Monday, March 16, 2009

The slightest bit inappropriate

It is a very rainy morning during the summer of 1972. My parents had just moved to Ohio from Pennsylvania and are living in an apartment while their house is being built. They had made fast friends with Jack and Luta, who live across the hall. With the exception of one other family that Mom somewhat charitably describes as "strange," Mom and Dad and Jack and Luta are the only people residing in the building. The complex is still under construction. There is a 19-year-old named Rick who is an employee of the builder and who does repair jobs on the units, but given how few units are occupied, Rick doesn't have a whole lot to do.

So it's a very rainy morning. Dad and Jack have gone off to work. Mom and Luta are trying to determine how they're going to pass the dreadfully wet day. Rick loiters about. (Given Luta's wonderful way of mothering those about whom she cares, Rick's loitering is frequently rewarded with a batch of home-baked oatmeal cookies.) Mom and Luta decide that the best way to spend the day is to lounge on the sofa, covered over with cozy blankets, talking and laughing.

Luta turns to Rick, who is standing in the doorway perhaps anticipating an oatmeal cookie. "Want to go to bed with us, Rick?" As soon as the Southern-accented words escape her mouth, Luta blushes. She covers her mouth with her hand, eyes darting mischievously around the room, and laughs as if to say, Oh my, look at what I've said! when really she meant to say it all along. A sort of gleeful feigned modesty: I am a genteel Southern lady! I would never say such a thing! But I would absolutely say such a thing. Wink.

That was the charm of Luta. She looked after everyone but was never too serious about it. Everything was fun, everything was friendly, everything was welcoming. Everything was just the slightest bit inappropriate. But everything was happy. Mom says Rick did hang out with them that day, laughing and talking while he waited for the strange family to break something in their apartment that would require his handyman services. No doubt he was snacking on Luta's oatmeal cookies the whole time.

Luta passed away in late January of this year. Even though I had not spoken with her in several years, the world just felt right with her in it. And now that she's not, it feels a little emptier. So even though it's not a rainy day and there is nary a handyman in sight, today feels like a good day to honor Luta's memory with some of her oatmeal cookies. 

We miss you, Luta. And your cookies are divine.

(A cute tiny mouse on the corner of the old recipe card.)


Adapted from Luta Roberts' recipe

The recipe calls for "chopped nuts." No specific type, no specific amount. So in honor of Luta I use the only nut that I think of when I think of nuts in the context of Luta: pecans.

3 c. rolled oats
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 t. baking soda
2/3 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
5 T. whole milk
1 large egg
1 c. raisins
1 c. pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Allow the pecans to cool and then chop them coarsely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the oats, flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Mix on low to combine. Pour the melted butter into the oat mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the milk and egg and mix until the dough comes together. Add the raisins and pecans and mix briefly to combine.

Using a spring-loaded ice cream scoop, drop the dough onto a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll each cookie between your palms to form into a ball. Bake for 13-14 minutes, or until the cookies are just beginning to take on a golden color. Remove from the oven and allow to rest on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

A lovely (and delicious) tribute to your family friend.

Anonymous said...

wow! I don't remember that story, even though I was probably right there telling Luta she was "ugly" :)

(all ladies are sick and ugly)


Dianne said...

Sees, I'm sure you were there, telling Luta she was sick and ugly.

Lydia, thank you! We miss her. She was a special woman.

ARLENE said...

I love family stories. And those that end with a great oatmeal cookie recipe are even better!