Cookie recipes are set in stone – or are they?
One way to preserve a favourite recipe is to have it carved in stone on your tombstone.
Atlas Obscura[i] is an online magazine and travel company seeks out unusual items around the world. It recently featured a recipe on a granite tombstone in Brooklyn, New York. The tombstone immortalizes the Spritz cookie recipe belonging to the late Naomi Dawson-Wilson (1921 – 2008), beloved wife, grandmother, and great-grandmother. I don’t have permission to reproduce the photograph ; but here is a transcription of the ingredients.
1 cup of butter or
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups of flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
The recipe is elegantly carved on a granite tombstone in the shape of an open cookbook.
As cooks and bakers would recognize, this recipe demands expertise. With no instructions about method, how to handle and prepare dough, baking time and temperature, and baking instructions, many things could go wrong.
One mark of community cookbooks is the openness to include several variations of a particular recipe. Another mark is the willingness to share (Bower, 1997). For a British Columbia example, see “Reader’s Choice” by Gale Smith on the BC Food History website: https://bcfoodhistory.ca/readers-choice/. Reader’s Choice recipes were a feature of Edith Adams’ columns in the Vancouver Sun between 1930 and 1980. Readers submitted a recipe and received a prize. At least thirteen Edith Adams’ Readers’ Choice cookbooks were compiled.
When I posted a link to the Atlas Obscura article on Culinary Historians of Canada Facebook page, someone responded right away that “real” spritz cookies only use almond extract. It made me wonder if Naomi Miller-Dawson had intended to upstage a rival cook by making her cookie recipe permanent by setting it “in stone”. She may have meant to share her recipe with the world or at least the ingredients.
If you would like to try a recipe for Swedish Spritz cookies, here is one from the 1975 Management and Foods textbook, used in BC high schools for a number of years. It suggests that either almond or vanilla extract could be used. The recipe itself is historic in that it uses metric measures., not Imperial. This has been reluctantly adopted by cooks and bakers in Canada.
Bower, A. (1997). Recipes for Reading: Community Cookbooks, Stories and Histories. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.
Spritz Cookie Gravestone. (n.d.). https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/spritz-cookie-gravestone-greenwood-cemetery-cookie
[i] Atlas Obscura is an online magazine and travel company led by American journalist David Plotz. It was founded in 2009 by author Joshua Foer and documentary filmmaker/author Dylan Thuras. It catalogs unusual and obscure travel destination