Thursday, December 16, 2004

I can tell you about Great Gram.
I can say she was wonderful.
And a million other adjectives, but you wouldn't believe me. You might smile an say "Oh, how nice." Or something else that is polite and appropriate. But you would not know about great Great Gram was.

Mrs. Bafia, the 7th grade English teacher from hell, would suggest that I explain WHY Great Gram was wonderful, or give examples of her wonderful-ness.

If I were to follow the "Mrs. Bafia writing Model" I'd explain how Great Gram laid out candy for her great grandkids, or how she baked cookies for her Grandchildren's birthdays (but gave the cookies to the Great Grandkids so they'd have a present for to give their parents).

I'd tell you about the sucker box that never had suckers, and about the story books she kept in her closet, and the magnifying glass that kept us entertained for hours at a time. I'd write about our tradition of Saturday lunches at her house (we brought over hotdogs and then had ice cream or homemade muffins for dessert!)

In the Mrs.Bafia-Model I'd write about the certain way she kissed her great grandkids, and saved the cartoon pages for my brohter under a chair in her house, and how her graceful stubbornness has influenced/ inspired me. So many people respected and revered my great gram.

BUT, even if I did everything Mrs. Bafia said, and wrote all that down, it would not convey thee ssence of Great Gram. You'll just have to trust me that she was amazing.

This is supposed to be 1,213 words about banket so maybe it's time for my train of thought to focus a bit. Banket is a Dutch pastry - flakey crust with an almomd paste filling. Quite tastey, although I'm told it is an aquired taste.

Great Gram used to make four sticks of banket for each family. She packaged it in wax paper, wrapped with with christmas paper, and pased it out a week or two before Christmas. My mom always put it right into the freezer - thinking that we wouldn't eat it quite so quickly if it were frozen (litle did she know that her children liked frozen banket as much as thawed banket!!!)

Banket takes a long time to make. One must roll out the crust, thinly spread butter on it, fold and roll again, butter, fold, roll, butter, fold roll - - the whole process happens at least 20 times. And then the cook still has to deal with filling, shaping, and baking it! (There's a reason why it is a once a year treat).

Great Gram was a resilliant thing.
There was a bout with cancer - but she bounced back.
Heart attack - and she bounced back.
Little tiny stroke, and she made a complete recovery.
Once, when I was in high school, she got really sick and we didn't know if she'd make it (I cried that night wondering how in the world life would go on if she died), BUT she pulled through that too.

In 1995 she fell and broke her hip.
At the time she was 90-some years old and the doc didn't know if her body would survive surgery (let alone rehab). I really worried about her not being able to walk again, and she went into Rest Haven (which is the Nursing home prefered by the South Side Dutch-boy community).

And she stopped making banket.

* * * * * * * *

I don't get too thrilled about the exclusive-ness attitude of some of the "old time Dutch-boys network." But I went to Central College, in Pella Iowa anyway.
Pella is one of those annoying Dutch towns. Everyone in Pella owns an "Dutch Costume" (never mind that no one in Holland dresses that way now). Pella People wear their annoying Dutch Costumes every spring for their annual annoying tulip festival.

If you are a new resident of Pella, and don't have a Dutch costume - the Pella Public Library has Dutch Costume patterns that you can check out. (Along with a list of sewers that will make the costume for you). It's insane.

I really didn't want to go to Central.
My mom went there - and I had no desire to follow her. Plus the whole "Dutch-boy" exclusive-ness thing.
But then I visited and fell in love with the place. The people were articulate, interesting, friendly, and smart. I didn't want to like it there, but I did. And I ended up going to Central IN SPITE of my mother's alumni status (and a crummy financial aid package).

Pella has this bakery.
And, being a very Dutch-y town, the bakery specializes in (you guessed it) Dutch Patry and candy (this is a banket story, so I won't get sidetracked by candy, but someday I'll need to write about Willeminia Peppermints and cinnamon rusks!)

This Dutch bakery makes Banket.
It is mass produced banket - but it is mass produced by hand. (Not quite as good as Great Grams). When I was in college, I used to bring a box or two home for Christmas (and the VW family went crazy happy for a taste of it).

It's a VW Christmas Tradidion.
It's tastey stuff.

Great Gram had her 100th birthday party my in September of my senior year. By that time sister Kristie had joined me at Central (despite her desire to NOT follow in her mother/sister's Centralian footsteps, she fell in love with the place too!)

There was no way Kristie and I could make the party, so we walked over to the bakery and bought six sticks of banket, and mailed it to her at Rest Haven. Everyone knew it was coming and they were looking forward to a taste of banket at the party.

They were watching for the box to come, and it didn't. Kristie and I were a little worried that it had gotten lost in the mail - - but - - Great Gram got the package, told no one, and ate it! Every last crumb (good for her, and when I'm 100 years old I might eat a whole box of banket too!)

Great Gram died in April of 2000.
No one expected it.
She hadn't been feeling well, and she WAS 102 years old. But it was still kind of a surprise. She'd bounced back so many times, that we all kinda thought that she'd do it again. Vienna by Billy Joel was on my CD player when I got the call. It seemed appropriate.

Kristie graduated from Central in 2001.
With no easy courrier, the following Christmas was banket-less.

In 2002, mother dear overcame her fear of credit cards on the internet and ordered a dozen sticks of banket to be delieved for Christmas (and there was great rejoicing throughout the land).

Phil started his first semester at Central last September.
And finished his first round of finals yesterday
He is without a car.
And since I have vacation time to burn, I went to pick him up.
(And visit the bakery!)
It was a good day for a drive - no rain, no snow, sunny
Phil drove part of the way home, so I took a nap (car sleep is the best sleep in the world).
T’was good (and I have banket!!!)
The End!