Grandma Hattie’s Raisin Cake

Fussy love simple….especially simple recipes.  Take simple ingredients, (most of which were common supplies in a 20th century pantry or frig), boil them together and create a chemical reaction.  In the time it takes an oven to heat up, the ingredients are dumped together to create a fragrant, gooey batter.

1d06a6f3-853e-4279-9613-02c1ead65a76When this recipe was hastily written in Grandma Hattie’s kitchen, this Twenty-Something Foodie, just wanted Grandma’s magic at her fingertips available anytime the mood struck.  Fussy was tired of waiting for the ritual delivery of The Raisin Cake.

The delivery was always a ‘special delivery’. After a visit to a Texas, the cake was the special souvenir.  Wrapped in wax paper, then enrobed in two layers of aluminum foil, the cake was protected by a cardboard lingerie box.  Generally carried on a series of flights between Texas and California, Grandma Hattie’s Raisin Cake was the flavor of Texas.

No matter how well we tried to parcel out the cake, someone always managed to steal a sliver or full blown slice from the deep freeze.     The thievery and deception only made the cake more highly prized.  Fussy decided to own the prize.  Grandma gladly shared.  Hastily written on note paper from a spiral notebook, the recipe became the ‘Go To’ recipe.  Easily prepared, and greatly appreciated.  Minimal effort, maximum acclaim, that’s the kind of recipe Fussy loves.

Ignore the holiday shopping list.  Read through the blurred smudges.  The recipe is forgiving.  Ingredients need not be precisely measured.


Add pecans, add vanilla, add a splash of rum.  Leave out cloves, add some ginger. Use oleo or butter.  These things don’t matter.  Any simple recipe has at least ONE detail that matters.  It could be a single ingredient.  It could be a technique. Patience is the crucial element of this recipe.  Once the baking soda has been dumped in, turn off the stove, and stir the batter continuously until the foaming bubbles subside completely.  Don’t rush the process.  Always keep stirring  and folding the mixture until the chemical reaction stops.  Only then has the batter cooled enough for the flour to be folded in.  The photo shows the ooey gooey dark batter before being baked.  Wasn’t enough patience for photos before Fussy served the cake tonight.  Fussy believes in sharing food, in sharing love, in sharing secrets.  endblogWhen you make this family secret, enjoy, knowing that decades of tradition are part of this simple recipe. Remember, simple can be complex if not done right. Fussy loves simple.

A Texas Christmas

img_0009St Louis Church in Castroville, Texas December 1, 2016.

Seven years in a row now, Fussy’s sense of family has been tweaked.  Fussy celebrates family and the Christmas season by building with gingerbread at the Braden Keller Center next to St Louis.

This year, Bop chose to remind Fussy of her genealogical ties to the Castroville founding families.  Right next to the Peter Jungmann home stands the greatest Christmas tree ever.


img_0007Other areas rely on evergreens that take years to grow, just for the purpose of dying to be the centerpiece in a family home.  Evergreens are cultivated to become single use decorations., destined for the compost heaps.

Castroville uses what is natural to Texas, a prickly pear.  This stubborn succulent grows in a bush like form all over the rugged Texas landscape.  Its flat beaver tail paddles are covered with thousands of prickly spiny thorns that aggressively jump out at passers by..  It is the mother to knobs of bloody red juicy  fruit which sustained the life of parched animals and settlers in the early days of Texas history.

Fussy like this true evergreen, destined to give joy year after year.  It’s pure Texas ingenuity to use the resources available to practice a perennial tradition.  Fussy like The PRICKLY PEAR Christmas tree of Castroville.endblog



Friday Night in The Suburban Sunset of San Francisco.

hartgirlsHow can a simple conversion between two sisters half  a continent apart turn into a 90 minute dramatic evening?  We homebodies prefer to stay home on Friday nights, and catch up on family events long distance. But, live in the City By the Bay, next to Stern Grove, and the men in blue will put a perimeter around your quiet tree bordered neighborhood, searching for an armed gunman. Texas listened to the police scanner on the iPad, while Wawona Street kept an eye on their neighbors and the passing police and their vehicles. Suspense built when the suspect was spotted across the street running up hill toward the park. After a few flash bangs, and gun shots, the subdued suspect rode to a hospital, which led to a final flurry of texts between the two cities named for saints, 1300 miles apart.  Safe excitement for both sisters.endblog

GHEE – A Runyonesque Recipe

ahartsignatureIn a prior post, Fussy talked about A Hart and this emoji’s meaning.  Whenever you see this emoji, a recipe is close by.  The recipe is for Ghee or Clarified Butter, as mentioned in the Guys and Dolls post.

A Hart started out as Alma Mae, the second youngest in the clan.  She ended life as Gram.  In between, Gram was an Air Force veteran, the first college graduate in her family, a professional career woman, a wife, a mother, a homemaker and an adventurer.  Gram was an old school feminist, who believed that a woman should excel in every room of the house.   Including The White House.  That kind of feminism is hard to live up to.   It’s fun to try.

Family,  food and fun were Gram’s focus.  Gram knew how to cook.  She appreciated chi chi with a dose of common sense.  Boeuf Bourguignon and Vlaams Carbonade were relatives of Beef Stew.  Gram appreciated the nuanced cultural differences.  However, Gram firmly believed that decent cooks could adapt a recipe to the  ingredients on hand.  No wine.  No problem.  No beer.  No problem.  Add okra as the finishing touch and a Hart Family classic was born.  Learn, adapt, improve, simplify.  No detailed explanations were required. Notes and rating system were.

GHEE, where were we?  Oh, yes. Ghee is the term used for

Warm half a pound of butter over low heat until melted.  Turn off heat. Let the solids separate from the fat.  Pour off the clear butter.  Higher cooking temperature.  Richer flavor.  Perfect with artichokes, lobsters, and oh so much more.  Ghee.  That’s clarity you can taste. Smakelijk.endblog

A Hart – A 60 Year Old Emoji

Born Alma Mae, later called Allie, she loved the nickname Kit. She answered to Mrs. Hart, Big Kit, Mom, and Gram.  A child of The Depression,  Gram learned that necessity was the mother of invention.  The Mothers of Invention were a musical luxury of the future.  Learn, adapt, improve, simplify.  Repeat.   Gram lived by these concepts.ahartsignatureShe replaced her signature  “Alma Hart” as early as 1965.  Although not her legal signature, the symbol became her trademark, her brand.  The lower case ‘a’ surrounded by a heart was her personal stamp of approval.  An emoji before its time. It’s proof of her no nonsense approach to life.  Fussy likes no nonsense.


Guys and Dolls

“On behalf of the former sinners of tomorrow, I protest…..”    This is exactly the kind of phrase that asks to be posted, shared or tweeted.   It triggers an immediate response.  It’s just got to be relevant.  It’s so clever …  familiar ….. timely….ageless….provocative… entertaining.  As a stand alone phrase, it’s great.  One more piece of inane bull### that we love to share.  However, there is so much more to it than the gut response.  The phrase is Runyonesque.   Now this odd adjective and the phrase require a bit of context.

Context, in most things, provides clarity.  Context clarifies much in the same way butter* is clarified.  Clarification takes time and thought.  It’s simple.  The end product is richer and more intense.  Fussy loves simple.

So, put on a low flame…. mentally.  As the flickering blue heat tickles the gray matter, search your memories, ideas and life experience. No knee jerk reactions please.  NO internet.  Then, let the flame die… let  the reflections settle, cool and collect. Now decide; where does the phrase come from? What does it mean?

Fussy knows. Not fair? So what!  Here’s the context along with Fussy’s clarification:

Damon Runyon was an American journalist and writer.  His ability to capture a specific era in America was so impressive that the adjective Runyonesque came into its own. Runyon described life on the streets of early 20th Century Times Square.  His articles and stories were based on real people with larger than life personalities.  Sky Masterson was one such Runyonesque character.  Sky, an inveterate gambler,  spoke the line, in the musical, “GUYS AND DOLLS”.   Marlon Brando, what a hunk, played Sky in the 1955 MGM movie.

Does Fussy’s context provide definitive clarity?  Absolutely not. Ain’t nothin’ new under the sun.  Fussy has forgotten more than you’ll ever know.  Here’s one thing Fussy didn’t know.  Damon Runyon’s legacy lives on, not only in popular media, but in the fight against cancer.  Visit to discover how Runyonesque life can be.  If you’ve enjoyed this simple phrase and story, follow along. Regular posts on all thing simple.endblog

*GHEE!  How do you clarify butter?  Coming in a blog post soon.