Contributed by July Blogger of the Month, Shelley Chandler
This is a photograph of a photocopy of the recipe card written by my maternal grandmother, Barbara Melton Maynard. Despite the slant, I think her handwriting is beautiful. This recipe reminds me not only of the beautiful and delicious cakes she made, but of her determination and perseverance.
Born in 1909, my grandmother grew up on a farm and walked to school like most children of that era. Her teacher forced her to stop using her left hand to write, which was difficult for her, but she obviously learned to do well with her right hand. When she was 11, she rode in the wagon with her father, Papa Melton, to town. As they were riding along, Papa said, “Look there, Barbara. There’s your future husband!” and pointed to a yellow-haired boy a little older than her. Papa thought it was a good joke. Little did he know it was actually a prophesy. Barbara went on to marry that boy, John Maynard, but the wedding was a little unconventional. She was so embarrassed, she refused to get out of the car to go inside the parsonage, so the pastor had to come outside to perform the ceremony. She sat in the car the entire time. Grandmother may have invented the “drive-through” wedding concept!
Grandmother raised six children, three of them during the Great Depression. She and the entire family picked cotton and farmed land. In their middle years, she and my grandfather bought and ran Maynard Drug in my hometown of Washington, Oklahoma. I always loved going to the Drug Store, as we called it, and getting treats, reading comic books, and if I was lucky, getting to help sell school supplies or work behind the soda fountain. They probably thought their 17 grandchildren running around the store was more trouble than it was worth in cheap labor, but they never let on if they did. For our part, we were rewarded with free hand-mixed sodas or snow cones or my personal favorite, a scoop of malt-flavored ice cream. Granddaddy would always remind us that was special ice cream for malts only, but Grandmother would quietly scoop it out and hand us the cone. I think it was a little game they played, as Granddaddy was always teasing and smiling. (For the record, the only flavor was malt – no vanilla, no chocolate. It was a white ice cream. If anyone knows where I can find some, please tell me. I will be your best friend for life!)
After they retired, Grandmother spent her days caring for and looking after Granddaddy, who had severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. I rarely saw her sitting down unless it was for a meal. It seemed like she was always cooking, cleaning, or getting Granddaddy a Dr Pepper. She was devoted to him. When they were pre-planning their funerals, Granddaddy tried to convince her to get a gold casket so they would match. She flat refused and stated, “Johney, I believe I will just look better in blue!” That was the end of that conversation.
My granddaddy used to say, “It’s not dinner if there’s no dessert.” He had a sweet tooth and my grandmother indulged him. She would make chocolate fudge, but serve it with saltine crackers to contrast the sweetness, but also to stretch a pan of fudge to feed 8 people for a couple of days. That chocolate fudge, divinity, innumerable cookies, Jell-O, Italian Cream Cake, and this Banana Nut Cake are just a few of the thousands of sweet treats she made over the years.
After my grandfather passed away in 1987, Grandmother lived alone for several years until she, too, needed a live-in caregiver. My mother, by virtue of being the eldest child and the only one widowed, took on that role. Grandmother had a sharp mind throughout most of her years. She did, as is common, forget a lot of things toward the end. Every time I saw her, she was quite lucid, though. I would bring her cupcakes and she would always eat well for me. Grandmother lived until late 2010, just a 5 days shy of her 101st birthday. We all miss her and Granddaddy very much.
I hope you will give this recipe a try. It is really good with a confectioners sugar glaze or cream cheese frosting, too.
Shelley is a retired social worker, a former police officer, a wife, a mother with an empty nest, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. She and her husband (also a retired State employee) have been married for 22 years and counting. They have two grandchildren and are joyously expecting their third grandson in October. Shelley blogs at The Tao of Cake where she hopes her readers will be inspired to try something new or maybe just bake more often. She believes in comfort food and thinks the stories behind the food feed the soul just as much as the body.