In Grandma Zobitz's Kitchen August 2007
My husband's paternal Grandmother, Catherine Zobitz was known as "Grandma Zobitz" to us grandkids and my children, her only great-grandchildren. She lived in Niles, Ohio and raised her 4 (rather large) boys in one little house. About 2 1/2 years ago she died, in that same house, at the ripe old age of 92.
Grandma Zobitz was a bit of a character. She had become very short, she always wore "house dresses," and in her later years she discovered crocs (the shoes) and loved them (check her out with my kids showing their crocs off!) She was hard of hearing, though many would argue that her hearing was as selective as it was poor. To see her drive was a bit frightening, thankfully she loved our big car and we always did the driving when we visited her. The front seat of her car was filled with pillows to prop and boost her high enough so she could see over the steering wheel. Thankfully the only places she went were the bank, the grocery store, pizza hut and the hair dresser (because no self respecting 90 year old doesn't get their hair done once a week).
At the kitchen sink in 2005
We usually only made the 8 hour trip to see her once a year, but when we did we'd try not to eat for days ahead of time. Living alone after raising 4 boys and losing her husband, Grandma Zobitz definitely enjoyed being able to cook for a crowd when there were visitors...though any number greater than one was a crowd to her! She would start cooking at 7 am the day of arrival, even though we usually didn't get there until dinner time. One very hot August we arrived to find her in a steamy kitchen, pleased to see us and anxious for us to sit down to a full on Thanksgiving dinner feast: 15 lb turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, three kinds of veggies, salad, rolls, cranberry sauce, and don't forget the two pies and ice-cream and some cookies for dessert. That meal was probably 5 years ago, but my kids still remember it, mostly because it was so ridiculously hot, and there was more food than they'd ever seen, and their father and I were begging them to try and eat something and not let on that they'd had subway sandwiches in the car an hour beforehand.
My kids in front of Grandma Zobitz's house in Niles, OH.
Grandma Zobitz always kept us well fed, but her real gift was as a baker. I have heard so many stories about her prowess with cookies, pies and cakes, but with cookies especially.
When my in-laws got married in 1968 in Niles, Ohio (my in-laws met in 4th grade and grew up a few blocks from each other...aw shucks!) the way you threw a wedding was not like today. And the big thing in Niles, Ohio was to have about a million cookies for your guests to eat at the reception. It's said that Grandma Zobitz baked the majority of those cookies, and baked for months ahead of time, filling her freezer and some freezer space she had to barrow in preparation for the big day. And of course her cookies were what folks talked about after the wedding. (Bride in a designer gown? What bride? Pass me another cookie.")
After her death, my mother-in-law took it upon herself to give all the Zobitz women (daughter-in-laws, grand-daughters and a great-grand-daughter) a wonderful final gift from Grandma Zobitz: her recipes! She painstakingly scanned each handwritten card, then cut and pasted them into a book for each of us. Most of the recipes were surely copied out of the newspaper or the back of a package, but it is so special to have them "in her hand." My favorite part are the notes she's written on the corner of the cards. If there is a note it usually says, "good" or it says how many it makes ("115 a batch!") or if it "freezes well." But there are just two recipes that are marked "very good" so I think they are worth sharing with you. Hopefully you can read her handwriting and you'll be inspired to make up a batch for your family.