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Thanksgiving Eve (with Recipe for Apple Cake)

November 25, 2015


Remembering My Mother on this Thanksgiving Eve, the 101st Anniversary of Her Birth


(Part 4.) A Cornucopia of Thanks for the Good Cooks in the Family


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



From this altitude of gratitude on Thanksgiving Eve, I am remembering this November 25 as the 101st anniversary of my mother’s birth. In this fourth and final part of my “Cornucopia of Thanks” series, I am grateful for all the good cooks on my family tree–especially my mother.


Since my mother was born in 1914, most people would assume that she was a good cook from a young age. She was not. Of the three sisters, Zita became a professional chef and ran a successful Italian restaurant; Lydia helped make breadsticks for the family’s Italian bakery. However, my mother’s family duty was the bookkeeping: my mom went to business college and was more the business woman. Since her father was a professional bread baker, one would assume that at least by the time my mother married James Massa in 1942, she would have known how to bake. She did not. As a matter of fact, I recall hearing on numerous occasions that my mom “did not know how to boil water” when she and my dad said “I do.”


Fortunately, my dad had been a good cook for a number of years before he married my mother. When he was young, his mother was ill for about one year; during that period on their Hoosier farm, my dad took over the cooking duties and prepared the meals for his parents and siblings. Not only was my dad an outstanding cook, but a good teacher also because he taught my mother how to cook and bake very well. (Later, he taught me.) Of course, where my dad’s lessons stopped, Betty Crocker and the writers of other cookbooks took over for my mom’s learning the culinary arts.


Especially at Thanksgiving and during the holiday season, I fondly recollect the wonderful treats made by my mother. She was most known for her fruit-filled pastry called “Mrs. Pickard’s Pineapple Squares,” the recipe for which and the story behind which you can read in my Wordwalk archives of November 13, 2013. Another favorite specialty of my mother’s culinary talents was her Polenta Dolce–a breaded, fried cream-of-wheat, lemony delicacy which I love. Referring back to my Wordwalk blog post of December 18, 2013, you will find the recipe for Date Bars, which my mother significantly adapted to her own and our liking. What a delightful holiday bar cookie! Other cookies, Marble Chiffon Cake and many other cakes, jelly roll, nut bread rolls, Butter Horns, and other such treats made her top ten list of baked goods.


Then, came the pies. Each Thanksgiving, my mother made two perfect pumpkin pies–always with the greatest of ease. Nevertheless, she was most acclaimed for her lemon meringue and chocolate meringue pies. Dad and I liked her butterscotch and cherry pies also.


On Saturday evenings and at other especially busy times, my mother helped cook at her sister’s Binole’s Restaurant. In huge iron skillets, my mother fried the Italian breaded veal with garlic. For Thanksgiving and other special occasions, she made homemade pasta for noodles which we served over the mashed potatoes. In earlier years, she used simply a cutting roller to cut the long strips of dough; later, I gave her as a gift a machine into which she would insert some dough and turn a handle. The desired width of cut pasta would exit the other side of the machine. Then, on a cloth-covered card-table, we would spread the strips of pasta to dry. Homemade pasta is so easy to make, yet so much tastier than the packaged version.


I could go on and on with my list of favorite foods prepared by my mother, but I would only make myself hungrier–hungry for her specialties and hungry for the way Thanksgiving was for my family and me years ago. As a young adult, I remember so looking forward to going home on Thanksgiving Eve and to baking pumpkin bread and other recipes for our Thanksgiving. We all loved being in our Blanford kitchen.


In more recent years, my sister or my nephew Eric makes the homemade pasta for noodles. I am certain that my parents are smiling down upon these two cooks. The culinary traditions do live on–thanks to the younger leaves (cooks) on our family tree.


Although my mother did not make the following recipe for a holiday celebration, the recipe is a superb autumnal recipe which she made many times. My mother, who was an active and devoted member of the Royal Neighbors of America (Blanford, Indiana group), wrote a number of her favorite recipes in the blank areas of her Royal Neighbor Cookbook. The Apple Cake recipe below is one of those which my sister and I found in my mother’s own cursive handwriting.


Mother’s Apple Cake


(Recipe of Mary A. Massa, 1914-2001)


  1. Put one-half cup sugar over six cups peeled and chopped apples; set aside.
  2. Sift together: two heaping cups flour, one-fourth teaspoon salt, two teaspoons baking soda, and one teaspoon cinnamon; set aside.
  3. Cream together: one cup sugar, two-thirds cup margarine (NOTE: Mother had written “oleo or shortening.”) , and two eggs.
  4. Add one teaspoon vanilla and one cup chopped nuts.
  5. Gradually blend flour mixture into creamed mixture.
  6. Place mixture in a greased, thirteen-by-nine-inch baking pan.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees for forty to forty-five minutes.


Happy Thanksgiving!


POST-SCRIPT: My friend Lynda Lambert–a freelance writer, blogger, artist, and former professor from Pennsylvania–invited me to be a guest blogger on her Word Press site. On November 24, she posted one of my memoirs about Grandma Farm, my poem “Lace Pieces,” as well as six photos which Mary Elizabeth (my sister) took of some of the lace pieces which our paternal grandmother crocheted. To see these special photos, read my pieces, and read Lynda’s writings, please visit the following link:


Enjoy a cornucopia of blessings on this Thanksgiving!

Alice and Zoe


November 25, 2015, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. It is my pleasure and honor to publish your story, Remembering Grandma Farm on the blog, SCANdalous-Recollections! I enjoy your family history and the way you weave in their stories with the past and present to create a fabric that is delightful. I copied your Mother’s recipe for Apple Cake and hope to make it with one of my daughters on a future visit with them. One of my “treasures” from my grandmother, aunts, and mother is their “recipe boxes.” I would love to put together a book one day that has their recipes in it, along with stories – for my family.

    • Lynda–Thank you for the nice comments and for your posting my memoir about my Grandma Farm and the photos on your blog. Having the photos of the lace pieces for so many to see is very special to my family and me. I do hope that you form your family recipes with memoirs into a cookbook project. What a wonderful gift to the younger generations! With thanks, Alice

  2. Alice. My mouth is watering, with good reason. From Maine, we wish you the blessings of a fruitful day filled with enough memories to last through the year. God bless, and hats off to another wonderful entry. dp

    • Deon–I know that your favorite would be the chocolate meringue pie. Many thanks for your weekly comments! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! Blessings–Alice

  3. Carole permalink

    Congratulations, Alice, on your many published achievements, plus earning a blue-ribbon honor. Your gift of capturing family treasures and memories is quite amazing and appreciated. Thanksgiving blessings to you and Zoe! Love, Carole

    • Carole–Many thanks for your comments and for the “likes” for my various posts. Enjoy the remainder of the Thanksgiving weekend! Thanks for your calls yesterday–Alice and Zoe

  4. Alice, your beautiful Thanksgiving remembrance of our mother transports me back to our home in Blanford, Indiana, and in particular, to our kitchen filled with many tastes, smells, and activities of the season. We are so blessed to have grown up in such a loving, warm home and to have enjoyed it for many years into our adulthood. Once again, thank you for your time and talent in recording our family history.
    Love, Mary

  5. Fran Rayce permalink

    Alice, This is a lovely tribute to your mother. Her loving preparation of all of these delicious sounding delicacies is certainly another display of her love for her family.

    I also enjoyed the post about Grandma Farm on the other blog. Mary’s photos are a great addition to an already great post! (She may have a future as a photographer!) Like you, I am always amazed at the lovely and delicate pieces these women produced as I am also the lucky owner of some similar, fine pieces. What treasures they have left us.

    A belated wish for another year filled with gratitude for our many blessings.

    • Fran–Thank you for your fine addition to my blog post. I am glad to hear that you, too, have some antique lace pieces. I do wonder if any people from our generation or younger (in the United States) crochet this type of lace piece. I hope that you and your family enjoyed an especially good Thanksgiving. Many thanks for your continuing support of my blog–Alice

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