A recent Tribune headline brought the good news that there is yet another new bakery in Woodstock. There are as many different kinds of bakeries as there are nationalities and spice labels, and many are within easy driving or walking distance.
It hasn’t always been like this in our city. When the population was 750 in the 1960s, most folks depended on Grandma or Aunt Susie to keep our sweet tooth satisfied. Soon after we moved here in 1965, I discovered Villa Dunn. She was Woodstock’s answer to Sara Lee and Little Debbie and fancy bakeries in nearby towns. My baking skills were very limited, and Villa became my go-to person for cakes for birthdays and other occasions. And later, when we needed wedding cakes, there was Chiquita Berry whose masterpieces were created in a professional kitchen in her home.
By this time, my Mom had joined our household and our daily meal time was good. She delighted in cooking for a steady stream of friends and relatives, and teenagers, always hungry. They referred to her biscuits as bullets. She had discovered the blueberry farm out on Arnold Mill Road, and their recipe for Blueberry Delight was one of her favorites. We still laugh, and cry, over the blueberry accident. She was in the midst of preparing a meal for some sort of family event, and had placed the completed and ready-for-serving Blueberry Delight on the dryer in the laundry room just off the kitchen, out of the way, while finishing up other dishes. The maid (that would be me) had clothes in the apparently-overloaded washer, and when the spin cycle did its dance, the Blueberry Delight ended up all over the laundry room floor.
Most cooks in those days owned copies of “Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook,” or perhaps the renowned “Fannie Farmer Cookbook,” but those secret recipes, handed down from their own fore-mothers, were where they went for special occasions. Local civic clubs and women’s associations in churches were constantly printing cookbooks using recipes submitted by area cooks. The cook’s name was often printed with the recipe, and if you had a question about directions or amounts, it was easy enough to call the contributor – or see her at church – to get answers. “League Legacy” was printed by the Service League of Cherokee County in 1985. Later, in new versions, they added biographical information about the cooks and/or their ancestors, giving voice and face to these timeless recipes. I love the dedication in the 1993 edition titled “Cherokee County Recipes and Recollections.” “We dedicate this book to those who remember the sound of butter being churned and waking to the aroma of bread baking in the wood burning stove.” That phrase awakened an old memory of a homework assignment from Home Economics class, probably 1948-49. We were told to bake a cake at home. My family was still cooking on a wood burning stove. No switch to set on 350 degrees. No timer. No electric mixer. No cheating with a Duncan Hines box of cake mix. It didn’t help that my teacher was fresh out of college, not much older than I was, and was certainly “not from around here.” I was a country girl in a class of in-towners, and it was already evident that my favorite room in the house was not the kitchen. I have a vague memory that the lady who was keeping house for us baked the cake. Every adult member of the household was employed, a situation brought about when women joined the workforce during the Second World War. Many a cake went unbaked during the war since sugar was rationed. My own Grandma took me with her to visit her brother in Jacksonville during the war. I have a vivid memory of helping her carry suitcases filled with sugar for the train trip home. Grandma had gone without divinity candy as long as she could.
A few years ago I found a treasure at the library book sale. It is a 1971 reprint of “Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook.” It caught my eye, since 1934 is the year of my birth. Perhaps that explains my love of chocolate. My Valentine Day this year was filled with many nice gifts, for which I am very thankful. But I must confess, my favorite was a Whitman’s Sampler, the next best thing to an old-fashioned Hershey bar. We celebrated a few years ago when we discovered a Pennsylvania Hershey in my Schneider ancestry. It gave us some sort of excuse to indulge even more often. In thumbing through the 1934 book, I found one completely new recipe. Most folks my age and even younger have made and eaten potato candy, that wonder of all wonders, a candy made from a vegetable. This recipe turns it into a real miracle, “Chocolate Potato Candy.” With any luck, somebody will begin to produce this again, and will open up yet another bakery/sweet shop. If not, I’ll pass along the recipe to son-in-law George who has spent these long pandemic months in his kitchen. He has replaced my Mom as the family cook.