best memory is of what they called “Overnight day cookies” which were a simple cake type cookie that were supposed to be refrigerated overnight, but grandma didn’t want to do that step, so she baked them the same day and called them her overnight day cookies. I do not remember the name, but I love the story, and this insight into this grandma who obviously, though I loved her dearly, wasn’t the kind of grandma with whom I made cookies.

The plate has a prominent place in my dining room china cabinet, the gold trim echoing the gold trim on another treasure, an almost complete set of vintage 50s pitcher and matching glasses, from my husband’s Aunt Ressie. I love using those items in food photography here on my blog.p1090875

I have three daughters. So far, four grandsons. Who will get this plate? The pitcher and glasses? Will anyone care, down the line? My friends who are slightly older say, no one wants the antique dishes we carefully saved, and they really aren’t worth anything online. Even preserving them here with photos and prose may not last. Will this blog record still exist, down the line?

For now, enjoy these cookies—my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, vicariously. Virtual vicarious cookies and calories truly don’t count!  The recipe comes from Glenda Leonard, who taught math to two of my daughters in middle school; I also enjoyed interviewing her for a radio program about the two daughters she and her husband adopted while they taught at Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi, Kenya Africa, which you can still hear, here!

Glenda’s Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

2/3 cup solid shortening
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 rounded cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
About 2/3 package of semisweet chocolate chips (of a 12 oz package; I try to cut back on the chocolate)
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

 

Cream together shortening, butter, the sugars, eggs, and vanilla.
Stir in remaining ingredients.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets lightly sprayed with vegetable shortening.

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Cool slightly before removing from baking sheet.p1090867

Hint: When storing, keep a piece of bread with the cookies. The bread gets stale but the cookies remain moist.

Makes 6 dozen.

Adapted slightly from Mennonite Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley, Good Books, 1999. And yes, it is very similar to the recipe on Toll House Chocolate Chips—and I love the story behind THOSE famous cookies.

***

Favorite cookies your grandma makes or used to make? Do you have dishes from her? Have you marked or indicated heirloom dishes for your kids? Do you think they’ll want them? 

What makes these things special to you? Or not? I’d love to hear from anyone regarding why hang on to family heirlooms–regardless of monetary value.

grandmaandbible

My grandmother Stauffer, praying. Photo courtesy of my cousin Judy Yoder.

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I’ll write more about Grandma Stauffer, and this beloved photo of her by my cousin and artist Judy Yoder, in a future post.

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4 Comments
  1. Margaret Kauffman permalink

    My favorite ‘grandma cookies’ were also overnight cookies. We formed long rolls and refrigerated them overnight then cut and baked them in the morning. (Mennonite Community Cookbook- page 276 by Mrs. Ira johns, Goshen, Indiana.) Yes, I hope my children will want those dishes marked with little tapes, too.

    • I will check the Mennonite Community Cookbook recipe for overnight cookies. Since that recipe comes from the Goshen area, it might be close to my grandma’s. 🙂 Thanks Margaret!

  2. Beverly Silver permalink

    Hi, Melodie! I have a few dishes from my grandmothers. From my maternal “Nana”, I have some plates, soup bowls, an open vegetable dish and an oval covered vegetable dish, a small bowl, and a small platter in my favorite china pattern, Virginia Rose from Homer Loughlin. I have some of her silver – silver plate cuttlelry and a big serving spoon that has relief flowers and fruits on it. I have a salad plate and a gravy boat with attached bottom plate (all one piece), in the china set my other grandmother used. The china is very white and has a gold Greek key trim near the edge. It is called “The Crete”! The only recipe I have is the one for the fruitcake my “Nana” made during the 40’s and maybe earlier – Maude J. Bagby’s Old Virginia Fruitcake. She sold it commercially to Miller and Rhoads in Righmond during the Christmas season and even sold some in Washington to McGruders grocery store, at that time, a high-end grocery (I think!) A friend and I used a cut down verson of the recipe two years ago, made four cakes and they were as delicious as I remembered! She sold a five pound cake for $7.50! They would cost at least $40.00 or more today! I have several maroon boxes they were sold in with the fancy label on top! Guess I better stop! Thanks for your memories and for triggering mine! Bye, Beverly

    • Thanks, Beverly for your memories here. It’s fascinating to me how keepsakes powerfully bring to mind the persons who owned the items earlier. I love the name of your Nana’s fruitcake–and also loved seeing the photobook you put together of your re-creation of making those fruitcakes! That was a cool and memorable thing to do. I can imagine that they would have cost $40 in today’s money. I’m glad this triggered your own memories, that’s the best kind of blog post! Blessings on you day & week!

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