Niagara Gazette

October 13, 2012

LETTERS TO THE ISLAND: All's relative with this recipe

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Kitchen Wizards — As the Taste of Grand Island tempts palates today, we beg your indulgence while we fold in “Butter size of egg.”

The saga begins in mid-July when we whined about out laptop’s spontaneously deleting more than 13,000 items, including “Polly’s precious recipe for lemon sponge pie.” We retrieved a lot of them, but not that recipe, with its unique specification, “butter size of egg.” A reader emailed to ask, if we ever found it, could we send her a copy, as “my husband has quite a sweet tooth.”

Polly remembered with a tear in her eye, the butter the size of an egg. You see, this recipe was handed down from her mother, Hazel, a woman of meager means who turned pennies into plentitude in the pantry. It had been scrawled onto a loose-leaf page in a book we’d bestowed on The Costly Daughter downstate.

At least we thought so. She had the book but not the recipe. She dutifully dug up another quite like it, and asked if that would do, but none included the magical “butter size of egg.”

We kept our correspondent in the loop of the search, but we’d really sort of given up. Polly mourned the loss of this frail souvenir of the woman our kids had called “Nana.”

Then, about two weeks ago, Polly reached for a battered bag of loose pages, which turned over as she grasped it. One sheet, lightly browned by time, slid out and fluttered down. “Butter size of egg” landed softly on the pantry shelf.

“Aunt Irenes Lemon Sponge Pie,” it read, with the editorial notation “very good.”

So this added another generation. Who was Aunt Irene? And why on earth “butter size of egg”? The “3 tbl. flour” and “1 pt (two cups) boiling milk” were there in glorious precision, so it wasn’t as if measuring cups were beyond her budget.

And how much butter IS the size of an egg? Doug put an actual egg into an actual measuring spoon. We figured somewhere between a third and quarter of a cup. Hope Hazel meant “extra large,” as that’s what we had on hand and we wondered whether, in her day, they even graded them that way.

Then we stopped by to reproduce it at Ship-It, where we enjoy the conversation as much as the copies, and forwarded it to everybody, original to the Costly Daughter.

Somehow, a throwaway line in a letter from July had triggered a chain of events linking four generations. Butter size of egg; memories size of pie. Our original correspondent said she’d be trying it last Sunday. Hope it worked out better than the Bills.

The recipe “makes two pies.” Come visit. Bring a fork.

Polly and DougE-mail