Auntie Cookies and the Importance of Personal History

August 4th, 2009

I have just returned from a trip to my hometown in Michigan. I apologize for the lack of posts lately, but travel and computer problems have left me frustrated with my ability to blog and comment on all of my favorite sites. What I am not frustrated about is the amazing visit I had to Michigan. There is no better place to be in the summer than Michigan. The corn fields are producing the sweetest corn I have ever tasted. The farms are cultivating apples, cherries and blueberries. The fertile dark soil makes home gardens proliferate with pole beans, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, potatoes, and onions. My brother’s garden makes me so envious. I will be showing you pictures and telling you more about it in a later post. But for now I want to tell you about growing up in this beautiful place.

Our childhoods shape us in so many significant ways. I sometimes wonder why it is that things that happen to us in our early years carry such magic and nostalgia. It never seems to fade from our memories. The memories are rich with childhood innocence, but even as young as we were, there is a maturity in our thoughts that I don’t think our parents appreciated. I try to keep that in mind with my granddaughter. She is much more aware than I give her credit for. And she is creating her past and personal history on a daily basis.

I made a friend in Kindergarten. Her name was Lyla. We shared a locker. The school we attended held grades Kindergarten through 12th grade and it had marble halls, wide marble staircases and three floors. Lyla lived a few blocks away from me in a beautiful house with many rooms to explore and I remember spending nights with her and her sister Debbe. We shared so many experiences. We learned to read together in the first grade. She has just retired from a career as an English teacher. We ran away from the school bully who threatened to “beat her up” after school. I was supposed to have her back, but when confronted with Cora Mae, told her I would run and get her Mother. I think I just wanted to run. She has forgiven me for abandoning her. It actually took a little nudging to my memory to remember this incident. You see we just reconnected on Facebook. I haven’t seen her or talked to her since we were thirteen. We are renewing and reconciling our relationship. Sometimes friends drift apart but it is so comforting to come together again and complete the circle of friendship.

Lyla and I met again last Saturday at Caruso’s. Every town has a place where everyone hangs out and we had one of the best. Caruso’s Candy Kitchen is an old fashioned Soda Shop that makes the best Toasted Tuna that I have ever tasted. They have been making this sandwich since I was a young teenager and probably made it when my Mother was a young teenager. They also make their own candy and the old candy case has been in place since the store opened years ago. Nothing has changed. All of us from Dowagiac return to our roots and memories at Caruso’s. Lyla and I had so much to talk about that we could have stayed all afternoon. Our friendship has been renewed. She now looks like her Mother and I look like mine.

Lyla brought me some gifts. Among them was a tin of Auntie Cookies. The story about these cookies is another personal history. Parthenia Hutton (1861-1958) was the maiden aunt who mothered three generations of Lewis offspring ( Dood was Lyla’s Grandmother and Parthenia’s niece). Aunt Senie was a master cook. She was especially adept at making sugar cookies which she did every Tuesday for most of her adult life. These cookies are as good today as they were over a century ago.


In Dood’s own words.

Turn on oven to 400 degrees before you begin.

(If you can read, you can bake.)

1 C brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar
1 Cup shortening – all margarine or 1/2 margarine and 1/2 Crisco
1 t lemon extract
Mix the above ingredients. ( Lyla uses her Kitchenaid) Or hand mixer

Then add 2 eggs, one at a time. Beat with mixer after each addition.

Next add 1/2 C buttermilk with 3/4 t soda dissolved in it. ( I think dissolving the soda is important.)

Measure 2 C flour and 1 t salt. Then sift together into wet ingredients.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment covered cooke sheet. Bake in 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle sugar on top of cookies. Enjoy.

This is a picture of Lyla and me in front of Caruso’s. So much history, not to be forgotten, in our friendship.

Printable recipe

13 responses to “Auntie Cookies and the Importance of Personal History”

  1. Bella says:

    What a lovely story! And thanks for sharing the cookie recipe. I love all the old recipes my grandmothers used to make and we are still making today – I swear the oldies are the best.

  2. ARLENE says:

    A lovely story! I’ve never been to Michigan, but it sounds beautiful the way you’ve described it.

  3. Caruso’s. When I was little I loved sitting at the miniature ice cream table with my little brother after movies with our parents. Caruso’s. Grilled cheese and crisp sour pickles. Mmm.
    I envy your summer trip to Michigan.
    And. I think those cookies might be the same as my grandmother’s old standby, which we just called White Cookies. I’m going to give them a try.
    This was so evocative, Penny…

  4. Mary says:

    What a lovely story. Thanks for sharing it and the cookie recipe with us.

  5. Natashya says:

    What wonderful adventures you have!
    I love the plate too, reminds me of my grandma’s dishes.

  6. Katy ~ says:

    I am truly enamored with those sugar cookies and will definitely be making these!! Sugar cookies are among our favorites in this house. I so love the older recipes; such memories are associated with them.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. When I eat these cookies, I shall feel even more connected with you. Isn’t that amazing that we can do that we food?

  7. Penny says:

    Bella, Thanks for sticking with me. Posting and commenting have been hard these days.

    Arlene, Love all of your wonderful recipes. You have a great blog. Thanks for visiting.

    Sharon, We share a history in growing up Dowagiac or Keeler. David still wants to write growing up Keeler but I don’t think the world is ready for that. We all have Caruso memories. Thanks.

    Mary, Thanks for always commenting. Your blog amazes me.

    Natashya, Live has been interesting lately. I love to travel, but love home too. Next year I want to go to Provence. Loved your Clafouti recipe.

    Katy, I feel connected to you too. I still picture you in a peasant skirt with clogs. We need to meet at a food blogger event.

  8. Karine says:

    What a great story! And these cookies look yummy 🙂

  9. Dear Penny…you must not feel bad about not posting…all of us have times we cannot post or other things take priority.
    Thank you for your sweet visit. It was appreciated…so much! I am better…and will get stronger every day. 🙂
    When I get well I will try those delicious cookies!
    I love your blog.

  10. Beautiful story Penny. It’s so nice to be able to go back home and visit old friends. I love Auntie’s cookies too. We had a place we liked to go as kids and they had kid size ice cream tables and chairs. We loved to sit there and act like grown-ups without our feet dangling from big chairs. Thanks for taking us home with you.

  11. Karen says:

    The best recipes are the ones with a story and this is a beautiful one. I recently connected with a childhood neighbor who I haven’t seen in 43 years. We talked on the phone and all those years just melted away. I love Facebook!

  12. Robin Sue says:

    Penny that is so neat that you got together with your friend after all those years and I like the little place you met, it sounds so neat having homemade candies and such. I think you had a great trip!

  13. Lyla says:

    Though I read your perfect, evocative blog after we met, I didn’t read the comments–until now. Aren’t your blogettes wonderful! I think we need to take everyone with us to Caruso’s the next time. Penny, when we talked about getting together, I was apprehensive: what if we have nothing to say? What if we’ve both changed into entirely different people? I needn’t have worried. You are still your sweet, creative, totally-natural and magical self. Thanks for the great first reunion. Love, Lyla

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