May 13, 2007

Remembering Jo...

Born at the dawn of the Great Depression in a small Midwestern town, Joan Louise Cramer was the daughter of an elementary school teacher and an engineer with a passion for the carnival life. She married her high school sweetheart and together they moved west to build a life and a family together.

Jo wasn't the domestic type, at least in the traditional sense. Early in their marriage, her husband kicked her out of the kitchen (though his story's a bit different) his domain for all but a handful of her trademark recipes.

So I have a limited collection of "food memories" of my mother. Limited, but strong.

In the third grade, my birthday fell on Holy Thursday, a few days before Easter. Mom arrived in my classroom that afternoon with refreshments for my classmates. Thirty white cupcakes, frosted in pale butter cream, topped with green coconut "grass," sprinkled with brightly colored jellybean "Easter eggs," a pipe cleaner serving as the handle of the mini "Easter baskets." The cakes was probably Betty Crocker. But Mom made them. For me. And in that moment, that's all that mattered.

She also made the flakiest, most tender pie crusts I've ever encountered. With lard. I have the recipe, but sadly I never worked with her to understand the method -- and my pie crusts pale in comparison to hers.

She had a passion for food photography that drove me to distraction as a teenager. "Mom... just put the camera down and EAT." Wherever they are now, she and my dad are having a really good laugh over that...

She hated tomatoes, and had so extreme an aversion to onions that my father had to pulverize them to get them past her.

She loved mallowmars, raisin bread, and chocolate cake with fluffy white icing.

In memory of my mother, I share the recipe my brother and I requested the most often during the spring, a cherry cheesecake of sorts clipped from one of her women's magazines and and assembled from supermarket convenience foods, but prepared with love and care.

Happy Mother's Day!

Jo's Quick and Tasty Dessert

Graham cracker crust bottom of square pan
1 large package Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Prepare Dream Whip according to directions on package. Blend with cheese mixture. Pour over graham cracker crust. Pour Comstock Pie Filling over cream cheese mixture and chill.

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Chris said...

This is a lovely post and beautiful tribute to your mom! Stunning picture, too. Thanks for sharing.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

So sorry I missed seeing this so long.
This is so revealing of little children. Mom or dad, it means so much to them that we do things for them that we as parents don't remember at all. And love really is the best flavor there is.

Helene said...

What a great tribute to your mom! Thanks for sharing.

Karen Baking Soda said...

What a wonderful story and so beautifully written. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

This is such a wonderful post. I love the mention of the Easter cupcakes she made for your class. There was a boy in my third grade class whos mom brought in those ice cream cone cupcakes. I remember being completely jealous of him...wishing my mom made ice cream cone cupcakes! I bet you were the envy of many of your classmates :)

Melissa said...

This is the EXACT cherry cheesecake recipe we grew up eating and still make for my family! I remember it was such a special treat and came from "Aunt Katie", your grandma. My dad used to make it for us and then I took over making it as soon as I was old enough. It's still my dad's number one requested dessert. Thanks for sharing this! :) Melissa