Monday, October 20, 2014

Valentine Cake for Mother's Day, and Pumpkin Ice Cream for October


(This column was originally published on Sunday, May 4, 2014, in the newspaper where I was employed for 25 years. I lost my job a few weeks later. It has been a life change for me. I am so very blessed to be able to be a stay at home mother after all of these years. However, the reality is that it is true what the doctors say, that the loss of a job can be compared to a death, divorce, etc. It ranks right up there. Let me tell you. I had a pretty good summer easing into sleeping in late and staying up later, and of course vacation was a blast. But truth be told I have struggled with my identity since my children have gone back to school. I haven't decided what I am going to do but I am working toward finding my way to be productive and happy without my newspaper job and also dealing with the loss of friends. One of the ways is writing this blog, which I have been ignoring. I believe my mother would be just as proud of me today as she was of me six months ago, when I shared my story about her. As a side note it should be mentioned my mother died on this day - October 20 - in the year 1968.)

Since I won't be writing next week I want to celebrate Mother's Day by sharing a story about my late mother, Sandra Ellen Watson McDonald, and two of her recipes.

My mother died at the age of 24, just two months shy of my third birthday, a victim of leukemia.

I do not remember my mother but many in the area do. My grandmother, 88, certainly remembers her, and my father, her boyfriend and then husband, remembers her well.

She had many friends, now in their late 60s, some with whom I've become acquainted that knew her.

For years I've wondered about my mother. Seeking something more.

And a year ago on Valentine's Day I finally met her.

"Spent a few hours with my grandmother this afternoon, and found in the attic a scrapbook belonging to my late mother of her school days. I broke down when I came across the photograph of her class touring The Daily Jeffersonian and comments about that day in her handwriting. Awesome discovery that made me just weep," I posted on Facebook.

A photograph of my mother and me, and a page from her scrapbook showing she visited The Daily Jeffersonian, and in her handwriting a list of the names of her classmates who toured the newspaper where I used to work.
In that attic I found my mother's youth and the years leading up to me.

Finding the newspaper clipping from The Jeffersonian was profound.

I have been employed with this newspaper since June 1989 and to know that my mother, when she was 11 years old in the spring of 1956, set foot in a space that I now occupy brings me comfort.

Before I came to work in Cambridge, the Jeffersonian plant she toured was razed and a new Jeffersonian building constructed next door. The lot where I park my vehicle is where the old building stood, the place where she and 17 of her classmates from Mt. Ephraim School toured.

I have become familiar with my mother's handwriting as in the attic I also found many handwritten English assignments from both Sarahsville High School from where she graduated in 1963 and The Ohio State University where she attended.

Career exploration was apparent from her writings. In one of the assignments she talks about being in the College of Education but intending to major in home economics, and in another paper she talks about becoming a flight attendant.

My mother attended classes at OSU until she learned she was pregnant with me. She then became married to my father, Fred, and then I was born.

Since finding my mother on Feb. 14, 2013, I have also found recipes in grandmother's recipe box that were clearly written by her. It's no coincidence that one of hers that I've selected to share today is called Valentine Cake.

Valentine Cake

1 1/3 cup coconut

1 regular size package Jell-O (strawberry)

Package white cake mix

6 cups fluffy white frosting

Tint coconut with 1 tablespoon Jell-O - prepare cake mix batter as directed on package, adding remaining Jell-O before beating.

Pour in greased, paper lined pans. Cool 10 minutes. Split cakes horizontally, making four layers. Spread frosting between layers and over cake. Sprinkle tinted coconut around sides.


The second recipe also is from my mother and was part of a term paper she wrote in English composition at Ohio State with Mr. Gross, the fall of 1963. The class met at 8 a.m., according to the theme folder that holds dozens of essays.

In the writing assignment she talks about the month of October. (She was born Oct. 7, 1944). She talks of Halloween, trick-or-treat and masquerade parties. She offers a recipe for Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie.

Ingredients for 8 servings.

Date and nut cookies - 1 2/3 cups or about 13 cookies

Sugar - 1/4 cup

Butter, melted - 1/4 cup

Canned or cooked pumpkin - 3/4 cup

Cinnamon - 1/2 teaspoon

Ground allspice - 1/2 teaspoon

Ground ginger - 1/4 teaspoon

Salt - 1/4 teaspoon

Brown sugar - 1/4 cup

Vanilla ice cream - 1 1/2 pints

Chopped pecans 1/3 cup

For one pie: Place cookies in a clean plastic bag. Lay flat on counter, open end towards you. Pound and roll with rolling pin until fine crumbs are formed. Add sugar and melted butter. Hold bag and knead until well combined. Turn ingredients into nine-inch pie pan. Press against bottom and sides of pan to form crust. Chill until firm.

Let ice cream stand at room temperature to soften.

Combine pumpkin, spices, salt and brown sugar in a bowl. Stir in softened ice cream and pecans. Pour into chipped pie crust and freeze until firm. If desired, use chocolate frosting in a tube to make a pretty cobweb design on pie surface. Or garnish with shipped cream and nuts.

On her paper the instructor writes in red ink, "Rewrite this in English English which is different from cookbook English."

I wonder what she would think of my writing?

P.S. I'd like to wish the woman who raised me and never treated me like a step daughter, Judy Behringer, a Happy Mother's Day also. See you on Mother's Day, Mom! Love you much.

Republished with permission from the newspaper publisher.

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