My mother’s mother, Ligia Botts Mish, lived with our grandfather Robert Warren Howe Mish in Lexington, Virginia, at 212 Barclay Lane. From the street, the house looks much as it did back in the early 1950’s when my brothers and I were often taken there on Sunday afternoons.
My mother would put Stevie, John, and me into the back seat of our 1949 blue Buick sedan and offer a nickel to any child who could keep quiet during the 34 miles down Route 11 from Staunton to Lexington. No one ever got a nickel–the farthest I made it without talking was Folly Mills, a few miles south of Staunton. The back seat soon descended into squabbling, with no seat belts or child car seats in those days. After listening to complaints of, “He’s breathing my air,” and the like, our mother would assign each child a spot either on the floor, on the back seat, or atop the niche between the back window and back seat.
When we finally got to Lexington, our grandparents would divide a 7-ounce bottle of Canada Dry ginger ale among the three children. We thought this was a wonderful treat since we rarely had soda pop of any kind.
Here is a picture of my mother, Miggie Mish, sitting on the front steps of 212 Barclay Lane. Note the hat, heels and general stylishness. From her insouciance, we can deduce that this picture must have been taken before her marriage and the arrival of 3 children in under 3 years.
Grandmother Mish, whom we called Momee, kept a clear glass jar of candied ginger on a table in the living room. Although children were not allowed to eat candy in those days, we could ask for a piece of ginger. I wonder if the adults thought it was funny to see desperate children looking around for somewhere to spit out the ginger.
Over the years of trying the candied ginger, I developed a taste for it and candied ginger is scattered on this gingerbread. I think it transforms the gingerbread into a very special treat. But maybe that’s because the taste of candied ginger summons up pleasant memories of my grandparents and 212 Barclay Lane.
This recipe comes from James Beard’s Beard on Bread (1973), one of the cookbooks I would take to a desert island. The gingerbread is not as fancy as Fresh Ginger Cake or Stout Ginger Cake, but it’s perfect for a late fall supper. If you haven’t developed a taste for candied ginger, you can leave it out.
1 cup dark molasses
½ cup boiling water
5 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
chopped candied ginger
Put the molasses in a mixing bowl, add the boiling water and butter, and stir until well mixed. Add the salt, ginger, and soda and stir lightly. Then stir in just enough flour to moisten and mix the ingredients. Turn into a 9 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Sprinkle chopped candied ginger on top of the bread. Bake at 375°F for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed lightly and the bread pulls away from the sides of the pan.