[written by Joan Garfield, from Stone Soup Cooking, privately published memoir]
When I was 19 years old my Grandma died suddenly of a heart attack while visiting friends in Florida. She died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Her body was shipped home to Chicago. At the funeral I asked what had happened to her onyx ring. I was told that it disappeared.
Now I have my own onyx ring with a diamond to wear on my right hand. I know it does not exactly match the one that my grandmother wore, yet it binds me forever to the woman I remember with such love. I wear it as I cook potato kugel and brisket in my kitchen, and I wore it as I sang my children to sleep at night. I hope to wear it when I rock my grandchildren in my arms. Someday I will pass it on to my daughter, Rebecca. This ring symbolizes a gift to be passed down from generation to generation, a gift of those things I value most: my grandmother's love, warmth, generosity, and of course, her recipes.
I learned later in life that my Grandma did not know how to cook until she was married, and my Papa taught her. I also learned that her style of cooking was similar to Hungarian food, and that she liked to add tomatoes and paprika to many dishes such as baked chicken. I remember watching my Grandma and Papa in the kitchen, as Papa grated potatoes for latkes or a kugel, while my Grandma sautéed gribniz (chicken fat) and chicken livers. I loved her potato lakes so much I would sneak into the kitchen as she fried them and she would give me some to sample before dinner. I also loved the brown crusty potato kugel with the creamy filling, so delicious with pot roast and gravy. I do not have her recipe for this dish but many years later, after marrying Michael, his Aunt Ann gave me her recipe for kugel which is also very good.
My memories of my warm, round little Grandma in the kitchen are accompanied by memories of my father’s joy in eating her food or talking about her food. And I can picture her smiling face as she stood wearing her apron, arms folded as she asked “Good, the kugel” and we groaned our appreciation.
Grandma’s cookies (an approximate version, because I do not have her recipe)
1 c. plain oil (like corn oil)
2 c. sugar
4 1/2 cups flour
1 2/3 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vanilla
Cream oil and sugar. Add eggs. Beat well. Add flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla; mix well. Roll out on floured board, cut circles with a small glass. Place on greased cookie sheet; press . Bake for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees F.
Postcript: after our mother's death in 2013, Ann found the recipe in a letter written by Papa Julius in about 1963, probably in response to a request from Joan. It is only the list of ingredients.
2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 pound butter or margarine
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspon of vanilla
This photo of Grandma Rebecca Garfield holding baby David Garfield was taken at our home in Evanston, Illinois in 1957.