A few months ago we said goodbye to both of my grandparents. After 62 years of marriage they both passed away. First my grandfather and then five days later, as we were all trying to pull ourselves together, my grandmother. It was horrible and sad and in a way the most romantic thing in the world.
They both loved food. They loved cooking and sharing their recipes. They loved bringing people together over meals and creating enduring memories of food for their loved ones. My sister and I grew up a hop, skip and jump from my grandparents home and on weekends and holidays it was not a surprise to find one or both of us rolling out cookies with Mummum or throwing ingredients in a soup pot with Grampy. We were lucky kids.
Over the years my grandmother kept books of handwritten recipes for each of her grandchildren. Recipes that she knew by heart and that we had grown up with. It wasn’t fancy or showy food. The recipes were for good meat and potatoes cooking meant to fill you stomach and your heart.
Now the seven grandchildren are left with these cherished handwritten cookbooks and it is not uncommon for me or my cousins to turn to our grandmothers recipes when in the kitchen. Her pork and sauerkraut is legendary in our family and Donald Link would turn green with envy at her gooey, rich Mac n’ Cheese. Her baking though was epic. She would bake thousands of cookies in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, storing them in massive tins in their packed basement. kiffles, Mexican wedding cakes, magic bars, merry cherry cheese cake, date nut bread, shortbread, and smoochies are just a few of the favorites that come to mind. There are more than I can remember and many that have been lost over the years. Each night we would pass trays brimming with colorful cookies around the Christmas table and, even stuffed with dinner as we inevitably were, there would always be room for a favorite cookie or two.
This year is my first Christmas both away from home and without my grandparents. So while making my way through a litany of traditional Norwegian Christmas foods, I wanted to introduce Gourmand’s family to two of my family’s own timeless traditions: Banana Bread & Zucchini Bread.
1/2 cup butter
1 c sugar
3-4 mashed bananas (pre-mashed and browned)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 c flour
3/4 c raisins
Oven 350; 50-60 min.
Makes two loaves
Mix dry ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar in separate bowl. Beat in the eggs. Add alternately, beating well after each addition, the banana mash and the flour mixture. Add raisins. Pour into greased loaf pans and bake.
(Sprinkle tops with sugar before baking if you want.)
1 c oil
1 3/4 c sugar (1 c white; 3/4 c brown)
2 tsp vanilla 2c raw, seeded grated zucchini
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c raisins
Oven 325; 50-60 min.
Beat eggs until lemon colored and fluffy. Slowly add sugar and stir in oil, vanilla, and zucchini. Mix thoroughly. Add raisins. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mixture. Mix well. Pour into greased loaf pans and bake at.
After a short delay during which we converted all the measurements to metric, we got down to baking. A little measuring and a lot of mixing later and fresh breads came out of the oven. They smelled and tasted just as I remembered, hot, rich, and comforting. I was immediately back in Mummum’s kitchen.
They are best hot from the oven and sliced with a bit of butter, but cold for breakfast or with tea is just as nice.
So now when I go into the kitchen to bake one of these recipes it is a nice way of remembering my grandparents and creating traditions of my own. If you are inclined to bake give them a try, maybe you can add them to your own recipes.
Merry Christmas everyone, or as they say here in Norway, God Jul!