Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Hilda's Molasses Sugar Cookies
My grandmother, more specifically, my father's mother, Hilda, is a force of nature.
By the way, I have always wondered, how, in the name of all that is holy, you look at your newborn daughter (your fifth) and decide to name this innocent child Hilda. Never got that one. Ran out of names? Really wanted to give a name that you would only hear in a damn German opera?
Anyway, Hilda is the rock of my father's family. She is the one that loaded the kids and their belongings into a car every summer and drove to whatever small town baseball team had employed Barney (my grandfather).
I can picture her fierce determination, packing the car, making the most of the space they had available, taking all the things that they could not live without during the hot summer. Hurtling toward heaven knew what, her babies in the car, probably just in their underwear since that was before the days of automotive air conditioning. Another small town, another unsuitable apartment over a brothel or funeral parlor, another adventure.
She had to be tough. She was one of 12 children. Esther, Jim, Herb, Bob, John, Millie, Alice, Grace, Hilda, Tom, Eddie, and Pat scattered over a span of 25 years.
She wanted to get out of Lucinda. One of the nuns told her when she was a girl that the best thing she could do is get the heck out that town. Hilda really took that one to heart.
Hilda wanted out. Out of Lucinda, out of the ceaseless intermarriage, small town-ness that Lucinda still hasn't shaken off.
He had a one-way ticket. He did not intend to come back and that was all she needed to hear.
So she married a dreamer. The one guy in Lucinda, PA with a dream and a one-way train ticket. He didn't want to be a farmer or a miner. He wanted something completely off the map. He wanted to play baseball.
He took his one-way ticket and what little money he had. He didn't have enough to make it back, so it was sink or swim time. He swam.
And they were on their way.
He got a contract with the St. Louis Browns. He eventually became a manager/coach for a multitude of minor league teams. In the off season he would take whatever job would get them through the winter until the season started up again.
Barney in the dugout, one of many.
This was a time when there were no million dollar signing bonuses. You were lucky if you kept your gig from one season to the next. Where Barney was, there was no glamor, no glitz, no shine. Their's was not a charmed life, but they made a living.
Each winter, he would get a contract, skim it quickly and hurl it into the corner. There it would sit until he was ready to read it again and consider signing it. He always did. He could not stay away.
Watch Bull Durham and you will get a taste of what his life was like. What their lives were like.
He would go to Spring Training in Paris, Texas or Bluefield, West Virginia or any one of a thousand places that had a baseball team. Once school finished for the children (there were eventually four, my father and three sisters) she would follow. Always loyal, always willing to make do, always ready for the adventure, a true pioneer spirit.
This recipe was one of those perennial favorites in the Lutz household. Hilda has a real sweet tooth and likes to have a little something around to indulge it.
This recipe is written exactly as she wrote it on the card. And it is just like her. No flowery descriptions of method. Just the facts.
One time, about a million years ago, we were helping her move. She made sure to have the ice bucket/cookie jar in her car for the trip from one apartment to the other. She very slyly suggested that I check and see if there was anything in the cookie jar.
We ate them while she drove. Speeding forward toward her next adventure.
Hilda's Molasses Sugar Cookies
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
Cream shortening, sugar, molasses and egg. Beat well. Sift together dry ingredients. Mix well, cover, chill. Form into 1 inch balls. Bake 375° for 8-10 minutes.