A few years ago, one of Jerri’s grand nieces graduated as salutatorian of her high school class. She was one of over four hundred seniors and is currently completing her doctorate in cultural anthropology. At a family get-together a year or so after she had begun her college work at Carnegie Mellon University, she was visiting her grandparents in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, when her high school honor was brought up by one of her aunts.
“You were only salutatorian? I was valedictorian!”
Another aunt spoke up. “But there were only fifty-six seniors in your class.”
Her great aunt joined the conversation. “I was valedictorian, but there were only eight in my class. And your grandfather was valedictorian, and there were three in his class.”
We still enjoy thinking of how we treasure those honors from many years ago.
Recently Jerri, her brother and I attended her high school reunion in Rosalia, Kansas. As you might guess, it is an all class reunion in a small community. Since it was 2017, graduates present from classes in 2007, 1997, etc. were recognized.
It was a friendly group of fifty or sixty people who enjoyed sharing memories of their school. Everybody knew everybody else, or at least appeared to know the parents of the the younger attendees. We won the door prize as having come the farthest distance to the reunion and Jerri’s brother, the valedictorian of three, got a prize as the oldest attendee.
My only disappointment was with the food or rather with the caterer. The food was tasty and well seasoned. The coleslaw was the best I have ever eaten and the dessert was excellent, but Cindy, of Cindy’s Copper Kettle in Eureka, Kansas, refused to share her recipe for either.
She flat out refused when I explained that I would like to publish the recipe for her cole slaw. “I’m sorry, but we have been making that coleslaw for forty-nine years, and we can’t share it. You can buy it by the pint or quart at the restaurant if you want some.”
“But you don’t understand….” I tried to explain.
“I understand all too well, but I make fifty pounds at a time, so the slaw probably wouldn’t turn out right for you anyway,” she replied.
I tried another tactic. “That pumpkin dessert was wonderful too. Would you share that recipe.”
“Nope, sorry,” but then a pause. “It’s just my version of pumpkin pie cake. You can find recipes on line to get you started.”
Polite but firm. It’s hard to fool a Kansas woman.
I don’t think that I can come close to the the coleslaw recipe unless I disguise myself and sneak into the kitchen when Cindy is making it. However, her tip about the pumpkin pie cake encouraged me, and here is my version. It’s not quite as good as hers, but it is a great dessert.
For the cake:
1 package yellow cake mix
8 T unsalted butter
1 cup chopped nuts
1 can pumpkin (or two cups fresh purée)
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2 cups evaporated milk
For the topping:
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream
2 to 4 tsp. sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp. vanilla
Start by making the crust. Melt the butter in your microwave or a small pan on the range over low heat. Chop the nuts. Dump the cake mix into a mixing bowl and stir in the nuts. Use a fork to blend the butter with the cake mix and nuts.
Grease a nine by thirteen-inch baking pan, and use a spatula to press the prepared cake mix evenly on the bottom of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350º while you make the pumpkin pie batter.
Combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, salt, eggs and evaporated milk in a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat the pumpkin mixture until you have a smooth batter.
Pour the batter over the crust in the pan and bake for sixty to seventy minutes until a knife inserted near the center of the pan comes out clean.
Cool thoroughly on a rack.
To make the whipped cream topping, chill the cream and beaters in the freezer for about fifteen minutes. With an electric mixer, beat the cream until it begins to thicken, add the sugar and continue beating. Beat in the vanilla.
NOTES: Use sugar and vanilla proportional to the amount of cream you need to whip. A half cup of heavy cream will produce enough whipped cream for six generous servings of cake.