I lost my father suddenly, two weeks after I started medical school in 1978, but he’s still with me.
When I was 11, Daddy bought me a sewing machine, which I finally had to retire last year because after 47 years, Singer no longer made replacement parts. I remember that Daddy got such a big kick out of helping me cut pattern pieces for a full-length cape; I didn’t have enough strength to cut through the fake-fur material, but his big hands did. My daddy was a carpenter who rebuilt our whole house; he built furniture, including an amazing wet bar in the basement. I helped him finish a desk he made for me when I got into medical school. Watching my dad work gave me a life-long love of wood that I still feel that we share, but I feel my daddy most keenly at Christmastime. He was the Ultimate Elf. I remember freezing as Daddy haggled over trees at the corner lot. We’d tie the tree to the roof of the car, set it up in the living room, and drink hot chocolate with Mother and my brother, Drex, while we decorated. I remember Daddy’s eyes twinkling as he whistled Christmas carols around the pipe he always held in his teeth, and I can almost smell the mingled scents of tobacco and pine.
Baking also brings Daddy closer because he taught me how to make pie crusts and yeast rolls. This is my signature recipe for gingerbread, which I give as gifts every Christmas. Daddy didn’t teach me this one. I learned this recipe from Mr. Dudley Proctor, an older gentleman whom I met in Bermuda in 1977.
2 sticks of margarine 4tsbp ginger
1 10oz jar of unsulphered molasses 3 c flour (sifted)
1 cup milk 1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs 1 tsp baking powder
2 tsbp Crisco, or other brand shortening (makes it more moist) 1 tsp sugar (optional, but I don’t)
In a large dutch oven, or sauce pan, melt margarine, add molasses, ginger, and Crisco. Simmer until rich brown, but do not boil, or burn. Add baking soda, but you may want to put pan in cool water and stir rapidly to keep the mixture from bubbling out of the pan
Mix egg and milk in a bowl.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and sugar (if you use it)
Set oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour loaf pains, or cupcake tins.
Remove molasses mix from the heat and add baking soda. May want to sit pan in cool water and prepare to stir briskly to keep mixture from bubbling over.
Alternate sifting flour mix and egg/milk mix into molasses mixture and mix thoroughly ( I use a hand mixer.) Once thoroughly mixed ( no lumps) fill loaf pans or muffin tins about ½ way and bake until knife comes out clean. Turn out hot loaves and immediately wrap in foil. This gives the gingerbread a nice natural glaze. Serve warm with your favorite ice cream, or whipped cream. Enjoy! Makes 3 regular loafs, six mini-loaves, or 12 muffins.