I came home from the baseball game last night, ready to make a batch of my mother’s cinnamon buns and to light a memorial candle. The Red Sox won. I spent the evening with my favorite men, Walter, Allan and Donald. Life was good.
My mother’s cinnamon buns are a story in themselves. An “old family recipe,” is the folklore but not the truth. The truth is when my mother was working as a radio show host for the electric company in Pulaski, West Virginia, she was told to demonstrate a recipe for rolls.
The producers obviously did not understand my mother did not have a recipe for rolls. Even though she graduated from Hood College with a degree in Home Economics, roll recipes were not part of the final exam. So she promptly went to the secretary pool and asked the ladies if anyone had a favorite recipe.
And so the “old family” tradition was handed down to our family. Fitting, I think, in a family with three adopted kids.
I learned how to make the cinnamon buns when I came home from college on break, once. My mother was long past using a recipe and knew the steps by heart. I wrote down every step, every word. I recently was giving it to a good friend of my mother’s over the phone, and she laughed when I said, “stir 30 strokes with a fork- no more, no less- until the dough forms a perfect ball. Unless it’s sticky, then add a pinch more flour.” I swear, if I had not made them with her, I would not be able to make them today. No measuring the brown sugar, “just a liberal dose, and when you think you’ve put on enough, add some more.”
The buns, like the candle, take about 24 hours to make. There’s stirring and rising and rolling and rising and if you mess up one step, they’re going to come out wrong.
I messed up a step last night. When I walked in the door and started to make them, I had everything rolled out and ready to add the sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon… oops. No cinnamon. I had taken the only bottle to Down East. Stores closed, neighbors asleep.
Grind the cinnamon sticks, Jeanine said.
Great idea but I didn’t have a grinder. So there I sat, pounding cinnamon sticks with a basically decorative mortar and pestle.
The boys asked this morning, What are these little brown things?
I had to fess up to my mistake.
They could have cared less. They were having a pure sugar fix on a school morning. A true tribute to their Grandmother who had a bit of a sweet tooth, to say the least.
I asked them to tell me favorite Grandma stories.
Ben chirped in first- I know I know! When I had Grandma try cinnamon toast crunch cereal. It was her favorite after that.
Zachary said, When she let us eat the stale pizza Goldfish we found in the cabana.
Jake said, I don’t really remember Grandma…
This is from the boy who picked out her furniture in a store the other day.
But… I remember playing in the family room with the knights and stuff that were puppets.
The boys then talked some about her house, and how strange it was. They asked who lived it in now, did Grandma know them. (Indeed, they were friends of hers.)
And in short time, they raced off to pack their bags for school.
Grandma’s memorial cinnamon buns. She would like that, I think. Something sweet and forbidden before school, in her honor. She once let Ben have a soda at 9 o’clock in the morning. I remember walking in and looking at her and she just shrugged and smiled. My kids knew a delightful, playful part of her. The French-fry stealer. The ker-plunk lady. The one with puppets of knights and buckets of chalk to draw with on her long driveway.
The buns were a little... crunchy. The candle is still burning.
I miss you, Mom.