Bringing Grammy's Lemon Bars Back

I don't necessarily remember the first lemon bar I ever ate, but I do remember the last.  It was somewhere around 1988 or 1989 and I was in my Grammy and Pop-Pop's porch in Pennsylvania.  It was in the summer and I was sitting in the corner on a rocking chair that kept time with a sweet little "squeek-squeeeek" sound as it swayed back and forth.  My Mom was sitting to the left of me, in a matching rocking chair and Grammy was in front of me with her legs casually crossed and a giant smile on her face.  The three of us were talking and laughing about who knows what.  Unfortunately I don't remember much of the conversation, but I do distinctly and very vividly remember what was in my hand; a home made lemon bar.
Grammy always had lemon bars waiting for me when I'd come to visit.  They were housed in a circular yellow plastic container and kept in the freezer, which would give the crust this unique firmness while the top miraculously stayed light and lemony.  The whole dessert was then dressed up by a light dusting of powdered sugar.  It was one of the best things that I had ever eaten.

Sadly, in the spring of 1991, Grammy passed away after a long and painful battle with cancer.  It was devastating and still is.  Suddenly, that amazing woman with the infectious laugh was gone and with that, so were her lemon bars.  It wasn't until we were cleaning my parent's house that we found the recipe.  There it was, in her neatly scripted handwriting, preserved on a scrap piece of paper and only slightly stained by age (and use).  I held onto this recipe for years, and for some reason, couldn't bring myself to make them.  Maybe it was fear that they wouldn't taste the way that I remembered them and somehow that would destroy the memory or maybe I just felt that bringing back the lemon bars needed some sort of special occasion and none seemed fitting.  Until today, Mother's Day.

I wasn't really sure what to expect when my Mom and I set out to make these and looking back, it couldn't have been better.  We weren't even halfway through squeezing the lemons before we bringing Grammy back.  Her presence in my Mom's kitchen was so palpable I could swear that she was right there beside us, laughing her hearty laugh and saying my name in that sing-songy way of hers (with rising emphasis on the first part before sweetly fading away on the last syllable, KaAY-tee).

After we made the lemon bars, we cooled them and stuck them in the freezer, the way Grammy used to.  About an hour later, we anxiously sliced into the bars and took the first bite.  And there it was.  They tasted exactly the same as I remembered them, firm crust and all.  I giddily and happily grabbed for another and closed my eyes, savoring the flavors until suddenly, I wasn't 29 and standing in my parent's kitchen, I was 8 and sitting on that porch in Pennsylvania, carefree and smiling with my Grammy.


Alicia said...

Thanks for sharing your Grammy's lemon bars with me!!! They were the best I've ever had!! And your story was so sweet - when you get your big cookbook deal, these better be in there!

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Thanks Alicia! And thank YOU for the cinnamon buns! They are in my freezer, waiting for a weekend breakfast. Aren't foodie friends the best?

Anonymous said...

Katie: Thank you for the beautiful story about Grammy. The lemon bars were fantastic and it was so appropriate to make them on Mother's Day. Mom would be so happy and proud. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories! I love you always, Mom

Anonymous said...

would you actually post the recipe, please??

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