Memoir Contest Winner: Honorable Mention for Love on a Plate by Nancy Julien Kopp

by Matilda Butler on June 3, 2010

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #40 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Kendra and I are pleased to publish Nancy Julien Kopp’s story and recipe that received an honorable mention in our March Memoir Contest — KitchenScraps Category. Congratulations Nancy.

Love on a Plate
By Nancy Julien Kopp

My grandmother moved away from Chicago about the time I started grade school, but she would come back to visit us for a few weeks every year. At least one time during her visit we had a “Muffin Day”–unannounced, and a happy surprise.

Nancy at 10 years old

Nancy at 10 years old

I walked the eight city blocks home from school every noontime with my classmates. It was the late nineteen-forties, and grade school lunchrooms were never a consideration. Each day was much the same. My classmates and I laughed, chattered, and played games like Stinkfish on the sidewalk sections as we made our way home for lunch. The group diminished, as, one by one, kids disappeared into their various houses. Mothers waited inside with lunch on the table, soup or a sandwich in most cases.

I lived farthest from school so traveled alone on the final two blocks. The sight of our large red-brick apartment building usually made my stomach growl with hunger. I’d walk a little faster, adding a hop, skip, and a jump now and then. Cars rumbled past on the brick street, and trains that ran parallel to the road often rolled and clattered by. Our vestibule doorway was one of seven entryways surrounding the formal grassy courtyard in the center of the large U-shaped building. My degree of hunger set the pace as I ran around the bushes and green area that led to our entrance.

I could count on there being one special day during my grandmother’s visit. I knew the day had arrived when the aroma of hot date muffins greeted me the moment I opened the vestibule door. At the first sniff, my heart skipped a beat, and I felt a flutter of excitement deep inside my stomach. My nose twitched with genuine pleasure as the scent of the hot muffins floated down all three flights of stairs. My feet slid quickly across the cold, tiled entryway floor to the softer, carpeted stairs. My fingers touched the smooth stairway railing only once or twice as I flew up the steps following that ever-stronger fragrance.

I burst through the unlocked door, heading straight to the kitchen in the back of the apartment. Grandma waited there, face flushed with heat from the oven, a plate of her special muffins in her wrinkled hands. Mother smiled at me, her delight nearly as great as mine.

Finally, seated at the table with a tall glass of cold milk and a steaming muffin on my plate, I sniffed the delectable treat to my heart’s content. The anticipation part proved almost as good as the eating. Then, it was time to break the golden muffin in half and heap a generous pat of real butter on each piece. The first bite tasted of the salty butter and the sweet dates, all mingled together. Heavenly!

On this special day, our lunch consisted of as many of these treats as a stomach could hold. They were so much better than a bologna sandwich. This was love on a plate. It’s a wonder that little red hearts didn’t escape into the air as I broke each muffin in two. My grandmother knew only one way to show her love, and that was through the food she prepared for those close to her heart. No amount of effort, time, or cost was too big when she cooked and baked for her family.

What has kept those date muffins in my memory bank for well over half a century? Was it that they were especially delicious or that they were made with love? Perhaps a little of both. Which brings to mind my grandmother’s bakery…but that’s another story.

Grandma Studham

Grandma Studham

Grandmother Studham’s Date Muffins

Grandma mixed her muffins in a big blue crockery bowl, and she always wore an over the shoulder Mother Hubbard apron.

1/3 c. butter, softened
2 c. cake flour
¼ c. sugar
3 level tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
¾ c. milk, scant
1 c. dates, cut up
½ c. chopped pecans (optional)

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and mix well. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add alternately with the milk. Fold in the dates. Bake in greased muffin tins or use paper liners in the tins. Fill each ½ to ¾ full. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until done. Makes about one dozen muffins.

Note: I substitute margarine and 1% milk to make a healthier version, and they’re still wonderful. You don’t even need that generous pat of butter we used ‘way back when.’

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Tweets that mention Read "Love on a Plate" by Nancy Julien Kopp--a winner in Women's Memoirs food and memories writing contest. --
June 3, 2010 at

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria H. June 3, 2010 at

Oh Nancy, I could almost smell those muffins! Makes me want to run to the kitchen and bake some up right now, if only I had dates. Love on a plate is indeed what this is…. delightful story.

Karen in CPH June 4, 2010 at

Hi Nancy
This is a lovely story that makes me think of my own grandmother who loved to bake! It also reminds me of walking home from school as a “morning kindergartner” hungry for lunch. I look forward to trying your grandmother’s muffin recipe this weekend. Thanks for the memories…!


MIHO June 4, 2010 at

I love this entry in the recipe: Grandma mixed her muffins in a big blue crockery bowl, and she always wore an over the shoulder Mother Hubbard apron. It sums up the article so well and we are all ready to bake!

Molly Samuels June 4, 2010 at

Well done, Nancy! The muffins sound fabulous. I’ll have to try your healthy version. As good as these are, I’ll bet nothing can compare to those your grandmother made just for you. A grandma’s love is an ingredient that can’t be duplicated.

Nancy Julien Kopp June 4, 2010 at

Thanks for your nice comment, Maria. I always keep dates on hand in case I get the urge to make my Grandma’s muffins.

Matilda Butler June 4, 2010 at

Hi Nancy:
This is a lovely story, well told. Maybe in another story, you’ll tell us all about your grandmother’s bakery. I’d really like to know about that.


Elisabeth Fredrickson June 4, 2010 at

Wonderful story! Really evokes images of a different era. I like the title too : )

Mabel Hinkin June 4, 2010 at

This is a typical Nancy memoir, full of love. Her writings are often of family, and always very discriptive. She’s also a great cook, and you would be pleased with any of her recipes. Another good one Nancy!!

Brenda Tabor June 4, 2010 at

I enjoy reading your stories so very much!! They always remind me of many memories of my own childhood. The muffins sound wonderful and I am looking forward to making them soon. You have always been an outstanding cook and writer and friend!

Lisa Gurney June 4, 2010 at

Nancy, so beautifully written. I SO want to make this recipe…do you have a vegan version???? :-) Thank you for sharing such a wonderful memory.

Nancy Julien Kopp June 4, 2010 at

My heart is full with so many nice comments.

Marion Kundiger June 4, 2010 at

I always enjoy reading your stories. You have a real gift for expressing your feelings meaningfully.
You were a beautiful little girl and your Grandmther was a pretty woman. I, too would like to learn about her bakery. My Father’s Mother also had a bakery, but that was long before Dad was married.
Your story does bring back many memories of my childhood especially the three days my Mother and Aunt worked together to make Norwegian cookies and lefse(not potato lefse) for our extended families for the whole Christmas season,
Incidentally, butter is better for you than margarine which is a hydrogenated fat. Ask the doctors.

Marion Kundiger June 5, 2010 at

You have a real gift for expressing your feelings meaningfully. It brings back many childhood memories,
I’d like to learn about your Grandmother’s bakery. One of my Grandmothers also had a bakery.
Butter is better for you than margarine—ask the doctors.

Jamuna Advani June 5, 2010 at

Nancy’s story is so heartwarming. It brings back the memories of my grand mother who was always loving and caring person.

Michelle June 5, 2010 at

Nancy, thank you so much for sharing your memories with us! I can just picture exactly how it all looks and smells. Simply wonderful!

Kack June 5, 2010 at

Nancy, Your story is so true to life, as usual, that I
can smell those muffins baking!
I will go to the kitchen and start a batch right now!!
Thank you for sharing the recipe……

Nancy Julien Kopp June 5, 2010 at

The muffins do smell heavenly in the oven.

Pat Kopp June 7, 2010 at

Nancy, Great remembrance of a truly happy time. I will try the recipe. Yours are always good.

Dorothy Masters June 8, 2010 at

Nancy your story reminds me of school days walking home from the country school and the closer I got to home the stronger the smell of fresh baked bread.

Thanks for the memory and your great piece.
Dorothy Masters

Carol June 8, 2010 at

Your story made my mouth water. Yum! Thanks for sharing memories and your grandmother’s special recipe.

Kate June 8, 2010 at

Oh, Nancy, your stories always touch my heart. This time you got my stomach, too : >>

Wonderful, just wonderful. I can smell those muffins now.

Mavis June 9, 2010 at

Nancy, I can’t wait to make these muffins – they sound wonderful. Your writing is soooo descriptive.

Rhoda Twombly June 22, 2010 at

This is lovely! So descriptive that my tummy is rumbling – and this put me in mind of my grandmother and her flaming plum pudding every Christmas. Thanks, Nancy! ANd I am going to be sure to try your grandmother’s muffins …

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