From an early age, I loved being in the kitchen, reading mysteries, gardening, writing or telling stories. This all happened in a cheerful pink stucco house on the north end of Underwood, which was my parents’ house. Looking back, there was something magical about living in this pink house with white window boxes and decorative trim. Perhaps one of the coolest things about this house was that my dad loved stucco and the color pink. There was a series of three houses in this collection. The other two houses were canary yellow and light frost green – both were also stucco. They were built by a gentleman who at one time had been employed at Disney as a carpenter. He returned to North Dakota during the construction of the Garrison Dam and built these structures.
The yellow house had a California feel as it was a patio house. There were white awnings and my parents converted the Underwood laundry there. As a child, one of my earliest memories is seeing color; looking into my world, these homes were unique in color and texture. It was the perfect pastel triangle to reignite a childlike sense of imagination. These three structures resided closely together. Pastel pink, yellow and soft green – these colors were also on display in Radke’s Fairway up town in the freezer section as sorbet.
Wanting to bring these tones into the kitchen beyond sorbet, my mother introduced me to the sun of lemons. She loved lemons and made time each summer to bake lemon meringue pies for the trading club lunch stand at the McLean County Fair. It could be 100 degrees outside, but that didn’t stop him from baking a pie that beamed with sunshine and fluffy white clouds. Being 6 or 7 years old at the time, her solution to my interest involved slicing thin sunbeams from lemons and scattering them like a pool of sunshine into a large clear pitcher that housed a freshly made lemonade from previously squeezed lemons.
Not one to miss an artistic touch, she walked over to our GE fridge which featured a round door, opened it and pulled out a jar of maraschino cherries and carefully poured some red juice into the lemonade. In an instant, a pink flower swam to meet slices of lemon. It was a fulfilling time for a young boy who lived in a pastel, creative and entertaining world.
The sight of lemonade often reminds me of my mother’s clothing choice. I have seen these dresses in photographs; however, my memory recalls them in clear detail. She loved to wear gingham – especially in a lavender and white – and the garment featured a classic shirt waist such as princess seams, lightly padded shoulders and seashell buttons. I stood next to her in the kitchen while she wore dresses and even had a closer view when she often put me on her lap after dinner. What dress do you remember your mother wearing in the summer?
Lemons are one of the first foods that Jan and I connected with. She likes to bake a homemade white cake with lemon filling and white pearl frosting. She did it before we got married and it’s still going. She was fortunate to receive several recipes containing lemons from her piano teacher, Mrs. Berniece O’Connell, from Ray. Piano recitals were held at her house and light receptions leaned towards the light and cheerfulness of lemons.
The lemons in our house continued with the next generation, Lydia! She has been active with the Gasmann Helping Hands 4-H Club for several years. One of the first pastry starters was lemon bars. I can still remember she said “I like working with lemons; they make my hands smell good. This year she made another lemon recipe, Lemon Crisp Cookies. They are delicious and easy to make because you drop them with a spoon!
Lemonade dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries in Egypt, where a lemon drink was prepared with dates and honey. It was in 1676 that cookbooks mentioned a Parisian company known as the Compagnie de Limonadiers which sold lemonade in Paris. Vendors carried tanks of lemonade on their backs and handed out cups of the soft drink to Parisians. It’s still up in the air if they wore the complementary color of purple to yellow while quenching the thirst of visitors under the Eiffel Tower.
This summer, take the time to enjoy lemonade and crispy lemon cookies while sporting your fashion touch. Who knows, you might inspire an artistic young creative mind right in your home.
Sweet and creamy lemonade
1 container (12 ounces) frozen lemonade concentrate
2 cups of water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup half and half
Juice of one or two lemons
½ cup sugar
3 cups of ice cubes
Lemon for garnish.
Place all ingredients in a large blender. Do in batches if using a small blender. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses, garnish with a lemon wedge, sit down and enjoy. For an added twist, you can use water flavored with cucumbers or oranges instead of tap water. To do this, you would want to create this flavored water the night before.
Crispy Lemon Cookies
1 cup butter, cold, cubed
2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ C fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
3 cups flour
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon of salt
Optional: yellow food coloring
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar for 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest and stir to combine. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix just until combined. Place the dough on a light colored baking sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.