Homemade Vanilla


I have a quilt my maternal grandmother made me. She made one for each of us, her five grandchildren, and mine is made with even squares of printed fabrics: stripes, small florals, plaid, paisley and one charming print of Wrigley’s gum. It is cozy and colorful and brings back memories of comfort and of her house where each of the fabrics had a first life as a shirt or dress or pillowcase.

I inherited many things from Grandma Brook including her sewing machine and a necklace from the 20s I wore as “Something Old” on my wedding day. But the most precious thing she passed on to me is her talent in the kitchen. She used vanilla brewed at her local pharmacy in Indiana, and that is the magic that made her pumpkin pie mysteriously delicious. To this day, I cannot perfectly recreate either that pie or her chocolate meringue, but the vanilla she used is the vanilla I use, and now I brew it myself from the original recipe pharmacy shared with me. It is the cornerstone of my baking, the cornerstone of my own business.

Like the quilt, I will pass my love of baking and the vanilla recipe on to my daughter. And like Grandma’s pie, maybe there will be something of mine she can’t get just right, but will build on it and make it her own, as all baking evolves. She is already a help in the kitchen, and I hope she is replicating my memories of family time related to crafting food from scratch. To see her curled up in her Great-Grandma’s quilt to watch a movie makes me sad that they never met, but fills my heart to see generations of us connected.