Posts Tagged ‘family reminisces’

The mixer poised, ready and willing, sat on the counter’s edge. Sifters and spoons, cake flour and powdered sugar – part and parcel to a plan to make kourambethes early the following Christmas Eve morn.

Keziah and I had been chatting away, as we often do, wondering what we would make for supper and what delectable treats we would bake next. I mentioned that I wanted to bake Greek powdered sugar cookies (kourambethes) and that I could use her help. Well . . . that quickly became an action plan to bake them early the next morning, with Kezzie suggesting that we bring some to share at church on Christmas Eve.

Keziah helped me make peppermint kiss cookies for a ladies event I would be attending when our Up North family visited at Thanksgiving. I was impressed over how precise and efficient she had become,  forming dough into cookies, molding them “just so”. in a way remarkably resembling that of my Yia Yia, so many years ago.

So it was that Kezzie sifted flour ( 4 or 5 times, Yia YIa,  really? ). The mixer whirred and blended the butter and egg yolks (Yia Yia, you can’t use just the yolks!). A taste of pinched off dough determined that we needed more sugar (Yia Yia, you can’t eat cookie dough!).













I explained to Keziah that my Yia Yia could not read or write (oh, Yia Yia, everyone can do that!) which was why this recipe did not have precise measurements. I told her that this recipe was written down for me by my mother, who I called Ma (like Little House on the Prairie?) but Auntie Jenny and Kezzie’s Mommy called Yia Yia (could she read and write?). I replied that yes, she could, but that she did not finish 8th grade, nor did she read or write or speak Greek.

My sweet granddaughter, perched upon a stool, pinched and rolled with an uncanny ease for one so young. She lined the dough on cookie sheets as we talked and baked and tasted our results. Keziah did the work her Yia Yia couldn’t quite handle this year. We talked, she asked questions and we puzzled out family history. She reminded me to check the cookies in the oven and anticipated “dusting” the cookies with powdered sugar when it was time.

When we were done, 100 cookies were made, tins were filled, and Ezra helped us taste test – just to make sure they were good.

This recipe for kourambethes came to me like taking the long way home.

It begins for me with a young woman, Penelope, for whom I am named. She brought this recipe and others in her mind as she traveled down a mountain, more than a century ago, a donkey employed to carry their possessions. She came down the mountain and boarded one ship, then another and sailed across the ocean to New York, then traveled on to Massachusetts and finally Chicago. Her daughter-in-law, my Ma, wrote down what she saw and in time gave it to me. The measurements in saucers-full and baking until done.

This year, 2020, five generations strong, I will convert my cursive writing to print and provide more accurate measurements*, confident in the knowledge that a new generation is now becoming the keeper of family recipes, especially those that have traveled so very far.

  • My one true test of knowing when the dough is sweet enough to bake is in tasting the dough. Yia Yia would always pinch off a little piece of dough for my sister and a piece for me before she would start forming cookies to bake. This pinch is how I know they are sweet enough. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.









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DSCN0944I am fairly certain, well, at least as certain one can be about things that were never to be, that had my father lived to know and enjoy his grandchildren, he would have convinced them that the inspiration for bobbleheads were none other than Teddy and Penny!

Teddy is my first cousin and my oldest friend. He and I are 26 days apart in birth with me the oldest, a fact that Ted ALWAYS reminds me of on my birthday. Not only are we close in age, but we also lived in the same house until we were four and half years old, then lived next door to each other until we were eighteen. We were playmates from the beginning with my sister, Dottie, making us a trio two and half years later.

I was thinking a bit about Christmases past as I pulled the few ornaments of my childhood out of their box, rubbing my hands over one of the glass birds that has long been without his tail. As these things go, I wondered and then wandered to one of my mother’s photo albums, looking for old Christmas pictures. One black and white photo led to another, a magnifying glass was deployed, and there, right next to my rather startled demeanor, is one of the glass birds with his tail intact.  If you click on twice, you can see it just to the right of my waist.

Don’t you love those curls? They are rag curls, done at the hands of my Yia Yia, who wet strips of material and wound my hair around them. I think they were hoping for a Shirley Temple look.

As I often do here on the Cutoff, I digress. It is bobbleheads that are the topic, and the Christmas Teddy and I were turning three, maybe four. We were old enough to be taken in by Santa, but my sister not yet part of the tale.

As the story goes, we were playing, companionable together as we always were. Our flat had a long hallway where we would entertain each other within close range of all the adults in the house. The hall and a large kitchen with a pantry were the boundaries of most of our playtime, though there is another tale for another time of an impromptu tea party and the toilet.

In our bedroom, what must have originally been the parlor, my mom, dad, sister and I slept. It was off of the kitchen, had its own fireplace, and, besides my parent’s double bed, a youth bed, a crib, a rocking chair and a suite of furniture, including a cedar chest, there was also a television set and a stereo.

One fine day in late December Teddy and I were playing, the adults doing what adults did; cooking, reading, talking. It is said that suddenly a voice came out of the stereo, a long wooden box that played 78’s from the Big Band Era with a radio. It was just sitting there with a voice booming forth, saying  “Penny. Teddy, this is Santa Clause, are you being good?” .

Two little heads, wide-eyed and attentive, looked at the big wooden box that once again said “Penny. Teddy. Are you being good?” as my rag curl noggin and Teddy’s blonde curls bobbled up and down affirming what a good little boy and girl we had been.

It was my father’s voice that was coming out of the stereo, from somewhere in the basement. How he did it, I do not know. I just know that the story was told, again and again, over many Christmas dinners, of how Santa came to see if Penny and Teddy were naughty or nice one Christmas.

Here are the two bobbleheads, circa 1951. I can only imagine what antics were going on above our heads to keep us both at attention while the picture was being taken. DSCN0945

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