My grandmother has been so much on my mind the last few weeks. She was 96 when she died this past February, at home and at peace and ready to join my grandfather. I was so lucky to have her for such a long time. But I’ve missed her a lot this month, because she’s been around every corner.
At Thanksgiving, I wore her apron and used her rolling pin to roll out crust for apple pie, using her recipe. The following weekend, I made a double batch of bourbon balls for Christmas and set them aging. In the last few weeks, I’ve used her typewriter to make a gift for a friend, and to type labels for bottles of homemade applejack that I sent. And ever since Black Friday, I’ve been getting emails from a florist company reminding me to “send Roberta Christmas flowers!” I could unsubscribe from that, I suppose, but it seems strangely disloyal and so I’ve suffered through the tiny pangs that arise every time one appears in my inbox.
For as long as I knew her, Grandma hated having her picture taken, so the smiling photos I’ve posted here are rare and precious. But in the days leading up to her funeral, I made a collage of photographs for the service, and I discovered a photo album from the year before she married my grandfather up through the year that their oldest, my uncle Sid, was born. She’s smiling radiantly in almost every picture. She may still have disliked the camera, but there’s no sign of it in these enchanting pictures. I now have this photo album, and I love looking through it at the pictures of their early life, and her beautiful smiling face.
So no flowers for Roberta this Christmas, but she is remembered in everything I do, and in many of the gifts I give. Here’s her recipe for bourbon balls. Consume with caution; if you let them age properly, they’re heady.
*NOTE: the measurements given are for cookies and nuts after they’ve been ground, not before. I managed to forget that this year, with slightly soggy results. So for proper results with a single batch, you’ll need to buy two boxes of Nilla Wafers, and more than a cup of walnuts. Grandma used a rolling pin, because she was a badass. I use a food processor, because I live in the future.*
- 3 cups ground Nilla Wafers
- 1 cup ground nuts (I mostly use walnuts, but anything works)
- 1 cup confectioners sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup bourbon
Grind wafers and nuts fine. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Shape into balls about the size of a large cherry. Roll in confectioners sugar (I roll them twice). Age at least two weeks. Makes about 36; keeps indefinitely.