My Aunt Mary and Uncle Haven always seemed sort of different to me. At least to me they were when compared to my parents. Uncle Haven loved beer and made no apologies for it, yet never seemed to get drunk. He may have been the happiest person I ever met. Aunt Mary wrote letters to everybody in the family on a typewriter, using carbon paper to copy all the relatives. She called them “carbonated letters.” She was also prone to announcements about diverse topics.
“No TV or books in the bedroom,” she told me once. “Bedrooms are for sleeping or sex.”
Wow, I thought.
They lived in New Hampshire and depending on where in Vermont we were living at the time it was a few hours drive to visit them. Mostly we saw them on the holidays.
Thanksgiving for sure.
Later in life I came to love them a great deal. But as a youngster I loved to see them coming in the door at holiday time because I knew Aunt Mary would bring the apricot squares.
Apricots were not something that would seem to be a part of a delicious baked good to a young man. You really didn’t hear too much about apricots in my circles growing up. Apricots seemed to be prunes with a better public relations consultant.
But boy were those squares good. And they had another exotic ingredient not found in my mother’s kitchen.
I don’t think anything else I have ever eaten has had shredded coconut in it.
Two things about me not readily apparent.
I can be extremely emotional.
And I can cook.
The first causes me no end of embarrassment. I would like to say that I am unabashedly sentimental. I’d like to say that but it would be an understatement. I have been known to cry when watching sad deodorant commercials.
And I learned to cook in self-defense after it became apparent that my first wife was well meaning but clueless in the kitchen. So I have become reasonably adept with the culinary arts. Once I won a trophy for my rib recipe. Second prize. The trophy has a pig on top.
So one Thanksgiving while munching on the apricot squares it occurred to me I might be able to, if not duplicate them, at least come close.
Aunt Mary willingly scribbled the recipe on a 3”x5” file card she had in her purse. How many people do you know who have 3”x5” file cards at the ready?
The next Thanksgiving I made a batch and they were pronounced every bit as good as her own by Aunt Mary. I was so proud I could have burst into tears. Maybe I did.
Many, many Thanksgivings have gone by.
Uncle Haven and Aunt Mary have passed away, along with many of those who attended the feast where I first made the apricot squares.
But as I stand here in my kitchen Aunt Mary is with me. I have the 3”x5” recipe card, now tattered and stained with vanilla extract, shortening and who knows what else. I have the memories of a dozen Thanksgivings where the apricot squares made an appearance.
And I have my hands in the thick gooey mixture with the unlikely ingredients.