Mother did not make any treats she did not enjoy herself. That meant no Rice Krispie treats, no ice cream desserts, and definitely nothing with chocolate. She didn’t like any of those treats, so nobody else got to enjoy them.
And you also may have read about some of Mother’s disastrous cooking and recipe ideas like Squirrel Gravy and Lard Sandwiches. If you’d like to try making squirrel gravy yourself, here is the recipe. It’s not really that hard to make, it just seemed disgusting to us to make it, much less eat it, as children.
The few other things she agreed to create were horrible–things like stuffed dates and a type of “candy” called divinity. Aside from her single criteria for cooking for us – which was whether or not she would enjoy it – I don’t know other reasons why she made the things she did.
In the case of the divinity candy, perhaps it was because the candy managed to stay around for more than a few minutes (it was so poorly made that even Mother did wish to eat it once it was “finished”). This alleged candy actually stayed around for weeks at a time. Usually it became stiff and hard and had to be thrown away.
Of course, Mary never made cookies and she certainly didn’t invite Lindy and I to invade her kitchen and make cookies. She was too busy reading Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens to see if she could find some holiday ideas she could actually implement.
Sometimes it would be something simple like boil an apple on your stove to make your house smell festive, and she would try that. Other times it was something complicated like making fudge and she would try and fail spectacularly at that. Then she would throw one of her fits and storm away from the kitchen leaving a big mess to be cleaned up by others.
Interestingly, I also have a tendency to read new ideas and try to make them for my family, i.e. the Twelve Layer Cake that my family dubbed the Coma Cake after attempting to eat a slice. However, when my ideas flop, as the cake did, I join in the laughter.
As adults, Lindy and I discovered all sorts of yummy treats that could be created at Christmas time. Lindy became the Chex Mix Queen, and she also had a wonderful caramel recipe. I like to make toffee, but we both love the sugar cookes with gooey frosting. When you have not ever decorated cookies, it becomes a fun, fun, fun activity.
One year, after Mary moved to Iowa, I thought we might enjoy making cookies. I broached the subject with Mary, and her reply was not a surprise.
No, I don’t care to make cookies with you.
she replied. I told her I would supply the ingredients and the pans, and she still refused. When I asked her why she didn’t want to bake cookies with her daughters she came up with some confusing reason. But then Mother fell on one of her classic mechanisms for “coping”. Reaching back into her trusty memories of the distant past, she dredged one up:
I asked you to bake cookies once, but you were a teenager and you refused.
I still wonder if Mary realized that teenagers truly don’t often enjoy being with their families, or if she was just holding the refusal against me forever.
Decades had passed from the time I – as a teenager – “refused” to make cookies with her and this attempt to reconnect with her in some way.
But going into her own personal Wayback Machine and dredging up things from the past was one of our mother’s go-to mechanisms…for coping or something like it, I guess.
These days, and especially during the holidays, cookies are one of the enjoyable things to create with our friends and family. It’s something I look forward to every year.