Today, I'd like to let my grandmother do the storytelling. A while back, when she moved into an assisted living apartment, she stopped cooking. She's always been one hell of a cook---things like oven-fried chicken, stuffed potatoes, and tenderloin wrapped in bacon so rich it makes you melt---and recently, when she realized how interested I was, she gave me her old book of recipes. I wanted to know the stories behind the pages of measurements and ingredients, so one weekend, my mom and I flew down to her place in Richmond. I brought my recording gear, and we talked about food, and family, and recipes. One night, I asked her about something called plum nutty. Here's the story, in her words:
"Plum nutty? Oh, that's very special. That's a recipe that came from my gynecologist in Sandusky, Ohio. And he had been a flight surgeon during World War Two, stationed in the Pacific. And after he came back to the States he happened to be a member of our church, and every Christmas, he gave me plum nutty.
He would never tell me how to make it but he would give it to me. And plum nutty was made with plums---was a preserve---made with plums and nutmeats and it was very good as preserves but it was even better to put on top of vanilla ice cream.
So. I kiddingly knew he'd never give me the recipe but I just deviled him for it all the time and he also took care of me physically and I had several miscarriages after my son was born. And then came the day when I was pregnant again and it looked like this one was gonna stick with me.
And after Liz was born, he came to the house one day with two jars of plum nutty, and the recipe. So that's how I got the recipe for plum nutty."
Every time I listen to my grandmother tell the story, I tear up a little bit. When I think of her and the eight years she spent waiting for that recipe and waiting for my mom, I know that gift from her doctor must have felt like gold. My mom still has the original piece of paper, in Dean Sheldon's handwriting. She scanned it into the computer the other day, so that I could put it up here, for you. I hope you'll make it---plums, right now, are in season---and I hope that when you do, you'll know it's something special.