Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - December 17, 2021

Well-used items kindle memories

Hubby Art often returns from shopping trips with a box or two of Jiffy brand corn muffin mix. It's a not-so-subtle hint for me to bake him the melt-in-your-mouth muffins. But while his mind is on the end result, I think about mom when I pull out her well-worn aluminum Muffinaire tins. Such utilitarian items can reconnect us with people or events.

I thought of her again at Thanksgiving when Katie used Mom's wooden rolling pin to make the crust for the pumpkin pie filling her husband Matt had made.

Niece Larisa has mom's Pyrex mixing bowls - a large yellow one, with smaller green, red and blue ones that stacked inside. Friend Teddy had a similar set which I now have. Whenever I use Teddy's, I think of mom, Teddy ... and Larisa.

Art inherited his dad's love for potatoes, so in her latter years, Art's mother Donna frequently announced to anyone within hearing that she wanted her aluminum Montgomery Ward potato pot to go to Art when she passed. It is now at our cottage in Wisconsin. Art says he never uses it that he doesn't think of her and her somewhat amusing bequeathment.

Friend Deb finds her grandmother's pie pans elicit memories.

She rolled out her crusts on her cupboard with an old wooden roller until they were thin and fit the shape of her glass pie pans. I could never get my dough to cooperate the way Grandma did. She would pick the dough up off the cupboard and flip it onto the pie pan, making it ready for the filling she was using that day.

She made a lot of fruit pies and the fruit was from their trees on the farm or from another farm where Grandma would exchange a fruit she had for one they were willing to share. ...

If fresh fruit was not in season, Grandma made cream pies. My favorite was coconut. My Grandpa's favorite was chocolate, and my mother liked lemon. Grandma would pile peaks of meringue onto the pies and bake them until the meringue was lightly toasted.

Hmmmmmm, I can almost taste her pies just describing them. ...

I was surprised after mom's death that of her many kitchen items, niece Gabriela requested only the angel-food-cake pan and the long-necked bottle mom used to support it when a cake was cooling. But her recollections made clear it had much meaning for her.

Grams had Angel Food cake every summer, topped with strawberries and good ole Cool Whip (something we did not have in Bolivia). As she got older and as we cousins got older, the Angel Food cake tradition turned into something she ate and something we took the reins on.

And don't be mistaken. We didn't get making Angel Food cake on the first try; it was trial and error. One summer, we (Katie,
[sister] Larisa, [cousin] Mariya and I) decided to make a dinner for the family that included Angel Food cake as dessert. BUT we did not put the cake pan together the right way, so as we poured the batter in, it started slipping out the bottom. Luckily, we hadn't poured all the batter in! But that dinner, our Angel Food cake was slightly small.

On another occasion, I got the pan together the right way, but when I took the cake out to then turn upside down over the glass bottle to cool, the cake fell out of the pan onto the counter - FLAT into a pancake.

While I am still no expert on making Angel Food cake, every time I get the cake pan and glass bottle out, I am filled with all the wonderful memories of Grandma, family time, and summer. In today's world, there are so many gadgets that try to make your cooking or life "easier" or more "automated," so my appreciation for this Angel Food cake pan and glass bottle is more than I can describe. It's about cousins laughing and freaking out, about how to put the pan together, about time with family around the table, about keeping Grams' memory alive and about passing it on to our family ... oh, and it's also about the good ole Cool Whip!

Friend Bryce recently mentioned making ginger snaps and recalling the woman who sent him cookies when he was stationed in Korea and who later gave him the baking sheet.

... Alvida became part of our Ferguson family shortly before I was born when her daughter married Mom's brother, Don Ferguson. Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations included Alvida and Oscar as another set of grandparents.

48 years ago this Christmas, Alvida sent me (in Korea) about ten coffee cans packed with different kinds of cookies. ... My first Christmas in a foreign land, with no phone calls or instant communication, was pretty bright ...

In 1974, when I was just out of the U.S. Army and headed back to college, Alvida ... told me to stop by and pick up a box of very used kitchen cookware and utensils from her back door.

Today the cookie sheet - which Alvida used to make those cookies that she sent not only to me, but to lots of Ferguson family servicemen and other Lindsborg and Marquette servicemen - works wonders to bake the standard ginger snap cookie recipe that happened to enter our family because of her.

Bryce concluded his note with:

... Sweet precious memories can be triggered by a certain cookie sheet or shovel or chair or wrench, as I'm sure many of you are experiencing this season ...

How true! As Gabriela implied, there is no shortage of new gadgets a person can buy. But a well-used, yet functional, item holds the power to reconnect us, albeit briefly, with past events and times spent with loved ones.

Left: Katie uses my mom's rolling pin to make the crust for our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie while Art supervises; left-middle: Gabriela holding my mom's angel-food-cake pan and the bottle used when cooling a cake; top-right: Alveda's well-worn cookie sheet still turns out wonderful ginger snaps and memories; bottom-right: my set of stacking Pyrex bowls that had belonged to my friend Teddy. Larisa had to look for some time to find a replacement for the missing one in mom's set.

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