When I sew, like magic, I'm led down memory lane as if it's a portal to the past. If one can have an affection for an inanimate object than I do, and I fondly run my fingers over her initials scratched into the base and imagine her using some sharp device to mark her ownership. It’s an older singer, a heavy duty model that continues to work like the well-greased, solid built machines of the past. I take good care of her, with yearly maintenance and a gentle touch, so she runs as smoothly as the day she left the factory.
She sits on top of an old treadle singer machine, her ancestor of the past. I bought it at an auction at the United Church several years back. I like antiques for the shop, modern just doesn’t cut the look I am trying to ferment so I outbid the less serious as if it was a cure for a disease and brought this piece of church history to the shop. There's a beautiful working machine under the cover but I'm not a purist that needs to suffer for her work and even if I was, it doesn't have a zig zag function.
I have history with the United Church. I was baptized there, went to Sunday School and my father was the custodian for many years so I hung out there after hours so it was nice to have a piece of that part of my past. I'm a sentimental old fool that likes to be surrounded by memories, maybe so I don't forget as I have more senior moments than not.
Once I lugged the heavy beast to the shop I knew it would be a perfect working table for my granny’s machine to sit on. We sew around the edges of our patterns to prevent fraying and this machine whips around like a horse on a track, with a smooth and regular gait. The machine has served me well since I opened shop and I hope it lasts as long as I do.
I have a great deal of satisfaction knowing that my grandmother owned and used this machine and I think of her often, with her red lipstick and Avon scents. She was always a lady, in her dresses and aprons, made up and hair coiffed. She was a fantastic baker, kneading bread and making her doughnuts that I remember fondly. I used to crawl on my belly to avoid rattling the beaded curtain that guarded the pantry, and once in, quietly remove the pan lid to help myself to the objects of my desire. Nana's house always smelled like freshly made doughnuts and grandpa’s pipe, two scents that always take me to places of my youth.
These doughnuts are not like any I’ve ever tasted and unfortunately with my diabetes they are now a big no no, but if I’m lucky enough to see death coming with a day or two advance notice, I’m going to deep-fry a batch and eat them until I head into the light. I can almost smell them as I write this, the memory is so ingrained in my head.
The recipe is different from most you will find. The secret ingredient is vinegar. They make the outer crust crunchy and the inside cake tender and soft. Because of these succulent mouth-watering memories, I could never eat a Tim Horton’s doughnut because they are so far removed from a real homemade version the disappointment was painful. Over the years I’ve sampled doughnuts in various stores, always hunting for that remembered taste, but they all fell short. I’ve made a batch or two or maybe twelve, but they are deadly; one is too many and a thousand's not enough. They probably contributed to my diabetes, all that white flour and sugar. I won't say it as worth it, but I will say, those were the the days!
I’ve often thought of opening a coffee shop with my nana’s doughnut recipe so I can educate the world on what a real doughnut should taste like. Not some premixed, add water sort of deal that has all kinds of things in it that one doesn't care to know. Life is too short to realize all my dreams so the masses will remain cheated of the experience, but in retrospect, it probably worked out for the best as I’d be 300 pounds from quality control sampling.
When my grandmother passed away I assumed her recipe died with her. I never thought to ask about it until after my mother died and then it hit me. Dad didn't know and although I looked through my mother's recipe cards I found nothing. I was pretty broken up that it was lost forever. One day several years later I was going through a cookbook of my mother’s and there it was on a piece of paper, now in my hot little hands. The first thing I did was make several photocopies of it and stored them in different places in the house. I’m no fool, I was a Brownie with the motto "Be Prepared" burned into my brain.....I know shit happens and then it’s all gone except for the tears.
With the coveted recipe safe and secure, I went to the store for fresh nutmeg, came home and whipped up a batch immediately. In my youth I worked as a short order cook at a take-out restaurant and I'm no stranger to deep frying and not afraid to have open pot hot oil on the stove. The first batch had barely cooled before I'd eaten every single doughnut and hole, some plain and some sugared. It was as if my grandmother was in the room with me, except now I was wearing the apron. The flavours and smell melted away the years and I was a child once again, hanging around the kitchen waiting for the doughnuts to land on a cooling rack.
It was like a drug that I couldn’t get enough of, each one tasted better than the one before. Needless to say I felt sick but that was a minor detail. My house smelled like a doughnut factory for two days. It was absolute heaven! With eat bite, I was transported back to Springhill summers and visits at my grandmother's home. Truly, it was nostalga mixed with nausea but I held it all in for memories sake. We all need to do crazy things every now and then although I couldn't get away with that today. They'd find me in a coma or dead, with greasy crumbs on my chin and a smile the undertaker couldn't wipe away. Death by doughnuts?....not the worst way to go!
I’m going to share this secret recipe, maybe someone will make them and bring one by. I could manage one without hurting my blood sugar levels and if I jump up and down for a few minutes that ought to fix the problem. Maybe I could eat it while on the treadmill at the gym? I don’t know if I could only eat the one and walk away but I’d love the chance to try. I just don't think I have the courage to make them myself and not eat more than I should. I sure wish the picture could be scratch and sniff!
Nana’s Cake Doughnuts
1 Cup white sugar
2 TBSP shortening
1 TBSP vinegar
1 Cup milk
3 Cups Flour
4 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp salt
¼ Tsp Nutmeg
Mix all together and make the dough and roll out on a board with a bit of flour to keep from sticking. Just like a pie pastry, don’t overwork as the doughnuts will be harder...not that it detracts from the taste! Cut out with a doughnut cutter. Save those holes as they fry up for bits! Excellent plain or sugared. Deep fry in shortening.
I also have my grandmother's antique doughnut cutter, that still works like a charm!