Country Kitchen: Family Memories

Country Kitchen: Family Memories

The Robin's Rain Song & The Cookie Lady

By Mary Emma Allen

"That robinÂ’s song means rain," I remarked.

My family looked at me and wondered about Mom communicating with the birds.

"Yes," I said. "When the robins sang like that, Grandma always told us it meant rain was coming."

They then wondered about my mother and me.

"And she was usually right," I insisted.

Later in the day it rained! A gentle spring storm outside my kitchen door.

Memories From Childhood

ItÂ’s amazes me how memories from childhood pop, unannounced, into our minds, triggered by a word, a sound, a song, a picture. I hadnÂ’t thought about the robinÂ’s rain song for awhile. However, as I sat at my computer and heard the robins singing, MotherÂ’s words came to mind.

I also realize how much we absorb in childhood that later influences our lives. My memories, IÂ’ve discovered, continue to play a role in my thoughts and writing.

The Cookie Lady

When I read my poem, "The Cookie Lady," to school children, they ask me, "Who is the Cookie Lady?"

I realized, after I wrote the poem and drew the illustration, "This looks like Auntie and describes her baking."

Memories of my auntÂ’s delicious cookies had lingered to make their way into my writing and illustrating. She had all kinds of goodies for afternoon tea, lunch or dinner whenever we visited.

Auntie was a great bread baker, too. Warm from the oven, with her churned butter and homemade jam, bread was as good as any dessert.

So those memories, unbidden, influenced "The Cookie Lady" poem. The illustration/poster I drew did resemble Auntie.

Finding AuntieÂ’s Cookbook

After Auntie developed AlzheimerÂ’s and no longer cooked, her notebook with recipes collected over the years was given to me. What fun to find recipes sheÂ’d copied with notations regarding where sheÂ’d acquired them. Some even were from her grandmothers, making this truly a family treasure for our recipe collection.

Family Recipes

MAÂ’s SPONGE CAKE - GrandmotherÂ’s recipe, made by both Auntie and Mother: Beat 3 egg yolks and 3/4 cup cold water together for 5 minutes. Then add 1 1/4 cups sugar and beat (by hand) for 15 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups sifted flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 scant teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Fold in 3 stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into greased tube pan. Bake 40 minutes in moderate oven.

(Imagine beating first 5 minutes, then 15 minutes with a hand beater! Makes us really appreciate the electric mixer. With it you donÂ’t have to beat so long, just until mixture is light and fluffy. Since their baking was done in a woodstove oven, the recipes in those days gave out slow, moderate, and high or hot as temperatures. Generally moderate meant around 350 degrees F. Many modern sponge cake recipes say 325 degrees F.)

(C) 2002 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

The Country Kitchen Series

Window to the World

Mud Season Means Spring!

Memories at the Kitchen Table

The Pioneer Kitchen

Fascinating Jelly Jars

Cook to Cook Letter Writing

Backyard Picnics

Summertime Picnics

Cookie Cutter Traditions


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