If you’re foolish enough to hang around with me for any length of time you won’t escape hearing about my grandmother. Her name was Alice Jane Rowland Boudiette and I spent most weekdays with her until she died when I was seven years and three days old.
She was a proper English lady though she’d be quick to tell you she came from good common stock rather than the highborn kind. She was proper all the same so I’m not sure how she’d feel about being represented by a recipe for spirits. But this is such a writers’ treasure kind of story I can’t resist. Please, forgive me, Gramma.
I found the recipe in a very old notebook written in a lovely but substantial hand. Substantial enough to be read many decades after it was written. The ink is faded of course. Real ink like the kind that used to come in bottles and inkwells. The pages are soft with age and worn off at the corners. I handle them carefully for fear they’ll disintegrate into powder.
The pasteboard covers are separating at the spine. The original brown was probably dark but is now a dusky shade. She wrote “Cook Book – Mrs. Boudiette – 467 Holley Street – Watertown NY” on the front cover. She refers to herself in what was once considered appropriately modest for a married woman. She doesn’t use her first name.
This inscription tells me something about the age of the notebook. Grandma lived on Holley Street long before she and my scary grandfather moved to the tall brown house on West Main where I spent the happiest hours of my 1940’s childhood with Gramma in her kitchen. But I always had to be gone before Grandpa got home which was fine with me.
I run my hand over the letters she wrote on the faded brown cover of her small notebook. The sensitive skin of my fingertips touches the place where her hand had been and of course I weep. She died going on seventy years ago but she is still deeply entrenched in me. Everything good that has happened in my life began somehow with Gramma.
Only two actual dates appear in the notebook. November 1, 1927 after her recipe for Apple Jam and March 9, 1931 above Tasty Salad. Other entries include How to Remove Ink from Clothes and Receipt for Tanning Hides. Bless you Gramma. You were the first and among the best blessings of my life. Here is Alice Jane Rowland Boudiette’s Dandelion Wine in her own words.
6 quarts fresh heads of dandelion blossoms in stone jar or granite. 1 gallon hot water poured on the blossoms. Put aside for 3 days and nights, then strain through a cloth. Now add 3 pounds sugar, juice of 2 lemons and 3 oranges. Add one-half yeast cake.
Pour mixture into a stone jar and let it stand 4 days and nights. Then strain again through a cloth. Bottle. Let stand in bottles with corks set in loose until it stops working. Otherwise it will blow off or break bottles. After it stops working cork tightly and store where cool.
Shared by Alice Jane’s granddaughter Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com. The picture is of me and Gramma in her garden when I was two and a half years old.