Jamie Oliver Is Not My Boyfriend, according to Melanie, who runs the site. She says, “I have a little bit of an unhealthy obsession with Jamie Oliver. Namely his accent, his easy-peasy recipes and the fact that he is pretty darned cute to look at. But don’t let that fool you…Jamie Oliver is Not My Boyfriend. In fact, I don’t even know Jamie aside from his books and specials! But let me preface this blog by saying that if Jamie Oliver WAS my boyfriend, well, I wouldn’t have to do any of the cooking..but I’d bake for him instead and look cute in an apron.”
How can you not love this woman? Especially when she pairs up Lemon Cookies and Led Zeppelin? And when she’s not expressing her inner foodie, Melanie is talking about this, that, and the other thing over at Feminine Wiles & Urban Survival 101. Lord, she’s a busy woman. Fortunately, when I asked if she would be interested in participating in the Food Memories project, she didn’t hesitate to say yes. Because she has the most beautiful example of how we weave people, places, and food into the landscape of our memories. Here, I’ll let her tell you about it.
Uncle Lorne’s Buckeyes
My great uncle Lorne lived in a big old farmhouse on top of the hill right next door. He helped build that house when he was a child, along with my grandfather and his brothers. A huge old cement block farmhouse with a dirt floor basement, farmhand quarters with back staircase, the first laundry shoot I’ve ever seen, and oodles of character. A complete mystery that gave way to romantic visions of past lives (not thinking that the house really wasn’t that old). To us it was a castle.
My great uncle was a farmer who had become the ultimate man about the house. He loved the big farmhouse and it certainly suited him. While my great aunt Mary was busy at work outside of the home, he thrived in the cozy kitchen complete with a woodstove that was always on (with the exception of hot summer days) and clomped around the farm in clogs he had repaired over and over and over.
He cooked, cleaned, baked and could fix absolutely anything. He reduced, reused, and recycled long before it became the environmentally responsible (or hip) thing to do. Walking into the house, you always knew he’d bring out treats at some point and would always have a little joke or two to tell.
He was generally fairly quiet, but always on the go doing or working on something. There was always something in the crockpot cooking away and always a pot of tea at the ready. His only downtime was an afternoon nap in the living room.
His granddaughter Kim and I would be playing around upstairs and sneak down the back staircase into the kitchen. On the little landing before the door to the kitchen was a mini pantry that he had built. There were glass jars filled with everything! Spices, beans, pasta, flour, sugar, store bought cookies, scotch mints….and buckeyes.
He called them buckeyes because they looked like the nuts (horse chestnut – cousin to the buckeye) that fell from the tree in the front yard and left stains on our hands for days after we picked them up.
We’d spy the jar and make our move…slowly unscrewing the lid so as not to alert my uncle in the kitchen. We were caught frequently, but there were many times we weren’t and our rations of treats were ultimately smaller when it came to tea time. He always knew. Those buckeyes though, they were the tastiest things I had ever eaten.
I haven’t made buckeyes for years, and even then..they didn’t quite seem the same without having to squirrel them away or having the run of the big old farmhouse. But I can taste them to this day and thinking about my uncle and the farm always brings back memories of those very special treats.
My uncle passed away years ago and my aunt sold the farm. New people eventually moved in. They refaced the house and renovated the interior. I wonder if the pantry is still there, the back staircase and the feeling that the house was centuries older than it was. They’ve cut down the horse chestnut tree and cemented over the yard we used to play in. Their children play outside, but they have a fancy swing set, not the tire swing we used or the apple trees we’d read books in until sunset. They cut those down too. I hope their kids enjoy the house as much as we did as children and are finding their own magic within the walls.
At his funeral, atop the casket sat a picture and his very well worn and repaired clogs. It was the saddest and most fitting testament to such a wonderful man.
I still think about my great uncle Lorne from time to time and it’s nice to remember that in terms of relations and family that great really does equal great… and that a little chocolate and peanut butter ball can transport me back to my childhood.
BAH Note: Before I made this recipe, I thought Buckeyes were Ohio State fans. I had to Google Buckeye Nuts to see if the candies I made bore any resemblance to the actual nuts. I’m going to say that for not knowing what I was aiming for, I didn’t do so bad. And now that I’ve tasted them, I don’t think this will be the last time these treats come out of my kitchen. I cut the recipe in half and still came out with about 4 dozen candies. I keep the finished treats in the freezer so that the chocolate and filling stay firm…and so I don’t eat all 48 of them in one sitting.
- 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 cups confectioners sugar
- 4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Mix the peanut butter, butter, sugar and vanilla together in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. The dough should be dry and not sticky. Roll into 1″ balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Press a toothpick into the top of each ball and chill in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.
Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave (although you will have to keep reheating the chocolate if you do it in the microwave). Stir until completely smooth.
Holding the toothpick, dip the peanut butter balls into the chocolate. Keep a small area around the toothpick chocolate free. This makes them look like the actual buckeye (nut). Place back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate.
After the chocolate has hardened, remove the toothpick from the buckeye and smooth the peanut butter over the hole with your finger.
These don’t have to be refrigerated, but if you want them fairly firm, it’s a good idea to do so before serving.