Mom was an awesome cook.
When she first moved to Pemberton, there were not many supplies so she figured out what to do with the basics. Her dad sent her a book with a title like, “101 Things to Do With Eggs.” It was there she learned that freezing eggs was possible. One night after a dance all the band members came home with my dad, who was the saxophone player. Mom surprised and mystified them all by fitting twenty-four eggs into a fry pan and serving breakfast in under ten minutes.
When I asked why there were no recipes from Grandma Hellevang, Mom said it was because she never followed one: “Wull, ya just take a handful of floor or three like this and add it till it looks right.”
Mom became the same kind of cook, making certain recipes so often that she never even opened the book. She also became adept at multitasking – as farmers need to. I can remember her sending me out of the roothouse to punch down bread that was rising while we sorted potatoes. She would come in from sorting, put lunch on for the crew, prepare the bread for the oven, maybe make a batch or two of cookies and then return to the roothouse after it all was baked. We would have fresh bread or fresh cookies for coffee break and what we didn’t eat went in the freezer for later.
As dementia crept up on Mom, it gradually became a pernicious ingredient in her baking.
She still made buns without a recipe but they didn’t rise properly. Cookies had too much sugar or not enough flour. They were identifiable but inedible and I would find two or three batches stored in the cupboard going moldy because no one could eat them.
Eventually, she stopped baking altogether because the “oven didn’t work.” Rice Crispy squares were her last offerings until the elements on the stove didn’t work either.
One day she asked me to go down to the basement to see what was wrong with the dryer as it had stopped working as well. I set the time and pushed the “on” button and voila it started.
When I came back upstairs, Mom had put a plate of baked goods on the table. She had found them in the freezer; they were about a month old. They were slightly tainted with that mysterious dementia ingredient but still tasty. We sat and watched the birds at the feeder while we enjoyed the last of her baking.