The lemon bar recipe that will forever keep me close to my grandma
I inherited a lot of kitchen stuff from my grandma’s kitchen. For instance, my family felt I was obviously the person to whom the cookie jar, the one we all grew up with, should go. That seemed right. I also got a lot of wine and cocktail glasses but that is another strory. My family knows me well. However, the things I was most excited to get from that kitchen were the cookbooks. I loooooove me a vintage cookbook.
Especially a vintage book with post-it notes in it written by my grandma. She made note of the page numbers of recipes contributed by relatives of mine I never met. Heritage, y’all. Somehow finding the post-its my grandma has written to herself with notes about recipes was like a link into her heart. It’s strange, I knew she could not live forever. She was my last remaining grandparent, but at the age of 94 she was going strong.
Then last fall I got a call from my dad I didn’t pick up. It was Sunday afternoon. I was doing some all-important thrifting in the Hollywood Goodwill (now interrupting this emotional story to remind you that Hollywood Goodwills are THE BOSS) and didn’t want to be the jerk talking on their phone in the store. Then I saw my dad had sent a text. I finished up there (I don’t remember if I made any finds that day or not) and walked out of the store feeling a bit of trepidation. I pulled out my phone to check my messages and saw the text from my dad . My grandma had died. I started listening to the voicemail as I unlocked my car and there in that sunny happy Hollywood parking lot flipped out. I’m talking about the heaving, almost painful full-body sobs.
I hadn’t cried like that in years. It’s weird. I somehow hadn’t expected to be THAT upset. It had been more than twenty years since my mother’s parents had died. Cancer and a stroke took them far too young. When my dad’s father died in 2011 at the age of 96. It was sad but his health had been declining so much that we were prepared, and glad he did not suffer long.
As we went through the reminiscing that goes along with the grieving process, I discovered that maybe, just maybe I was flipping out because I had more ties to my grandma than I realized. I sorta knew my grandma had done some writing and sorta knew that she was a good cook but then I found out all these things both of us had in common. She wrote a weekly column or two for her paper too! She sold pies too. We both read like fiends. My grandma’s heart stopped while she was sitting there next to a stack of books, holding the newspaper. No matter how old or dodderly she was becoming the woman kept up with the world.
There was a stack of notecards with handwritten recipes along with my grandma’s books. And guess what? There was a recipe scrawled down in my preteen hand for her. I remember writing it! My grandma had asked me for my recipe for lemon bars. I can’t believe she saved it all these years. My grandma taught me a lot about baking but it is wicked cool to know that I taught her something too.
So next week I will tell you more about the hilarity that is to be found in an old-school church cookbook. In the meantime I will treat you to the lemon bars that my grandma and I shared a love for. I would like to think the fact that I wrote Lemom squares on the card was an early attempt at punning since I was giving them to a grandMOM:
In all reality it was probably a typo. D’oh!
LeMOM Squares written by preteen Ellen probably taken from a cookbook I no longer own
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of butter, softened
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp. grated lemon peel (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- more powdered sugar to sprinkle on top
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix flour, butter and powdered sugar. I just used my fingers to work the butter in, as though I were making pie dough. Press evenly with hands into the bottom and about 5/8 inch up the sides of an ungreased 8×8 square pan. Bake 20 minutes. Then take out of the oven. Beat the sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice, baking powder, salt and eggs in a mixer on medium speed until nice and light and fluffy. Pour over the crust. Bake until no indentation (or very little indentation) remains when you press on it. That should take about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you like. I like a lot.