Generation to Generation: Creating a Future by Preserving the Past Through Baking
The cookie business in the United States has sales of over 8 billion dollars (Schroeder, 2016), and the industry continues to grow. A cookie is something small and sweet, which can easily transport one back to his or her childhood. They are easily shared and make great gifts. Many people have no time to bake for others, yet understand the significance of giving a “made-from-scratch” gift to others. It is my desire to create a future by preserving the past with recipes, traditions, and memories passed down from my grandmother.
On May 1st, 2017, Mary Cohen would have been 117 years old. She was my mother’s mother and although it is nearly thirty-five years since she passed away, I feel her presence every day. She was one of the driving forces in my becoming a professional baker twenty years ago. The happy memories of my grandmother, in her dress and apron, cooking and baking in her little apartment, and seeing the happiness it gave her to gather her family for this weekly meal made a significant impression on me. I also remember her baking at our house and listening to her give directions to my mother: a little more flour dear, a little longer dear, and a little bit more time in the oven dear. She was always kind and always patient.
Watching my grandmother is where my love of baking came from. I quickly learned the food we ate in our home was a little different from food in my friends’ homes. The recipes my grandmother used were committed to memory and they were part of her heritage. They were only written down when my mother and aunts followed her around with measuring cups taking in all the little nuances and putting them on three-by-five index cards. Baking my grandmother’s recipes became a tradition in our home. These special baked items were served when friends and family came to visit and now it is time to take them to market.
Three by five index cards preserved these recipes, but what about the future? How will they be passed down? I have often had someone tell me, “I wish I had my mother’s, aunt’s, grandmother’s recipe for …. (you fill in the blank).” They might have even tried to recreate the item themselves, but it never tasted the same. How could it? Without the recipe from the baker, and the little nuances found on those three-by-five cards, it is very difficult to replicate.
Today, most people have cell phones and are taking pictures of everything– including recipes. But then what? Are they organized, categorized, printed to use or are they sitting in the gallery with hundreds of other pictures? What happens when you want to use those recipes in the future? Are you able to make new notes on the digital picture, perhaps? It all may depend upon the software on your cell phone.
Call me old and old fashioned, but I like these handed down recipes on three-by-five cards left behind with all their stains, smudges, and additional notes. Here are just a few of the notes on some of the recipe cards I’ve seen: “Drop like Auntie Pearl did.”; “Delicious!”; “I hope I’ll be making them in 2004.”; “Use tape measure to lightly cut pieces.”; “Out of this world!”; and “NO RAISINS”. Reading these recipes gives me insight to the times and the history of the first baker. Obviously, Auntie Pearl had a special technique–too bad it was not written down.
Luckily for me, the experience of having worked in the baking industry for many years has given me the knowledge and skills to recreate these baked goods and use them as the basis for a cookie business. My desire is not only passing down these delicious treats through these inherited recipes, but training a new generation in the traditions of an older generation.
Schroeder, Eric. “Cookie Champions.” Food and Beverage News, Trends, Ingredient Technologies and
Commodity Markets Analysis. Food Business News, 13 Sept. 2016. Web. 14 May 2017.
Shoukas, Denise. “Research Spotlight: Crazy About Cookies.” Specialty Food Association. Specialty
Food Association, 9 Sept. 2013. Web. 14 May 2017.