Grandma’s War Cake

When my Grandma passed away a few years ago, the things I chose to keep as mementos were largely based on things we used to do together. She was my hero, to put it short. I spent so many days at her house because my Mom was sick when I was little. And we’d play Uno, or bake, or she’d put me to work with household work (mainly running up and down the stairs for her as she had sore feet). We also spent HOURS talking. That never went away. I was 34 when she died, and up until her last days we would sit in our chairs and talk about everything under the sun. Another 34 years with her would have been a dream but the truth is, we never would have run out of conversation. I still do consider her my soulmate in so many ways.

“Wilma’s Caramel Squares’

Baking I will always associate with her. My favourite thing to make with her, usually on Sundays, was chocolate chip muffins. I also ‘inherited’ her rolling pin when she passed away.

These recipe cards I keep in her memory, although many of the recipes on them wouldn’t be considered vegetarian (or healthy!) these days. That’s ok. I keep them because I love to see her hand-writing – she was a teacher, and her long-hand was beautiful. And because of the adorable mention of the source of the recipe on some of the cards (‘from Susan’, ‘from Barbara’.) And because some of the recipes are so dated. There is one called ‘War Cake’ that I presume was so named because so many ingredients were considered to be luxuries during the war, so they had to simplify. I could be wrong though. I had never heard of War Cake before I saw it here.

These were her primary bundle of recipes in the kitchen, although I didn’t recognise many of the dishes from our family dinners. Some of them are old and yellowing, but the hand-writing is still hers, and I know that sometime in the past someone may have said to her ‘oh Madeleine, why don’t you make your famous butterscotch pie this weekend?’. They are one of the most personal mementos I have of any family member who has passed. It’s always a bit of a panic, having things like this as a renter who often has to move. They go in my most precious bundle when I am packing. Next to my passports.

The last time I saw her, when she was sound-of-mind, I was staying with her for a month over the Christmas holidays. This was a few months before she passed. It was just going to be the two of us for Christmas dinner, and she asked me what I wanted to have. I have a funny ol’ diet, mainly plant-based and gluten-free, but I never put that on her. I asked her to make me my favourite: macaroni and cheese casserole. That was my last big meal with her and I savoured every bite. I think anyone who grew up as an 80s baby in North America can agree that mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food!

“Judie’s Zucchini Bread’

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