Sweet and Bittersweet Memories

By: Jane Weinke, curator of collections/registrar on November 24th, 2010

Looking at the splendiferous confections portrayed in I Want Candy has stirred memories. Childhood events, thoughts of family, and current traditions, all have been roused by looking at paintings and sculptures in the exhibition.

At my first glance of Candy Curls by Will Cotton, I was taken back years (decades) to Christmas with my Grandma Ella who loved old-time hard candy. Ribbon candy – prominently featured in the painting – was a special favorite. If not for her affinity for that treat, I suspect it would have remained long after the holidays. It’s definitely a candy that looks better than it tastes.

Matthew Klein’s scrumptious photo of chocolate chip cookies is my favorite. Anyone who knows me can attest that I’ve recreated my mother’s special chocolate chip cookie recipe a few thousand times. It is the one fail-proof recipe in my repertoire. My husband has taken these tasty treats to countless car and snowmobile races across North America, they’ve been served at the Museum countless times, and consumed yearly at deer camp and family reunions . . . a very long list. Each time I make them, I remember Mom teaching me the proper measuring methods to ensure they would be perfect every time.

Another Matthew Klein photo, Smarties, also makes me smile. I can see my sister Jill slowly twirling the ends of the roll open and eating the small round candies, one by one. Back in the day, there was a neighborhood grocery store called Loppnow’s. We would pass the store going to and from grade school. Much of our weekly allowance was spent there purchasing pieces of candy that sold for a penny or a nickel. During the summer months, popsicles and ice cream bars also were popular.

Any cakes and pies remind me of family get-togethers, no matter the reason. My Mom and Aunt Ruth Ann would alternate hosting the Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. Other celebrations were up for grabs. Each woman would spend days creating menus to best the other – friendly competition, mostly. Without fail, each baked and cooked more food than our family could possibly eat. The tabletop would be covered with platters and bowls, the food cooked over many days was consumed in an hour, the men retired to the living room to do what men do, the women worked for what seemed like hours storing the food, washing dishes, and returning all the serving pieces and china to safe storage.

My sister and I, and later my nieces, did not buy into the lengthy cleanup process. We found a way to entertain ourselves, and poke a little. We created a game to see who could hide a dish, utensil, anything small in an obscure place and see how long it would take Mom to find it. Drawers, the family room beam, the cellar – the more creative the better. The phone rang one July, after the long-lost ladle was discovered in a little-used drawer. The laughter went on for minutes – the memory, for a lifetime.

I miss my mom always, but especially during holidays and traditional family events. There are no more dinners on the grand scale she loved. My sister and I carry a dimmer torch, offering smaller fetes more frequently, definitely involving less food, and always with the use of a dishwasher.

Happy Holidays!

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