Memoir Contest Winner-Honorable Mention for Nana’s Molasses Cookies by Ann Lane

by Matilda Butler on August 19, 2010

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #51 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Kendra and I are pleased to publish Ann Lane’s story and recipe that received an honorable mention in our April Memoir Contest–KitchenScraps Category. The first time you read her story, you’ll be wrapped up in the tale and we don’t want to slow you down. But, perhaps you’ll go back and read it a second time and notice how she effectively uses series of short sentences, attention to details (such as the Buster Brown shoe box), vivid emotions, and more. This is a charming story, well told.

Congratulations Ann.

By Ann Lane
High Springs, Florida

Salem, Massachusetts. Witches on brooms. House of Seven Gables. Summer vacation with Nana.

All these images floated through my head as our ’57 Chevy hurtled me toward my fate. My brother and I had exhausted all the games: car bingo and hangman. The vacation was already a tragedy.

My pet ant was housed in a Buster Brown shoe box that I lined with moss. I even had added a jar lid-sized lake to the setting and a dwarf tree made from an oak branch.  I had insisted that I take him on our vacation, so I could make sure he was OK. Our first rest stop was a Stuckey’s–always just to use the bathroom. No genuine Indian moccasins. No giant lollipops. No pralines. Just use the bathroom and get back in the car.

I usually whined and begged to linger over the useless souvenirs, but this time I rushed back to the car to check on my pet. He was missing! I burst into tears and refused to leave the stop until he had been found. My parents, sweating from the August heat, and brows furrowed from hours at the wheel, searched under the seats and in the trunk, making exasperated sounds. No ant was found, and I was finally forced into the car screaming “Ant murderers!”

Ten hours later we arrived at Nana’s seaside house in Salem. I had been drilled that I was to ask no questions, be quiet, don’t snoop, and act like a lady, whatever that meant. The two story house overlooked the ocean, and Nana was seated at the bay window, backlit by the sea, posture straight and dressed in an old-timey dark dress and thick soled shoes.

Ann Lane's Nana“Come here, dears,” she said.  My brother and I cautiously walked up to her for a hug and then at her urging, sat trembling on small delicate chairs next to her. She asked us about the trip, and I didn’t dare tell her the ant story, so I said it was fine. She asked if we wanted a cookie, and we said “Yes!”

“By the front door is a white glass container. My special molasses cookies are for you. Get one and go play on the beach if you want,” she said.

We ran and grabbed what were the biggest cookies we had ever seen. They were chewy and sweet and full of molasses flavor. We ran to the beach and watched the ocean spray over large rocks, noticing seaweed and funny shells strewn across the coarse sand.

The days that followed were full of sun and sea. The evenings were one long dinner, sitting with hands folded until grace was said, and then hearing the delicate clink of good china and sterling forks. After dinner, molasses cookies made the day complete, while learned Nana told us family stories; that Grandfather imported china from England, and large ships would moor at the Lane dock. At night I dreamed of sailing ships and stormy seas, and my Grandfather steering large sailing ships through storms to the safe family port. I dreamt of Nana sitting at the bay window looking for his ship.

On the weekend, two cousins came to play. They were the same ages as my brother and me, and they knew all the fun places to go. They also knew about the white cookie jar, and even got cookies without asking first! They lived near Nana, and they didn’t seem to be scared of her at all. In the evenings now, we four would climb over the stone retaining wall to the beach. Running like wild things, we raced over rocks, avoided the starfish and crabs, and sneaked into the grounds of Pioneer Village.

Pioneer-VillageThis now renovated site was then a declining tourist attraction. Nestled into Forest River Park, the village recreated the housing and life of 1630 in Salem. After hours the park was ours! We would play Rocks, Paper and Scissors to decide who would be the Pioneers and who would be the Indians. I always wanted to be an Indian because they rode horses and I knew I was half-horse already. We played hide and seek behind the huts, and waged sneak attacks on each other, smoking pretend Peace Pipes in time for our nightly Thanksgiving feast of cookies. Suddenly realising dusk was upon us, we would race home with the glowing water to our right and the red sun on our left shoulders. We always picked up a shell or two to disguise our secret jaunts into an innocent beach walk.

The ride home to Delaware was a time for dreaming and reflecting. We had a bag of molasses cookies to keep us happy, and we didn’t cry to get sweets at Stuckey’s. I even had made plans for a bigger and better ant house for when we got home, and was thinking about the sidewalk cracks where I would find my new pet. Salem and witches’ houses weren’t scary now. Nana loved us and even though she didn’t know how to play with little children, she knew how to let them play. And we had learned the lessons of the Pioneers, and the value of getting along, at least for part of the long drive home.

½ cup shortening
1 cup molasses
2 Tbsp warm water
1 egg beaten
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ginger
1 ½ tsp cinnamon

Mix together shortening, molasses, and warm water
Add egg
Sift together dry ingredients and add to the first mixture
Roll out and cut with cookie cutter or drop by teaspoon on greased cookie sheet and flatten with a glass covered with a damp cloth

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes

Makes 4 dozen cookies

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