Country Woman

Gathering Place

If company was coming, Mom made a batch of her no-bake cookies— whether we wanted them or not.


Memorable cookies keep Mom close.

My mother’s recipe box contains a free trip down memory lane, an excursion my family and I can repeat at will.

I discovered this on a cool, crisp autumn day as I searched through my own recipe box for a knock-your-socks-off soup, one that would kick off the fall season in style. In it I found several contenders, but none of them made my mouth water.

And then I remembered. The chicken noodle soup made by my mother, Maybelle Bowers, was to die for. All I had to do was find her recipe box. I raced to the cedar chest, pushed aside a few family mementos, and pulled out

Mom’s 4-by-5-inch tin recipe box—the one with the little red hearts stenciled on the sides.

The box, which had sat in the chest untouched in the three years since Mom’s passing, served as an apparition. I could see my mother’s shape, hear her soft laughter and feel her gentle touch in my mind. I imagined her putting the little tin box in my hand, the two of us sitting on the sofa together to begin our jaunt down memory lane.

Mom’s recipe box, unlike my own, had no category dividers. Consequent­ly, her Best Ever

Mint Dessert from a woman named Blondie is tucked haphazardl­y between Toby’s Peach Pie and a Salmon Puff recipe with no attributio­n.

Merry Dee’s Carrot Glaze took me back 70 years, to the phone call when Mom learned her sister, brother-in-law and two nephews had been killed in an automobile accident. Mom’s niece Merry was the only survivor.

My mind flooded with pleasant memories when I came to Aunt Elsie’s Chicken Rice Casserole. Although not a blood relative, Aunt Elsie was an aunt in our hearts. She and Mom played together as toddlers and kept up their strong friendship for a remarkable 94 years. Like all best friends, they celebrated life’s happy events together and supported each other through the rougher patches. And, judging from Mom’s tin box, they shared a lot of recipes.

As it turned out, there was no recipe for chicken noodle soup in Mom’s box. Apparently that was one of her “a little of this and a little of that” recipes that never

got written down. And my very favorite memory trigger, a recipe for boiled cookies, isn’t found in Mom’s box either. Protected in a plexiglass frame, this treasure rests at the top left corner of my refrigerat­or door, next to Mom’s last church directory picture and a gold angel magnet.

My mother’s only culinary clunker—in my opinion—were no-bake, boiled cookies. They are incredibly simple to make and, admittedly, beloved by many families. Just not ours.

Mother discovered this recipe shortly after she and Dad moved from Iowa to Florida in the fall of 1967. That Christmas my husband, two young sons and I traveled to Bonita Springs to celebrate with Grandma and Grandpa. After we all arrived Mom went to the kitchen and returned with a heaping plate of chocolate no-bake cookies.

I found them too sweet, too chocolaty and too lumpy, but not wanting to hurt her feelings, I pretended to like them.

Big mistake. For the next 45 years, Mom’s “company’s coming” prep always included a double batch of no-bake cookies—right up to the day she passed away.

On Feb. 5, 2012, my husband and I were headed westward to spend a week with Mom, who, by then, was 97 and in relatively good health in Mesa, Arizona. My phone rang. It was my sister.

“Jacquie,” she said, “are you in heavy traffic right now?”

She didn’t have to say anything more. I knew. Mom was gone.

Later, as the details of Mom’s last morning unraveled, I smiled. She had worn her Ultrasuede pantsuit to breakfast at her assisted living residence and visited with fellow residents.

About 20 minutes after she left the dining room, a nurse stopped by her apartment to administer the morning meds. She found Mom on the floor of her kitchenett­e, along with a generous amount of what the paramedics termed “chocolate pudding.” The oats, sugar and cocoa sat on the counter—next to a recipe card for her no-bake boiled cookies.

I am confident Mom’s final morning was a joyful one. She looked forward to our visit and was happy to make her special company’s comin’ treats.

I’ll probably never make a batch of Mom’s cookies, but

I’ll treasure that recipe card on the fridge forever.

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 ??  ?? Maybelle Bowers’ recipe box holds many memories of family and friends for daughter Jacquie McTaggart.
Maybelle Bowers’ recipe box holds many memories of family and friends for daughter Jacquie McTaggart.

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