I often think about what it must have been like to grow up in my dad’s house when he was a kid. By all accounts, there were always homemade baked goods on the counter. Always. His grandmother, a Hungarian immigrant and known to everyone as Gram, lived with him growing up and, well, although I know she had a bedroom and frequented other rooms in the house, I think she pretty much spent most of her time in the kitchen, baking and cooking and baking some more
From what I hear, there were cheese pockets and coffeecakes (“Oh, we were never without coffeecake,” my grandmother has told me) and muhn cookies and pies. Seeing as Gram grew up sleeping on a dirt floor in Hungary and made her way here at 13, formal “recipes” weren’t really part of her vocabulary. Over time, she worked out her own recipes, but more than anything she developed a feel for how recipes worked. She could throw together a pie or dessert without really thinking about it.
I recently came across a stack of Gram’s old recipes, written in barely legible chicken scratch, a Yiddish/Hungarian/English hybrid, most of it phonetic. Some day I will make and post those recipes — promise — but I need to work out the ingredients and measurements and, well, I’ve been a little busy. You know, planning a wedding and stuff.
Though my Hungarian great grandmother surely never used rhubarb in her cooking — and I know the words “sponge pudding” never grazed her lips — this rhubarb sponge pudding is the sort of “thrown together” dessert I picture someone like her baking. It’s almost effortless, and you can have it together and in the oven while you make dinner on a lazy Sunday. With recipes like this in my arsenal, I just may have baked goods lining my counter constantly too.
Edited to add: I stand corrected! My aunt has informed me that Gram did, in fact, cook with rhubarb and made a wonderful strawberry rhubarb pie. Who knew!