Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cooking for comfort...

Ever since we bought and brought home that enormous bunch of gladiolas from the Stratford Farmer's Market last weekend, I have been gazing at it and thinking about my little Great-Auntie. Or, should I say, my Mighty Great-Auntie.

She was a formidable, if very tiny woman, and lived an extraordinary, long life. She was born on our family farm, and died on the farm she acquired by marriage, which was literally "just down the road" from her birthplace. In an age when farm girls weren't expected to grow up and accomplish more than making a suitable marriage and raising a family, my Auntie set off right after completing grade-school to train as a registered nurse. In those days, nursing was taught in hospitals, and she was accepted to train at one of the best teaching hospitals in the country. It was there that she met a woman who became her best friend, and who also turned out to be my maternal grandmother. We will all be forever grateful to Auntie, as she "chose" my grandmother from their graduating class (Grandma having won the Gold Medal for excellence in her field), and together they set up the area's first tiny little "cottage-hospital" in Auntie's home-town, along with a female-physician (another great rarity of the time). They made an incredible team.

On the day that my grandmother arrived to begin her new nursing job, Auntie sent her younger brother to meet the woman who would eventually become his wife, at the local train station. When the striking young Scottish girl stepped off the train, my grandfather suffered an attack of acute shyness, and apparently hid behind the nearest lamp post... They eventually found one another, however, in more ways than one, and famously (in our family lore, anyway) eloped on April Fool's Day.

My grandparents raised a rollicking brood of four children. It turned out that my little Auntie, however, was not able to have a family. Instead of feeling downhearted and bitter about the cards life had dealt her and her husband, Auntie instead chose to "adopt" her nieces and nephew as her "nearly-own-children". She hosted them all for long visits at her farm, and loved and cared for them all just as much as she would have, had they been borne of her. She had THAT big of a heart.

I think that was part of what made her such an extraordinary nurse, as well. She knew instinctively what would make people feel better... and I'm talking about remedies that went far beyond the medicinal. She knew how important it was to care for the WHOLE person. For example, she would gently wash and brush peoples' hair, or shape and buff their fingernails till they shone. She knew just how to talk to people and befriend them, and could make them forget that she was "nursing" them. More than once, when she was quite elderly and she and I were sitting next to one another having a chat, I would suddenly discover that my wrist was in her hand, and she was sub-consciously taking my pulse. Caring for others was so completely ingrained in her... Even during her final years, when she was hospitalized following some surgery, the young nurses on duty would remark in amazement that Auntie would "make her rounds" of the patients on her floor in the evenings (most of them were people she knew from the community). She would wish each one a good-night, and make sure they all had enough warm blankets.

She was a warm, loving person. I will never forget her.

Today, Child Number Three and I have been baking. It came to me last night that if we baked a special treat TOGETHER today, we could turn it into a gift for the teachers at the nursery school, for when she returns tomorrow. Hopefully, this scheme will help Wee Three feel happy about going back, and proud to be giving a gift she made "herself". As an occasional helper at the school, I know just how hard those wonderful teachers work every day to create a stimulating and nurturing environment for all their little pupils... I'm certain that some of these oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies will give them the nourishment, not to mention the energy-boost they need to get through the last day of the week!!

This is a recipe from my Great Auntie's collection. She taught it to my mother, who taught it to me. They are so delicious, you can just FEEL her love and comfort when you eat them!!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c of butter or margarine (**I use Becel's olive oil margarine. It's healthy, and bakes beautifully)
1 c of brown sugar
2 c of oatmeal (**be sure to use "quick oats", and not "instant")
1 c of flour
a pinch of salt
a slurp of vanilla
1 tsp of baking soda, dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water
As many chocolate chips as you like

Cream together all the ingredients, mixing well. Spoon up the batter 1 tablespoon at a time, and roll into little balls. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

** Now, here is the key to making them crunchy!**

Dip a fork into a little, shallow dish of milk, to coat the tines. then press each cookie dough ball down a little bit. Re-dip the fork in the milk before you press down each cookie dough ball.

Bake for about 7-9 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Watch them carefully, because they burn easily!

Cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

YUMMY with a big, BIG glass of milk...


mrinz said...

Ohhhh they sound yummy, I am going to try them.

I have an elderly Aunt, who, although not a nurse, has been a role figure in our family. She and her husband had no children so we have become her family.

When my parents died at a relatively early age she and my Uncle took over the role of parents and grandparents. With no family constraints of their own they were free to travel around and carry the family 'news' from one branch to the next. They became the glue which kept us in touch with second and even third cousins.

I can relate to your family story! Sometimes childless couples have a very important part to play in the wider family.

painted maypole said...

a slurp of vanilla. excellent. I may try them as well.

ewe are here said...

I love family stories like this. :-)

shauna said...

Here we see that compassion is hereditary. Your great aunt sounds like a dream and what great memories you have of her.

And thanks for the cookie recipe. I'm going to have to try that. Yummy!

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