I received a special Christmas card this year, sent to The Valley News by Bea LaClair.
I knew that Bea wouldn’t just sign her name; I was sure that she would write a few lines. And she did.
Bea, who now lives in Liverpool, wrote, “The Fulton Patriot may be out of business, but your column is still going. You still write a good story and bring back memories. I hope you will continue for a long time.”
Bea, who wrote that she is now 85, also had praise for my son, Jeff, now known as “Rev. Jeff”.
Bea must read each week’s paper very thoroughly. In a recent column I wrote that plum pudding “is composed of many dried fruits and is held together by eggs and suet, sometimes moistened by treacle or molasses.”
Bea asks, “What is treacle?” Bea, my dictionary describes treacle as “a mild mixture of molasses, corn syrup, etc. used in cooking or as a table syrup.”
I have known Bea LaClair for many years, but before I met Bea I knew her mother, Angie LaClair, who was known to everyone in Fulton as Gram, and likely is still remembered by many.
I met Gram when two of my sons and two of her great grandsons were in Cub Scouts at State Street Church in the 60s.
She was Gram to everyone, and I wrote in a column in 2006, “The neatest thing about Gram was that she was always willing to sit down at the old piano in the church basement to get the group of young boys and their parents singing.”
I continued, “Later on I got to know Gram as Angie LaClair. I was around many times when Gram would keep an old piano in this room or that hallway busy, and someone was always willing to join in on the song.”
I heard from my friend Bea after the column featuring Gram.
“I loved the column,” Bea said, “but you got one thing wrong — I forgot to tell you that our name is spelled with an a, as in LaClair, not with an e, as in LeClair.”
Bea explained, “When our family came to Canada many years ago from France our name was spelled LeClair as that is the French Canadian spelling of the name.”
Bea said when her father, Edmund, moved to the United States from Cornwall, Ontario he wanted to honor his new country by using the American spelling. “So he had his name legally changed from LeClair to LaClair,” she said.
Thanks for the card, Bea. And thanks for the memories.
‘Tis the season for cookies
An important part of the Christmas season for me and those around me through the years — wherever I have been hanging around — is making, eating and sharing with other people those wonderful morsels of holiday cheer — the cutout, decorated cookie.
For the uninitiated — if there is such a thing — that would be the flat, shortbread-y (new word) cookie of many holiday shapes, covered with colorful frosting and “sprinkles,” baked by the dozens — and eaten the same way.
We have a large jar full of cookie cutters in many, many shapes. Some of them definitely fit into the holiday scene – Christmas trees, Santa’s boot, and yes, Santa himself, along with stars, bells, angels and a gingerbread man.
Most of those shout “Merry Christmas” right back at you, but there are many other cutters of many different shapes in that jar.
When is the last time that you saw a pig in your Christmas stocking? Wait a minute — could that be in honor of Christmas dinner?
Also in the jar are a hippopotamus and an elephant. Forget about Christmas dinner for those two. There are a couple of mooses (or is it meese?) Well, wait a minute — we could have a couple of different relatives of Santa’s reindeer here.
Mrs. Pringle’s cookies
I wrote about Mrs. Pringle’s cookies in December, 1985:
Mrs. Pringle was the mother of one of the girls who worked in my wife’s office at the telephone company in Syracuse more than 25 years ago.
My association with Mrs. Pringle during the past 26 years has been once a year during the holiday season by way of a recipe in our Christmas cookie file.
For years, I guess I never questioned the genealogy of our Christmas cookies. On Sunday, with the holiday cookie baking process getting underway at our house, I discovered the true story behind how Mrs. Pringle’s Christmas cookies made their way into our cookie jar.
I was told on Sunday that when my wife was growing up, one of the expected treats of the season were the cookies baked by her grandmother – the kind shaped like Christmas trees, Santa Claus, angels and bells.
Grandma probably inherited the recipe from her family in Germany, and turned the holiday favorites out by the hundreds every year. Grandma probably never gave a thought to the fact that the ingredients list started out with five pounds of flour and a dozen eggs.
The problem came after the new bride asked for Grandma’s recipe. No one could figure out how to turn five pounds of flour and a teacup of this and another teacup of that into just enough cookies so we wouldn’t still be eating them at Easter time.
That’s where Mrs. Pringle came to the rescue. It seems that Mrs. Pringle’s family had passed along the same prized recipe and someone along the way had translated it into cups and teaspoons.
As a tribute to the holiday season, Grandma Seils, Mrs. Pringle and the hundreds of those cookies I have eaten over the years here is the recipe:
Grandma Seils’ Christmas Cookies
3 cups flour, ½ tsp. baking powder, 1½ tsp. salt, ½ cup sugar, 1 egg, unbeaten, 2 tsp. vanilla, 1 cup margarine.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Beat margarine and sugar thoroughly. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.
Gradually stir in sifted dry ingredients until well blended. Roll small amounts of dough 1/8 inch thick. Shape with cookie cutters. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. Ice with different colors frosting
Okay, we’re ready. (You could let the frosting dry.) Chomp happily away … and Happy New Year.
… Roy Hodge