Can you remember your first cooking or baking experience? How young were you? For some of us it will be difficult to pin down that number. Once or twice a week my mom baked our family’s bread supply. Having a ball of dough in our hands was Mom’s way of keeping my sister’s and my hands busy while she kept the family bread box full. Bread dough was our first modeling clay. I still love that warm feel of dough in my hands.
Mom was a regular cake and pie baker as well. This was the 1940s and 1950s when friends and family often dropped by for a visit. It would be “shameful!” to have nothing to offer the guests. In our community most homemakers had their own specialties that they were well known for. My Aunt Marge’s Apple Pie, Ella’s Heaven’s Food Cake was my grandmother’s specialty, and my mom’s Lazy Daisy Cake were famous around town. I still have the recipe for Mrs. Schmidt’s Date Cake even though I no longer remember who Mrs. Schmidt was!
And then, of course, there was the cookie jar that must constantly remain full. All mothers were expected to feed their children milk and cookies when they came home from school. I can hear modern mothers gasping now at the unhealthy generation we must have been. Actually, it’s worse than that— that was whole milk. Skim or 2% milk was way in the future. Keep in mind, however, that my sister and I had just walked home six blocks from our school and, as soon as we changed our clothes, we were back outside playing for the next three to four hours. No TV or electronic gadgets for us.
My sister and I helped a lot with the cookie baking. That too was different back then. Sugar was a scarce commodity during the depression when my mom learned to bake and then truly unavailable and/or expensive during the war and shortly thereafter. Most of our cookies were made with molasses and shortening and a little butter and flour. Mom almost always made cookies with some variety of spices in them as well as raisins or other dried fruits. For variety, Mom made a chocolate and nut cookie using cocoa powder. Chocolate chips didn’t become popular in our family until the mid 1950s.
Here’s one of my earliest food memories: an alternative treat we had back in those good old days. I have no idea where the name came from, but we called them Margreets. They are made with just two ingredients: saltine crackers and marshmallows.
Set desired number of saltines on a cookie sheet. Cut a marshmallow in half and place them cut side down on the saltines. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Watch very carefully as they can quickly turn brown or burn. My picture above is what they look like at 8 minutes. I like them crispy like this but most people like the marshmallows softer – about 5 minutes.
They may seem an odd combination at first but they’re really quite good. I happen to like the mixture of salt and sugar. I suggest you give these 1940-style treats a try. Better yet, if you have some children around let them help you. Margreets could be a good food history lesson.
What is your earliest cooking/food memory
I’m linking this post to Weekend Cooking. You can find more Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads.