Post #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.
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.
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
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.’