Sometimes I go through Grandma’s recipes, organized by myself into two card-sized tins. And when I do, I find two things: Stained, cryptic notes in cursive penmanship, and torn clippings – from newspapers, from magazines, from the boxes of butter or oatmeal of decades ago.
I have no idea, usually, if she’d tried and liked these torn recipes or if she’d been meaning to, but I keep them because, well, they were hers, things she thought worth trying.
My mom and I carry on this tradition, she with her labeled folders of cut-out recipes, and I with mine.
This cookie, from Gourmet circa 1961, is one of those clippings.
I knew I’d like them, both because they are made with the complexity of brown butter and because of the simplicity of ingredients, all things you probably have on hand.
It took one whiff of browning butter, set in a pot on low heat to slowly melt and darken, for me to love it the way I love twinkling Christmas lights or the look of falling snow.
As its color deepens, a nutty aroma fills the air, hinting at its rich flavor. And put into cookies, this ingredient turns a simple dough into something magnificent: a crumbly sable texture with layers of subtle sweetness.
You know, in all the nearly seventeen years I knew my grandma, I can’t remember ever baking anything for her, not on my own, not without her help.
I know I gave her cereal, toast, maybe cut up fruit now and then. Especially when she lived with us in that last year, when I slept in the same room with her to make sure she was all right.
But I never cooked for her. And it’s a bitter irony that, almost ten years after she’s gone, I’m wondering which cookies she’d want for Christmas, when all my life, she knew which I’d prefer.
Those are the kinds of things one thinks about after losing someone: the questions you would’ve asked, the things you would’ve done while you still could.
I will never bake for my grandma, but I will bake for you. And, in so doing, it seems to me, she doesn’t feel so far away.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna has a Masters in Writing through Depaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.