For many years, I've written about the exploits of raising a very independent and adventurous -- some times wild -- child. I'd like to say I don't know where that independent streak comes from, but I'd be lying.
A story my mother told many times over the years was how a neighbor out walking looked up at the roof of our house and saw me sitting on it, reading a book. (I was about 8.) He was afraid he would scare me if he said anything and I'd fall off the roof. So, he walked around the house and through our back door, where he told Mom what I was up to. She wasn't as cautious about the yelling part -- she came to the window I had exited from and gave it to me full blast. The gist of it was, "What were you thinking?"
She didn't appreciate my answer it was warm and sunny, and I could look out over the entire neighborhood. She also didn't buy it wasn't that high a roof, but only the roof over the front porch. As a mom now, I can see her point, but the child in me still doesn't get the big fuss over nothing -- I had done it many, many times before ...
Another story Mom liked to tell was about my foray into cooking at the age of 4. She had gone next door (we lived in a duplex when I was a child) to borrow something and left me on my own for a few minutes.
Unfortunately for Mom, I decided I was hungry. After watching her make pancakes for breakfast every weekend, I knew exactly how to make the batter -- which I did. The only problem was I didn't know what temperature to set the electric frying pan at. I went next door to ask Mom -- and she flipped out, again with the "What were you thinking?" I stick by my original answer: "I was hungry and wanted pancakes."
Shortly after that, Mom began to get me more involved in the kitchen and we started cooking and baking together. She taught me how to properly measure dry and liquid ingredients, and what different cooking terms and methods involved. She also bought me a copy of "Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Girls and Boys," which I used with my son when he was young, and still use to this day. The cookbook is old and tattered, and stained with Lord only knows what ingredients that got spilled on it through the years. The illustrations are definitely late 1950s and the comments by the young "guest cooks" are downright nerdy and funny, but I love the recipes!
Grandma's Chocolate Layer Cake
(Long ago, a yellow cake with chocolate icing was called a chocolate layer cake.)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch round layer pans.
Sift together into mixing bowl:
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup soft shortening
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Beat vigorously for 2 minutes (300 strokes). You can use an electric mixer if you scrape the sides down often. Use medium speed.
Another 1/3 cup milk
Beat 2 minutes.
Pour into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool.
Quick Fudge Icing
In saucepan mix:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Bring to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Take out spoon and set pan in cold water. When you can hold your hand on the bottom of the pan the syrup is cool enough.
Then stir in:
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (You may need 1/2 cup more)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir the icing until thick enough to spread. Add more confectioners' sugar or milk if needed.
Eggs in a Frame
Pull center from a slice of bread, or cut out center with biscuit cutter. Butter bread generously on both sides. Brown bread "frames" on one side in moderately hot buttered frying pan. Turn over. Drop egg into center. Cook slowly until egg white is set. (Cover pan until white starts to set.) Sprinkle lightly with salt. Lift out with pancake turner.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to email@example.com.