Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down

Do you know the old Kris Kristofferson song, “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”?  The lyrics are really poetic in a country kind of way.  He paints a sharp picture of what it’s like to wake up in a “sleeping city” (probably Nashville) with a terrible hangover and yet sharply observe the Sunday morning.

Part of that description is the “Sunday smell of someone frying chicken,” which takes the singer back to “something left behind.”  Smell is powerful at evoking memories, perhaps more powerful than any other sense.

I spent this Sunday morning baking cookies, not an activity I often pursue, and the scent of the cookies took me back to Mother baking at Christmastime.  The recipe was from my sister Juanita–I will share it if she permits, but not today–and called for nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon, as well as chopped dates, raisins and walnuts.  Something about the spices and the scent of dried fruit baking reminded me of Mother making a blackberry jam cake which used the same spices.

That was a three-layer cake iced with boiled icing.  Some people think a jam cake is just another fruitcake, but it doesn’t have those nasty candied fruits.  And when it is baking, the house smells of those Christmas spices and baking blackberries.

Thinking of Mother reminds me of another scent.  When I was young she always used perfumed dusting powder on her thighs and arms and chest.  She said it kept her from chafing.  I can’t remember what kind it was, although I faintly remember a pink round box with gold trim and a flat white pad instead of a powder puff.  I do remember a strong flowery scent with a bit of baby powder smell as well.  She was fond of Estee Lauder when she got older, but I don’t think we could afford that back in the day.  I wish I could smell it again.

So another Sunday is winding down.  Here’s to a good week, to all of us on sleeping city sidewalks, bustling suburban highways, and quiet villages.  Peace out.

Mama’s Tea Cakes

Blanche Ella Collier Bowers

I never knew my grandmother on my mother’s side; she died before I was born.  Mother’s stories about her made her sound like the taskmaster and moral guardian of the family, while Papa, Mother’s father, was fun-loving and mischievous.  Both Mama and Papa worked hard on their small farm all their lives, raising five children.  Mother used to say I had Mama’s hands, long-fingered and slim, while she had Papa’s bony, large-knuckled ones.

Mother learned to cook from Mama, as well as how to can and preserve vegetables and fruits, make jams and jellies, and generally make the most of what they were able to grow in their garden patch.  Most of the recipes were in her head, and Mother did not write them down.  When I was in high school I asked her for Mama’s tea cake recipe.  They are simple, thin cookies, that are in fact good with a cup of tea.  I struggled with these, because it helps to know how to handle biscuit dough without over-working it in order to make these cookies!

Mama’s Tea Cakes

2 1/4 cups sugar

about 2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

pinch salt

2 eggs

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup butter (or margarine, butter is better)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the dry ingredients and put them on the biscuit board or pastry sheet where you will roll out the cakes.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ingredients there.  Mix together until you have dough–don’t handle too much!  Roll out thin and cut into round cookies (biscuit cutter or a glass works fine).  Bake until lightly browned.

Optional:  Add lemon zest or orange zest.  Not authentic to the recipe or period, but a nice flavor.