Category: The Aroma of Bread

Salutatorian of a Class of Two

This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 15 Jun 2015.

I don’t know when it started, but if Butch wanted to get Marie’s goat, he would mention that she was a “salutatorian of a class of two.” Granted, Hilbert High School in 1939 only had 13 seniors, but as Marie would say – “She still had to get the grades.” 

And get good grades she did. Back in the day before we were all concerned about privacy, Hilbert High School regularly submitted, to both the Appleton Post-Crescent and the Chilton Times, a listing of students who had made the “A” Honor Roll in a particular semester; Marie’s name was always included. Good grades and perfect attendance. 

In 1939 the Hilbert High School Commencement was held on May 25th, and Marie’s speech was about Education. I wish we had a copy of this speech. To read how 17-year-old Marie expressed herself would be pretty amazing. 

The salutatorian of the class of 1939 would soon be leaving the farm and moving to the big city of Milwaukee, where she would go to Beauty Culture School. While in Beauty Culture School she would study Cosmetology Law, and learn more about the brain and the nervous system than I will ever know. But that is for another post.

Tried and True Cookbook

Cranberry Sauce and a Birthday

Today is December 8th, and I am making cranberry sauce. We love cranberry sauce any time of year, and I don’t think any member in our family would turn down a helping of the canned variety. But the holidays require homemade sauce, and because of this I had a partial bag in the refrigerator leftover from Thanksgiving. Making sauce seemed like a good idea. Something to do while I wait for the fruit for Gary’s fruitcake to finish its steeping time. 

I always start the sauce using the basic method printed on the Ocean Spray bag of fresh cranberries. Pulling the bag out of the garbage… I see that they now include a method for what they are calling “Homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce.” This is a method that I have used, which is to follow the original recipe then strain the sauce through a strainer but to be honest, I never had good luck getting this method to jell properly. 

It was holiday time, in a year now long forgotten that I was at the house while Marie was making cranberry sauce, and I asked her how she was able to get her sauce to jell. She told me that after she had strained the cranberries, she put them back in the pan, added another cup of sugar, and simmered the sauce for an additional 15 minutes. And there lies the secret to Marie’s cranberry sauce.

Today is also the anniversary of my father-in-law’s birthday. Born in 1912, he would be celebrating his 109th birthday. Where has the time gone? It seems like we have just celebrated his 80th birthday. While that birthday was a party at Van Abel’s Supper Club in Hollandtown, many birthday dinners were celebrated at Van Abel’s. I do miss the days when we would all dress up to meet for dinner. Starting with a drink at the bar, dinner in the small dining room, and ending the evening with a nightcap at what is now called the “New” bar. 

Happy times. Holiday times with family.

L-R: Ena (Lorraine), Hunce (Mildred), Butch and Hank (Ann)

Marie’s Cranberry Sauce

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 12-ounce package of fresh or frozen cranberries

  1. Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Pour sauce into a bowl. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time. Makes 2 1/4 cups

To make strained cranberry sauce:

Follow directions in step 1 as written. After boiling the cranberries for 10 minutes, remove pan from heat and strain. Return sauce back to the pan, adding an additional cup of sugar. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes. 

Pour sauce into a bowl. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.

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A Christmas Respite in the Midst of Preparation

This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 20 Dec 2015.

It was a Saturday before Christmas, maybe in 1988 or 89, and  Gary and I had headed out to Hollandtown to get some work done for Holland Veal. Walking into the house we were greeted by the wonderful smell of cookies baking. The smell of Christmas at Butch and Marie’s.

Entering the warm and wonderful smelling kitchen, we found Butch sitting at the kitchen table preparing the cookie tins for filling while Marie was working at the counter. They were relaxed, content in their companionship and conversation. 

What makes this memory stick is not the relationship of my in-laws (that was constant) but how Butch was prepping the cookie tins. While I would just rip off a piece of waxed paper and stuff it in between layers, he was sitting at the table with pencil and scissors at hand, tracing and cutting each waxed paper round to fit perfectly inside the tin. He did this every year for Marie, and each year each tin was a perfect presentation of cookies.

The recipe that I am sharing today is a family favorite – for both my family and the Fassbenders. Marie and I made them for our families each year, but with one difference, the chocolate. Toffee Squares are a wonderful crunch of toffee flavored cookie topped by chocolate.

My recipe from an old Betty Crocker Cooky Book uses the heat of the “just out of the oven” cookie to melt the squares of Hershey bar that you quickly place on the cookie, then spread out. I shared this quick and easy way of adding the chocolate with Marie one year, but she “stubbornly” continued to melt chocolate in a bowl over boiling water. Either way, the cookies didn’t last long in either home.

Updated Addition: In November 2021 I unpacked a box of Marie’s old cookbooks and sat down with all of the loose pages to determine in which book they belonged. In the pile was a tattered book that Marie had stapled back together, and in this book dated November 1953, I found her Toffee Square recipe. It is pictured below with a transcription of her much smudged notes.

Wisconsin Michigan Power Co. Christmas Cookies, November 1953, p. 23

“Our Favorite Recipes”

Before there were food bloggers, Instagram, and YouTube, there were community cookbooks. Cookbooks compiled and edited by women’s organizations, churches, and other groups, mostly prepared as fundraisers. The women of the community would put out a call for the group’s best recipes. These were then collected, organized into categories, and prepared for printing. Some were typewritten, some printed in the cook’s own handwriting, many include illustrations made by the artist in the organization. All were prized upon publication and shared with family and friends all over the state and the country. 

My mother-in-law collected these cookbooks and used them often. Upon trying a recipe she would write notes to herself on the recipe such as any changes she had made, or most often, we will find a “good,” or, “v. good” written above the recipe. Most often it was some sort of baked good that she had tried. Her family could be fussy about meat and vegetables, especially onions, but there was never a hesitation to try a new recipe for a baked good. I have been collecting and compiling my version of a community cookbook. As I gather the recipes that Marie had deemed worthy of a “good” comment, first as a blog titled “The Aroma of Bread” and here, just tagged as The Aroma of Bread, and indexed under Marie’s Recipes.

When we were preparing to move to Rhode Island, we worried about finding a hairdresser. Sarah put a request on her “hairdresser message board” asking if there was anyone in Rhode Island that would like to take on four of her clients from Wisconsin. The call was answered by Sara, a Wisconsin transplant. As luck would have it, her salon was not that far from our new house. 

Sara recently returned from a visit home with a few treasures that she happened to share an image of on social media. One image caused my daughter to stop and take a second look. Showing me the image she asked, “Doesn’t Grandma have this book?” Running upstairs to where I had recently unpacked the box with the cookbooks, she came back downstairs with the same book. 

Our Favorite Recipes By The Ladies Of St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Compiled and Edited by St. John’s Guild, West Bend, Wisconsin. Copyright 1949, 1959 St. John’s Guild. A book so well received, and so good, that it was reprinted ten years after its first printing! In my experience, at the ten-year mark, a NEW cookbook was collected and prepared. Sara’s copy is the original from 1949, where ours is the 1959 reprint. Here we are in 2021, two transplanted families from Wisconsin, neither from Washington County, both having in their family collection the same church cookbook. 

Paging through the cookbook looking for tell-tale signs that a recipe had been attempted, or was a favorite, we found a few. The first to catch our attention was this sticky page that was Margaret Rohde’s recipe for “Lemon Jello Salad” where Marie noted, “I used large pk jello.”

Letters in a Mailbox

This archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” was first published 11 Oct 2015

October 10, 1950

On October 4th, Marie’s younger brother  Leo’s celebrated his 89th birthday, and yesterday would have been his 65th wedding anniversary. Sadly, he lost the love of his life, Angela, on 26 Sep 2011. But out of this sadness, a great friendship was born. My daughter, Kate sent Leo a sympathy card at the time of Angie’s passing due to the inevitable complications from Alzheimers. Leo responded to Kate’s message of sympathy, and soon monthly letters were being sent back and forth between New York City and Hilbert, Wisconsin, and in-person visits when Kate was home to see us. 

Marie – July 1940, Calumet County Park

Kate is home for a time, and on Friday headed off with birthday cupcakes to visit Leo. They had a great visit just the two of them – no mom and dad to put a damper on the flow of conversation that happens throughout the year via the written word. We did make one request. We asked Kate to ask Leo about a story he told while we were gathered in Marie’s room at the St. Paul Home shortly before her death. What we remembered from that day, was  that Leo had gotten into trouble at school, and a letter was being sent home for his parents from the principal. Marie was asked to intercept the letter. 

Marie and Leo – May 30, 1944

As Leo told the story to Kate, it happened his freshman year of high school, which was the 1941-1942 school year. During this time it was very unusual for a student to have a car available for them to drive to school. There was such a person in Leo’s class. Kate didn’t get the impression that this car was a point of jealousy for Leo, but it must  have created some annoyance. So Leo and a friend cooked up a plan. They decided to let air out of the tires of the car. They were caught. Taken to the principal’s office, the other boy was let go without punishment. Much like in today’s school system, athletes, especially during the season, are given special treatment for bad behavior. As Leo recalls, this boy was on the basketball team. Leo’s punishment was to be a letter sent home to his parents, granted this was not much of a punishment, but the “crime” did not really harm anything, or anyone. Knowing the letter was to be sent, Leo asked Marie to intercept the letter, which she gladly did. 

Leo’s parting comment about this incident? It was not the first time that Marie helped him to get out of trouble, and it wasn’t the last.

Rainy Day Easter Egg Hunts

This archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” was first published 20 Apr 2014

Today is April 20th, Easter Sunday. After the winter that we all just lived through, one would have hoped for a warm and pleasant day, but it is only 52 degrees. And it is raining. Which brings to mind Easter of 1984, which was a cold, rainy, April 22nd.  

Butch and Marie loved to hold Easter Egg hunts for their grandchildren. When the weather was warm and clear, they would hide the plastic eggs filled with treats in their yard and around the house. But what to do when it was cold and rainy? Five grandchildren racing around the house while Marie had the kitchen full of meal prep, was not a recipe for a relaxing and joyful Easter Sunday. Butch’s solution: head to the factory for an indoor hunt.  

Early Easter morning, Butch, Gary and Dan would walk over to White Clover Dairy armed with a bag of filled plastic eggs. Heading for the basement warehouse they would hide the eggs on racks and pallets, both high and low. 

Later that morning, the grandchildren would be let loose to run through the warehouse collecting the eggs. One flaw in Butch’s system. He didn’t count the number of eggs that were being hidden, nor did he track how many were found. For weeks following the Easter hunt the warehouse manager would appear in either Butch or Gary’s office delivering a missed plastic egg.

Marie’s Apple Crisp

8″ x 12″ pan or 1 1/2 recipe for a 13″ x 9″

6 apples
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

  1. Peel and slices apples into pan.
  2. Combine flour, brown sugar and butter until crumbly, set aside.
  3. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over apples
  4. Sprinkle crumbs over apples
  5. Bake 375° for 30-40 minutes.