Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandma learning the art of rolling a perfect pie crust, the life changing magic of cookie dough, and the secret powers of apple crisp. This last dish was a regular at our family functions and the start of my love affair with baking.
My grandma died when I was in high school and I felt like I had lost my safety net. I processed my grief through flour and butter and mounds of tart green apples.
Time went on, I moved from Oregon to Torino, Italy. That first November away from my family and our holiday traditions was hard. I had the opportunity to bring Thanksgiving to Italy and cooked a traditional feast for a large group of friends. Planned dessert options included the standard pumpkin pie and of course, apple crisp. An edible telling of the story of family and love and connection to home.
I desperately emailed my mom, [email protected] “PLEASE MOM!!!!!” read the subject line, after my multiple attempts of trying to get her to send the recipe. “I did not mean for you to go into a panic, sorry.” Followed by the recipe, which I printed for safekeeping. I would make sure it would always be with me. It was 2001 and in less than a year, my life would be upended. The death of my mother, a move back to the US, and a path that looked so very different from what I had imagined.
She was 45 when she died from a rare cancer. Diagnosis to death was four months. Just long enough to realize that at 22 years old, I wasn’t ready for what it meant to go through adulthood without my mom. Every hurdle crossed, achievement made would be bittersweet. Blank space filled in with imaginary conversations about grad school, marriage, home ownership, becoming a mom, and moving back to Europe a second time.
Through a devastating mistake, all of her emails to me were deleted. That message my mom sent on November 19, 2001 is the last written communication I have from her. [email protected] - Fins because she loved Jimmy Buffett, 08 because 07 was taken, and AOL because of those sweet trial CDs we all got in the 90’s. The ink has faded, the folds made permanent, and even though the recipe has long since been memorized… it creates a sense of security and attachment every time I open its soft worn edges.
When I miss them most, I tie up my apron strings and pull out the familiar ingredients. Smells from the oven reminding me that wherever I am, they are too and only a dish away. I am keeping the tradition and their memories alive in my son. He even eats the apple peels just like I did all of those years ago.
Grandma Bum’s Apple Crisp
4 cups tart green apples, peeled and sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
¼ cup water
¾ cup flour
1 cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter an 11x7” baking dish. Layer the apples evenly and sprinkle with cinnamon, salt, and water. Rub together flour, sugar, and butter until crumbly. Drop mixture over top of apples. Bake for approx. 40 minutes. Top should be golden brown. Serve with ice cream and eat leftovers for breakfast :-)
Thanks for taking the time to read. I would love to hear about your family favorites!