Country Woman - - FRONT PAGE - BY WADE ROUSE

Ispent a lot of time in my child­hood in my grandma’s coun­try kitchen, tug­ging at the hem of her ironed white aprons, each em­broi­dered with bright straw­ber­ries or pretty flow­ers.

My tiny grandma and her lit­tle kitchen seemed larger than life to me as a child. A vin­tage stove an­chored one side of the room, while her sparkly coun­ter­tops were topped by a bread­box that held Lit­tle Deb­bies and Won­der Bread slices.

But the most prized pos­ses­sion in her kitchen was her recipe box. A bril­liant baker, my grandma cher­ished the bur­nished wood box jammed with beloved and se­cret fam­ily recipes, or­ga­nized into dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories—Pies, Cakes, Cook­ies, Breads—and all writ­ten in her slant­ing cur­sive.

Her Formica dinette ta­ble pro­vided the glam­orous back­drop for her glo­ri­ous fresh fruit pies— straw­berry-rhubarb, blue­berry, ap­ple, cherry—the golden crusts dec­o­rated with a pretty “S” for her last name, Ship­man, the only demon­stra­ble sign of pride my grandma ever pre­sented.

Her cook­ies—choco­late chip, oat­meal and thumbprint­s filled with home­made jams—were de­voured be­fore they even had a chance to cool.

That tiny kitchen was not only where my fam­ily gath­ered ev­ery Sun­day and hol­i­day, but also where I learned to cook and bake, my grandma teach­ing me the his­tory of our fam­ily through the food she made. Her kitchen wasn’t just a place to cook; it was the place where she con­nected our fam­ily’s past to the present.

Her kitchen is where I shared my life with my grandma, too. Af­ter bak­ing, she would al­ways cut two slices of pie, pour a cup of cof­fee for her­self and a glass of milk for me, and we’d sit and talk at her ta­ble. We’d mostly dis­cuss what I was go­ing to do when I grew up, how I was go­ing to change the world and see places she never had the chance to see.

“What do you think Paris is like in the spring?” she’d ask. “Send me a post­card when you go.”

I was still in col­lege when my grandma hosted her last Thanks­giv­ing. I re­turned home on break and spent most of my time in the kitchen with her, bak­ing the pies for our fam­ily, dec­o­rat­ing the tops with that sig­na­ture “S.” When we fin­ished, she cut two slices and poured the cof­fee and milk, as al­ways.

“Tell me about Chicago,” she said, eyes wide, el­bows rest­ing on her Formica ta­ble.

❝Ev­ery Thanks­giv­ing, I still make the trea­sured desserts from my grandma’s recipe box.❞

Ev­ery Thanks­giv­ing, I still make the trea­sured desserts from my grandma’s recipe box. And af­ter I fin­ish, I still cut two slices of pie, pour a cup of cof­fee for her and a glass of milk for my­self, take a seat at my own kitchen ta­ble, and tell my grandma all about my life.

WADE ROUSE is a best­selling au­thor of eight books writ­ten un­der his grand­mother’s name, Vi­ola Ship­man, to honor the woman whose heir­looms, life, love and les­sons in­spire his fic­tion. His cur­rent novel, The Recipe Box, draws from his grand­mother’s recipe boxes. His next, The Sum­mer Cot­tage, will be pub­lished in April.

Mark a pie with a let­ter made from ex­tra dough to pay trib­ute to some­one spe­cial in your fam­ily.

Vi­ola Ship­man’s kitchen hosted many spe­cial mo­ments dur­ing Wade’s child­hood. The bond young Wade shared with his grand­mother (right) con­tin­ued to grow through the years.

Ap­ples were key for many of Vi­ola Ship­man’s (in mid­dle) recipes, in­clud­ing ap­ple but­ter and ap­ple­sauce.

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