I never knew my great-grandmother, Bea. Really, I never knew any of my great-grandparents. All but two of them had passed away by the time I was born, and those two died while I was still a toddler. My grandparents, on the other hand, I was lucky enough to have them around until adulthood. I would drink in every story and every picture they would share with me about life when they were younger. Maybe because I had never known them, stories about my great-grandparents loomed larger than life. What romantic characters they were in all of their World War I bravery and Great Depression resourcefulness! Their lives and times so different than mine as a child in the 1980s.
Recipes and Remembrances
That’s Bea in the floral dress, third from the left. Her given name was Benny Lee Parker Kennett and she was married to the dashing man next to her, my great-grandfather Zachariah Kennett. They had four children, two boys came first followed by two girls (just like me!). First was Charles (light shirt), then Earl (nicknamed Hank, dark shirt), then Anna Maude (dark dress), and finally Tommy Lee, nicknamed Tink (my grandmother in the checked dress). All I really know about her was that she was a good Methodist, she was generous to her community, and she was a wonderful cook. My family loved her dearly, and that’s good enough for me.
Perhaps it’s the combination of my love of food and a good story that makes me cherish old family recipes as much as I do. When my grandmother died in 2010, I inherited all of her recipe books. A treasure trove of handwritten cards, magazine and newspaper cutouts, and even a bare bones list scratched on the back of a grocery store receipt, I poured over all of them like a miner panning for gold. When I found one that I recognized or that I knew to be a particular family favorite, I set it aside as special. Then, I took the cream of the crop, scanned them and some old family photos, and turned them into a cookbook for myself and the other women in my family.
Friends, don’t let those old family recipes fall to the wayside. Treasure them. Let them serve as a connection between who you come from and who you are becoming. Recipes can bridge the generational gap like little else. When I consider the fact that my children enjoy a cake made by their great-great-grandmother — and how many generations of women before her? — my heart warms. The recipe and ingredients are simple and hearken back to days gone by. I truly hope you make it for people you love. Whether you think it’s dessert or breakfast, I’d say you’re correct. And I think Bea would agree.
What’s in it?
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
2 eggs, well beaten
1 ½ cup oil
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups chopped, peeled apples (Granny Smith are my preferred variety)
How do you make it?
Place all ingredients except apples, in the order listed, into a large mixing bowl. Stir well. Add in the chopped apples and mix. The batter will be very thick. Spread into a 9×13 pan and bake at 350⁰ for 45-50 minutes. Enjoy!
Click here to download a PDF recipe! — Bea’s Fresh Apple Cake