Saturday, March 23, 2013

grandma's sticky buns

my brother and his wife had a new baby this week.  our family is growing.  they had a hard delivery and a longer hospital stay than they expected, so i wanted to do something nice for them when they got home and i knew just what my brother would want... grandma's sticky buns.
grandma and me on my 3rd birthday

growing up, my grandma was amazing in the kitchen.  every sunday after church, you could find all of the family gathered at grandma and grandpa's house for sunday dinner followed by games and reminiscing... at least for the older folks, who could remember when so and so did that and did you know that what's their name did this.  on very special occasions you could walk into grandma's house and be hit by the smell of her homemade sticky buns in the oven.  it didn't happen often, maybe 2 or 3 times a year, but when it did it was glorious!  we would all gather in the kitchen, waiting with eager anticipation for those sticky buns to come out of the oven.  everyone knew the best way to eat them was hot... right out of the oven... so that all of the gooeyness could be savored with each bite.

grandma passed away this past fall.  in the years before her passing, dementia slowly began taking her from us.  all of her favorite pass times suddenly became of no interest... including being busy in the kitchen.  when i first moved to nashville about 10 years ago, i emailed my grandma (through my aunt) to ask for some of her recipes... and especially for her sticky buns recipe.  i got the email response with the recipes i had requested and was eager to try them out.  i wanted my new found family and friends in nashville to experience what i had grown up with.  that first foray into the sticky bun recipe was a doozy.  i had brought the recipe with me to the grocery store to make sure i got everything that i needed.  i hadn't bothered to read through the recipe before then, thinking it couldn't be that hard to follow.  as i made my way through the store i began to get distressed.  "scald the milk"... what does that mean?  "melt the yeast in warm water"... how much water?  at that point i decided i needed to just get on the phone.  "grandma, what is oleo?"  only to discover that it was a brand name of margarine used in the 50's and 60's.  that first batch of sticky buns didn't turn out very well, but i didn't mind.  i had accomplished the recipe... i had done something only my grandma and i knew how to do.

as our family grows, and especially with eden on the way, i am looking forward to sharing these recipes with her.  i look forward to watching her little hands spread the sugar onto the dough and roll it up.  i can already hear her asking when she gets a little older, "mom, how do i know how much water to melt the yeast in?"  and i will give her the same answer my grandma gave me, "until it looks right."  when my husband and i traveled home to minnesota to attend grandma's funeral, my aunt asked me what of grandma's did i want to have.  i immediately knew the answer... her recipes.  i love feeling that connection to her.  i love that i am now the only one in the family that makes her sticky buns.

this batch of sticky buns isn't my best (believe me they have turned out prettier), but i think my grandma would be proud.  why?  because i made them to bless my family, just the way she did.  it is inevitable that when a new member of the family is welcomed in, we find ourselves remembering those that used to be with us.  i like that something as simple as grandma's sticky buns can serve as that reminder.   

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