Mighty Grandma

Photography and Food Styling by Molly Rundberg

My grandma Dorothea was a very passionate woman, she loved food and cooking, books and knowledge, pretty clothes and perfume, but most of all she loved her family.

Dorothea was an intelligent, well read, and generous lady. Her generosity came in many forms, but the standout was that she always thought of others. If there was a chance someone, anyone was going to come over; a visit from my sister and me, a friend, a handyman coming to fix something, she was going to bake, most likely Mandelbrot or chocolate chip cookies. One of the two was always fresh and always offered. Mandelbrot was something that she could still bake even when she was 89 and blind. It is similar to biscotti in its twice-baked method, but worlds away in taste and texture, at least Grandma’s was.  Mandelbrot means “almond bread” in German, but she always made hers with pecans and chocolate chips, not almonds and in my research I found this is typical for many recipes (many using walnuts). To me these cookies are tender, crumbly, not too sweet, perfect with coffee or tea and very easy to make.

Dorothea still cooked when she was blind. She started to lose her sight in her 70’s to macular degeneration, she couldn’t drive but she could cook and bake. She fought with her sight, and she refused to stop doing the things she loved.

She loved to cook, she loved to impress us with her strong will and determination to do and see things. Needless to say we were impressed, she was a woman who to her dying day was doing her best to live. She was, until dementia set in her last year of life, totally up with the news, current events, new books (books on tape), she had a cell phone and still loved stylish clothes, her passions for things always amazed us.

I loved to talk about food with my grandma; She was my first insight into the world of cooking. She would just whip things up and I was always aware that her and her cooking “had a thing going on” a great relationship. She respected the cooking process and in turn the process always reflected her passion and attention, in turn her food sang. She cooked like she could still see, using every ounce in her being to do things, to cook things.

Up until the last few months of her life I would call her whenever I made a brisket. Six years ago I was working as a private chef for a family and making my first brisket, and I realized I didn’t know what I was doing and called Grandma. “Grandma how do you make brisket?” she gave me her procedure, it was as if she was cooking it in her head as she told me. The brisket turned out great and eventually through many tests I made the recipe my own flavor-wise, but always kept her genius method. Every time I made it I would call her and ask her how she made her brisket, just as a ritual. I loved feeling her love for food and hearing all about it. I miss talking to her about food and for that matter life in general. It’s been nine months since she passed and I think of her everyday. But as long as I am cooking she is with me.

A few recipes from Grandma's collection

Photography and Food Styling by Molly Rundberg

Mandelbrodt with Chocolate Chips
3 cups AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/ 2 tsp. salt
1 cup plus 1 tbsp. oil
1 cup sugar plus 1 tbsp. divided
3 eggs
1 cup finely chopped nuts (Grandma always used pecans)
4 ounces chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease baking sheet. In a medium sized bowl mix flour,
baking powder and salt. In an other medium sized bowl beat oil, 1 cup sugar
and eggs, then gradually add flour mixture. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips then form dough into a 10 1/2″x 4″ loaf.
Mix remaining sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over top,
bake 20 minutes.  Cut loaf in half widthwise then in 2 inch slices
turn cut side down and bake until golden about 15 minutes.

Grandma and my mom