Thursday we drove to Pueblo. It was our last visit to Auntie Pinky. She was resting peacefully in a comfortable room decorated in a mountain lodge theme – a happy reminder of her beloved Estes Park. She was very weak, but aware of our visit. And in typical Pinkie fashion - people-lover, gracious hostess that she was – when I kissed her cheek to tell her good bye, she softly murmured, “Oh, don’t go yet.”
On the way home I reflected about the Pinky that I know. As a CD filled the car with beautiful music of the season, I remembered how much Pinky loved Christmas And then I remembered all the holiday goodies she made and shared with friends, family, teachers, and neighbors. Sharing home baked sweets -that was how she loved to celebrate the Christmas season.
I had never heard of pizzelles, much less tasted one, until I became a Butler and had my first Christmas with my new family. The round and almost lacy looking cookies were a staple in Butler family celebrations. Every December Pinky made dozens and dozens of the crisp, light treats and stacked them so carefully with waxed paper between. I have only vague memories of watching her make them, but I know it was a labor of love as a pizzelle iron only bakes 2 or 3 cookies at a time.
Her divinity candy, snowy white and flecked with chopped nuts, was to die for! Making divinity involves pouring a boiling cooked syrup over beaten egg whites and beating that mixture until it is too thick for the mixer to handle, and then adding chopped nuts or cherries. I know Pinky burned up more than one mixer during a candy-making marathon, but she just considered that part of the process!
A few years ago, I asked Auntie for her recipe for Date Nut Loaf. Of course she had it memorized – one couldn’t bake a million loaves and not memorize the recipe! I wrote it down just as she told it to me, including the step “Add a gob of vanilla.” I’ve used her recipe, but I think I need to make it many more times before the finished loaves are as yummy as hers were.
As I savor my memories of Pinky’s Christmas sweets, I feel a pull to introduce my children and grandchildren to these family favorites and make her tradition our tradition.
Thanks, Auntie, for the memories - I’m off to buy a pizzelle iron!