A Tale of Two Grandmas
Our two grandmothers could not have been more different than night and day. Our maternal was a pretty savvy woman, who, in our opinion, could do anything. (She was the first woman ambulance driver in her NJ shore town in the 1970s). She was fun. She liked to drive fast and she liked to go places and do things.
So, to Ethel Haster, we honor her with a bit of a tongue-in-cheek humor with a "family recipe" that we remember her fondly by: a Lime Green Jello Mold. She was also extraordinary at Thanksgiving with a sausage sage-stuffing; her homemade baked beans were awesome, and I will always remember the big pot of crabs boiling on her stove.
Our paternal grandmother was born in Poland in 1900. She game to the United States at the age of 18, speaking no English. (Contrast this to our material grandmother, where the family rumor is that her [our] ancestors came over on the Mayflower). She married (a chef...does that tell you something?), she worked in a factory, she raised two children; she was an early widow. She spoke with a heavy accent. She was a good person. But, she did not venture far in the world after her initial long journey from her homeland. She remained Polish through-and-through, even though she had become a U.S. citizen.
I only remember her making Babka once. Severe arthritis too soon in her life prevented her from continuing to bake. But, I remember her telling me how to make it as she demonstrated. The important part, I remember her saying, is that the dough "must come from your hands" and then you know you are done kneading. After that time, I only remember buying Babka, and only from the remaining Polish bakeries in Passaic. Always at Easter, and sometimes in between. Babka seems synonymous with my Polish heritage.
Many years later, after my Polish Grandma was gone, I remembered the comfort of Babka in her house and searched for a recipe. I finally found one that was just as I remembered eating at family occasions. It is a tradition that I will always carry on in our family, even though there are no Polish relatives left with us. I know the importance of ensuring that my own daughter carries this tradition on...'til the dough comes from your hands.
To Stella Uminska Brodow, may we always remember the goodness of your heart, and think of you each time we cut into an aromatic round loaf of homemade Babka, cherishing a childhood family memory, long gone.
Cheers to both Gram and Grandma! It is fitting that we inaugurate this Blog in your names. Always live in our hearts. And to everyone reading this--Welcome to our Blog!