Although she passed away many years ago, I love to remember my grandmother especially around the time of her birthday in the middle of August.
First of all, let me explain, Moesje was my Dutch grandmother, my father’s mother. “Moeder” he called her. I loved the phone calls from her that would come into our home when I was a child. Immediately I knew it was her on the line, because he would always joyfully ask “How are you Moedertje?” in Dutch. I could tell it was a question, and the last word was “Moeder” so I knew it was her and he was asking her how she was. The “tje” suffix was a diminutive he sometimes added to her name.
We grandchildren called her “Moesje” and she always came to visit for a few weeks each year. She brought us up to date with all the other members of the family: three other uncles, spouses and cousins as well as an aunt and spouse plus more cousins. I knew them all by name and to this day remember fondly the stories she told me about each. She had time for us and I looked forward to playing endless rounds of “canasta” with her each day after school. She told us so many stories and had a twinkle in her eye that would let us know what she was about to tell was wonderful.
Interestingly, her visits always fell during the school year, never summers. So, she experienced the busy life of an active family during her visits. That definitely included American homework. One night around 9:00 PM, it occurred to me I had forgotten something very important. I had a homemaking project due the next day. It was a food project. The assignment was to prepare a salad. So at 9:00 PM I delivered the news to my mother that
I we had to prepare a wonderful concoction and that my grade depended on it. dum-dum-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum-dum, dummmmmm…as in trouble, deep trouble with my mother…remember Dragnet?
Mom had no sympathy and really wanted nothing to do with me for announcing this at the last minute. Then, Moesje came to the rescue.
“Is there jell-o?” she asked.
“Yes, we always have jello,” I responded.
“Are there nuts?” she continued to ask.
“Yes, we always have nuts in the fall,” I answered.
“Do you have a mold?” she persisted.
“Well, what we’ll do is make jello.”
I could not believe she was suggesting that I make jello for this project! My teacher would roll her eyes all the way to the back of her head. My friends would laugh at me for even thinking I could get away with turning in jello for this project. I had no recourse…I turned on the tears and started to cry.
“I can’t turn in jello.”
“Don’t worry, ” she encouraged. “What this jello will need is a good sauce.”
“What?” At that moment I knew she was on to something.
So jello it was, lime in fact, a clear green gelatin. The sauce was a homemade mayonnaise she had made for her own family so the recipe was still in her mind. With great understanding she stood in the kitchen as she told me the basic ingredients. Fortunately…oh so fortunately… they were on hand in our kitchen and helped me make the homemade stuff. According to Moesje it was homemade mayonnaise. It was very different from any commercial brand. It had the consistency of a sauce more than a thick mayo product from a jar. We prepared the jello in a mold. Early the next morning after the jello had congealed, we poured the “sauce” over the jello and sprinkled some nuts on top of that. We laid the jello mold on a bed of lettuce and “voilá” a gelatin salad was ready for school.
I brought it to school along with the recipe for the homemade mayonnaise. My teacher was amazed. My very ordinary jello turned into a winner as apparently, my homemaking teacher had also turned this food project into a contest.
“First place to the gelatin dessert topped with homemade mayonnaise!”
I love to remember how Moesje saved me one evening calmly turning ordinary jello into a blue ribbon recipe.