by Ruth Draves
Based on a real family recipe, two sisters share a recipe and some unexpected kindness
|If both my arms were in working condition, I would have thrown Mom’s old recipe box off the balcony. It should consider itself lucky my throwing days were suspended.
My sister had asked me earlier that day if I had the recipe for what we always called the Peachy Cheesy Pie, so I dutifully dug out the faded but trusty box. As I opened its crusted cardboard lid, my nostrils were assaulted by the still-lingering stench of old cigarette smoke and grease. It was a smell I had hoped to never experience again.
With my good hand, I began thumbing through the tightly-packed cards. I always considered this recipe to be a pie so that was the section I searched through first. No luck. So I turned to the Desserts tab. Nothing. In desperation, I looked through Eggs and Cheese, Snacks, and even Salads. My hope fading, I texted my sister for help.
“She called it Peachy Cheesy CAKE, so try there,” she typed back.
Eureka! On a standard memo card, yellowed and stained, was the recipe. The box got to live another day.
“You’re a genius,” I texted to Marie,” Now, how do you want me to send it to you? Email or what?”
“See? Told you. With you in a sling, why don’t you call and dictate it?” she suggested. So my phone went from my hand to my ear.
“Are you sure you want to do it this way?” I asked.
“Just let me get a working pen and this we’ll do it,” Marie sighed. “What’s the latest from the doctor?”
I frowned down at the black sling on my left arm. “If I could go in for another x-ray, they’d like that,” I said, “but with me being on self-isolation because of that guy with COVID-19 when I was in the ER, the best they can do is a video appointment.”
“Groovy,” Marie said. “I think I have a pen that won’t die on me. Go for it.”
“Okay, Mom titled it ‘Peachy Cheesy Cake,’ and dated it 1974. And credits Grandma as the source,” I started.
“Uh-huh,” I could hear Marie’s pen scratching. “Ingredients?”
“She didn’t list them separately,” I said, turning the card over in my good hand. “They’re included in the directions.”
“Typical,” I could see my sister rolling her eyes in my head. “So let’s get this started.”
“‘Grease bottom and sides of 9-inch deep dish or 10-inch pie pan,’ with deep underlined twice and, in parentheses, that the pie pan is best,” I read. “‘Combine the following for two minutes at medium speed.’”
“Hold on a sec,” Marie grumbled. I could hear more scratching. “Did we even have a 10-inch pie pan?”
“Nope,” I said. “But maybe Grandma did? Ready for me to continue?”
I continued reading. “‘Combine at medium speed for two minutes ¾ cup all-purpose flour, one teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, 3 and ¼ ounce package dry instant vanilla pudding, NOT instant,’ NOT is capitalized, ‘three tablespoons softened butter, one egg, and half a cup of milk. Pour into prepared pan.’”
“Didn’t you make this once in the blender?” Marie asked.
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, and learn from my mistakes. Make sure the lid on the blender is secure or you have batter on the ceiling.”
“Let me include that,” Marie laughed.
“If you’re done trying to humiliate me,” I hissed.
“Sorry, just writing that down,” Marie snickered. “Please, continue.”
“‘Combine the following for two minutes at medium speed.’”
“Wait, didn’t we just do that?” Marie asked.
I double-checked the card. “Yes, but these are the directions for the filling now,” I said. “Grandma must have had a thing for beating things for two minutes.”
“At medium speed,” Marie snorted.
“Where were we?” I studied Mom’s loppy handwriting. “Here we go. ‘Combine the following for two minutes at medium speed; 8 ounces softened cream cheese, ½ cup sugar, three tablespoons peach juice -- ‘“
“Peach juice?” Marie asked. “Where do you get peach juice?”
I searched the rest of the card for guidance. “Oh, here it is. You will need a 20-ounce can of sliced peaches later, and she put a note there to reserve the juice from that.”
“Mom’s organization skills,” my sister grumbled.
“Explains a lot,” I agreed.
“Anything else for the filling?” Marie asked.
“Half a teaspoon of lemon rind,” I said. “‘Spoon to within one inch of edge of batter over peaches.’ Wait, when did you put the peaches in?”
“Again, Mom’s directions and expectations,” Marie sighed.
“I guess you put the canned peaches on the batter, then spoon the filling over that,” I said.
“That sounds about right from what I remember,” Marie said. “Anything else?”
“Yes. ‘Combine one tablespoon sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle over cream cheese mixture. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30-35 minutes, until crust is golden brown; filling will appear soft. May serve warm or cold. Store in the refrigerator.’”
I waited for Marie to stop writing before speaking again. “You’re making this for Easter?” I asked.
“That’s the plan,” Marie said. “With everything going on, I just wanted a taste of happier times, you know?”
I looked around my small apartment. Since my injury over a week before, the off-white walls had been the only things I had seen. My husband was stuck doing our few errands. I had no plans for the remaining six days on quarantine. I hadn’t anything for Easter.
“Would you be willing to buy double the ingredients if I promise to pay you back when this is over?” I asked.
I could hear Marie’s smirk. “I’ll do better than that. You just wait for a knock on your door Sunday and then you won’t have to worry about using that dislocated collarbone for anything to do with dinner.”
“And dessert?” I sniffled through my sudden tears.
“Hey, I may be your mean sister, but I’m not that cruel,” Marie laughed.