Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

About 15 years ago, our daughter, Nancy Ru...

About 15 years ago, our daughter, Nancy Russell, and I had a booth at a one-day antique show in the Fayette High School gym. We took turns at the booth and visited around to buy and trade with other dealers. I stopped where a woman was reading a huge cook book. “Would that be a White House Cook Book?” I asked.

The woman flipped it shut so I could see its gleaming white oilcloth cover with big black letters. It had a sunburst circle on the front, with a picture of the White House in Washington, D.C. I knew that I had to own that book because Mom’s copy burned when our house was destroyed by fire in 1922.

The lady opened the front cover and I read, “COMPLIMENTS of J.L. HENRY, HARDWARE. STOVES, ETC., Centralia, Mo.” I screamed, “That’s from Grandpa’s store!”

Nancy heard me and came running. A few minutes later, Walt appeared at the gym entrance, and Nancy yelled for him to come quick. This was a family treasure, for sale to the public. The three of us were making quite a commotion, and several people gathered around to see what the racket was about.

I held the book tenderly and displayed the first page with its ornamented sticker and said, “That was Mom’s father’s store, in Centralia. This copy was the 1900 edition, and Mom would have been a teenage girl.” Ida Saxton McKinley’s full-page picture was at the front on slick paper.

The 592 other pages were pages were tan and brittle, and I clung to it so others wouldn’t damage it. This would be our book, whatever the price~.

“Mom’s White Mountain Cake is in here,” I said. She made it often. It required the whites of a dozen eggs! It was a four-layer cake, and she put icing on each layer and held them together with tooth picks. Then she smoothed luscious white icing on the top and sides.

“Once she made it for Tilman Severe’s 16th birthday. He was a 16-year-old orphan who came to live with us.” These strangers didn’t care about Tilman’s birthday, but I needed to tell the story. “The icing wouldn’t harden, and the layers began to slide. We watched her add more toothpicks, but alas! The thing began to split from top to bottom. In desperation she dumped the cake upside down into a huge mixing bowl. “Spoons!” someone yelled, and we agreed that there was never a better tasting cake.

I found, “Cakes: Almond to Variegated” in the loose index pages. There were 76 cake recipes and 24 “Fillings and Frostings”! I carefully turned to “White Mountain” on page 286 and read, “Cream three cups of sugar and one cup of butter making it very light.” Eight egg whites went into the cake and four into the icing. “The 12 yolks may be used to make ‘Golden Spice Cake.’*” They never heard of cholesterol in 1887 when the first edition was printed.

I closed the book and ~got ready to write a check. “How much?” I asked.

“Sorry,” the dealer said, “The White House Cook Book is sold.” I was about to spill tears right there on the basketball floor. The dealer hesitated a moment. “These two people just bought it for a Mother’s Day gift.” I turned, scowling -- and there stood the two people, Nancy and Walt, grinning!


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