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Posts Tagged ‘Hershey’s Cocoa’

 I’d ‘ve baked a cake,

baked a cake,

baked a cake.


If I knew you were comin’ I’d ‘ve baked a cake.

How-ja do, How-ja do, How-ja do

Our Up North family came down for a visit last week, which meant this most excellent “cook fantastic” wanted to bake, bake, bake! Bake, we did, every day they were here, however, one of the days found us snowbound and Yia Yia did not have any box mixes in the pantry.

I always have a few boxes of cake mix on hand for quick use just in case company comes. Not a box to be found, I remembered the chocolate mayonnaise cake that I made last year for the Elmhurst Garden Club’s celebration of the 1930’s – AND I had all the ingredients on hand. Out they came, along with cake pans, waxed paper, and a little white lie.

Kezzie’s birthday is much later this month. She was thinking out loud about it through much of our visit in that inquiring way youngsters have as their birthdays approach.

Hmmmm . . .

I decided that we would make this cake, only I told her it was to bring to a gathering at a friend’s house on Friday. We could make it early since Kezzie was such a good helper. I froze the layers, then took them out on Wednesday to frost. Kezzie was eager and more than willing to not only make the cake, but, to make the frosting as well. Hershey’s cocoa and butter and vanilla and milk and WOW! Lots of licking ensued once the cake was properly dressed.

Kezzie pondered, rightfully, that the cake needed a bit of pizzaz. I had a few Fannie May mints left over from Valentine’s Day, so, out they came and round the cake they merrily marched. The cake was on a cake stand (so I could easily transport it to my “friend’s” house) and there it sat, all afternoon, under a glass dome, waiting.

That evening the entire clan was over for our hearty corned beef and cabbage dinner; a St. Patrick’s Day tradition here on the Cutoff, along with the first of the Irish Soda bread (which Kezzie also helped make). Since all were gathering, we decided on an early St. Paddy’s Day celebration.  Amid the end-of-meal talking, laughing, resting from a big meal, I slipped away from the table. I put some candles on the cake while the Antler Man set out plates and made a pot of coffee.

On cue, Tom turned out the lights and in came the cake to a very surprised young lady, who, we all declared, had to bake her own birthday cake!

Do you have a favorite cake to bake?

Words to the song by songwriters Al Hoffman, Albert J Trace, and Bob Merrill

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Doom was always lurking around corners. Ma tended toward old wives’ tales. If I read too much, my eyes would cross. If I cropped-dscn39801.jpgwashed my hair too often, it would fall out before I reached the age of 30. Pantyhose and tampons would render me sterile. Nail polish would brand me a hussy. Shaving my armpits, well, you don’t want to know that one. Plucking my eyebrows could cause any number of vision problems, which, perhaps, is probably why I fell and hurt myself running, and . . .

. . . I was never, ever, under any circumstances to turn the oven on!

The sturdy Tappan Gas Range of my two previous posts, followed our family from the west side of Chicago to the suburb of Maywood. Both houses were across from what would become I-290,  locally dubbed the Congress Expressway and then the Eisenhower. For more than 50 years, I lived either on the north or the south side of the Ike, but, those are stories for other days. Today’s is the story of my home, the range, and Hershey’s Cocoa.

My mother, with all her superstitions and worry, was the best at making hot cocoa. Cold days, after walking home from school, we would often find a cup of hot chocolate waiting. Ma would make a cup for Daddy sometimes, late at night. I know. How do I know? I know because I was reading a book, under my bed covers, when I was supposed to be fast asleep.

I digress.

I have a bundle of letters tied with a ribbon. They are letters written to my mother during WWII. They are from her brothers and brothers-in-law, cousins and boys from the neighborhood who had gone off to war. They are from many theaters of battle, some with words sliced out by a censor’s razor. They speak of the Chicago Cubs or the White Sox, others asking after the other boys who hung out on the street corner. They talk of weather and of missing loved ones and of the things in between the lines that speak of war without words. They are the sorts of letters that arrived in countless homes. In almost every letter my mother kept, however, there was a common theme;

Vi, I can’t wait to come home and have a cup of your hot cocoa.

I did not know of these letters until I was a young mother when my mom gave them to, saying she thought I would appreciate having them – and I did. Still do. All I knew as a girl of thirteen, however, was that Ma made good cocoa, with Hershey’s cocoa. The same Hershey’s cocoa that my cousin Mary Jane made each morning, as a young teen, after she had warmed up the old coal stove.

The conversation with my cousin, and the photograph of the new stove reminded me of the letter, my mother, and of a small act of defiance when I was about thirteen years old.

My mother, father and Yia Yia had all gone out somewhere. So had my Aunt Christina and Uncle Joe, who lived next door. For all of them to be gone at the same time, including my grandmother, who hardly ever left the house, leads me to believe that someone must have died and they all went to the wake. They NEVER all went somewhere together, unless it was a wake or a wedding.

I finished my homework then decided I would make some cocoa. Just like that! Out came the Hershey’s container, a half gallon glass jar of milk, and a small pan. I read the directions and proceeded to turn on the burner and warm the milk. I was warned to never turn on the oven. No one said anything about a burner. I managed to make the hot cocoa without setting the pan, a towel, or anything else on fire. It was very good. I cleaned everything up, but,  you know, there is a unique aroma that comes with hot Hershey’s cocoa that permeates the air and is subtly detectable when coming in from the cold –  that, and the pang of guilt that arises after doing something you are not supposed to do.

When my parents and grandmother came home, I spilled the beans faster than a nervous coffee grinder. Yia Yia slipped quietly to her room. My father looked at me; she who never disobeyed. My mother: well, hysterical would probably describe her mien, as the woulda, shoulda, couldas spewed forth. Finally, Daddy interceded on my behalf.  “Violet, she should have asked, but, nothing bad happened, she was careful, she cleaned up after herself and she really  IS old enough to start cooking.”

Thus began my warm and sweet love affair with cooking – one pan of Hershey’s cocoa at a time – and it was on the front right burner of that sturdy Tappan range. It really is amazing what memories come forth when visiting a big box store.

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DSCN3980Returning home from our New Year’s Day adventure in a big box store, Tom and I continued to reminisce about the big, white stoves that took up so much space in the small, suburban kitchens of our childhoods. Both Tom’s parents and my multi-generation family eventually hauled these large ovens to other houses; Tom’s to a newer, bigger home, mine to a suburban house, then, after another move, to the basement of my Aunt Christina’s house; the stove’s final resting place.

As we chattered away, I recalled an old black and white photo of Aunt Christina and my grandmother, Yia Yia, posing in front of the stove in the kitchen of the family home on Congress Street in Chicago. It was in this house, the first floor of a two flat, that the picture was taken in. There, we all lived together; a multi-generational mix of aunts and uncles, cousins and grandmother,  until I was four and one half years old.

DSCN3943It set me to wondering about the story of the stove, a Tappan,  and a bit of a rummage-around for the photo.  I found it,  and I knew who to call for its story; my cousin Mary Jane.

After saying hello and a bit of catching up, I asked Mary Jane if she remembered the stove and when it was brought to the family house on Congress Street. Mary Jane is the oldest of the cousins, with fourteen or so years between her and I. She spent a good part of her childhood  in my grandmother’s house, the only child living among several sets of aunts and uncles and other relatives who at different times found shelter in Yia Yia’s house.

Mary Jane said that she did, indeed, remember the stove. Our Uncle John bought it for the family when he secured a good job after returning from serving in World War II. He sent money home to Chicago for a new stove and a new furnace.

I can only imagine the joy and relief of my uncle returning safely from war, as well as the appreciation when the stove and the furnace arrived. The story warmed my heart as much as the stove must have warmed their meals and the furnace the entire building. In our family, as in many of yours, the kitchen and its stove represent the heart of family. I knew the stove from our suburban house Maywood, though, and needed to learn a bit of its history.

My cousin surmised that my mother, her Aunt Violet, took the picture. I supposed she took two or three, with one to mail to Uncle John.

I asked Mary Jane what kind of stove the new Tappan Gas Range replaced. Ah, a little chuckle preceded what I heard as I memory of her own. She said the old stove was a coal stove. When she started high school, she was the first one up in the morning. Her job was to start the stove. Oh, it was cold in the morning when she entered the kitchen. she vividly recalled. She would get the stove warming with coal from a nearby bucket, then dress for school. By the time she was dressed and ready, so was the stove, upon which she then made a cup of Hershey’s Cocoa, which she had with a slice of bread and butter.

While the old coal stove stayed evenly warm for a long time, the new gas range must have been a remarkable improvement for the women in my family, and for my cousin’s early morning routine. I was glad I called my cousin and appreciative that she took time talking with me,  recalling those memories and family history.

We said our good-byes, then I found a cozy spot and looked anew the picture – and I thought about the first time I made cocoa on that same Tappan range.

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1621013_saI found another memory in a box.  A big box. Actually, a big box store. Funny, isn’t it, where memories emerge?

There we were, on a snow filled New Year’s Day, shopping for a new stove at Best Buy. Among the many items that go on sale in the new year are appliances. In this newly minted year, we find we need to replace our oven, so, off we pottered, research having been done online and through a few well-placed phone calls, looking for a range.

Trudging into the store after making our way through a parking lot that had not yet been plowed from the first 24 hours of a 48 hour snowfall, we stomped slush from our feet and were greeted with a rush of welcome fit for a duke and duchess. We were so welcomed, of course, because we were just about the only patrons in the store!

Off we went, the Duke of Deer and his Duchess, down aisles of all things electronic, toward the big appliances. Once we found our bearings, we inspected a fine row of stoves and rounded a corner of stainless steel, when I exclaimed “oh, this is just like the stove we had when I was growing up!”; and it was. White enamel in look and as pure as the white driven snow, it had coal, black burner grates and (WAIT FOR IT) and an analog clock with a chubby, round face and arrowed hands, right smack dab in the middle of the range.

My girlish glee immediately aroused a clerk, smelling the prospect of a sale, maybe the only sale on that very first day of 2014. A rather young chap, he slid around an LG, or was it a Samsung, and, swift as a lord-a-leaping, opened the  white oven door. “This is GE’s new retro model, and it is only $….“. We weren’t interested in buying this smart new model. Though it would have fit into our budget, it would not have worked in our kitchen.

Even so, the Duke of Deer, whose childhood also held such a white cooking wonder, and his Duchess spent several sweet moments DSCN3980warmly recalling the features of their childhood ovens. How very wondrous it seemed.

Now, dear reader, there is more to this New Year’s day story, which I will soon share with you, for one thing, you know,  always leads to another when memories are stirred on the Cutoff – and they even involves Hershey’s Cocoa.

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