Sometimes family secrets aren't so secret, especially with a recipe. Sometimes they could seem so obvious. But then it comes to that special way they taste, making it daunting, or at least difficult, to reproduce. Take the cookies baked by a friend's grandmother, someone everyone knew as "Granny Barwick."
Granny Barwick made the most delicious oatmeal cookies. They were loved so much that she had to make huge of batches, kept in a chest freezer for our periodic visits. My brother Philippe and her grandson,John, were regular visitors to Granny Barwick's house. And freezer. Years later, my brother and I joked about how those cookies were able to quench the enormous appetite a person develops after a youthful partaking of certain substances.
Anyway, when Philippe brought some home, I asked him to get her recipe. Being the lovely grandmother that she was, Granny Barwick was only too willing to share. "Back of the box," she said to my brother. Somehow that bothered me. It seemed too easy. Philippe, too, was perplexed by her divulging a recipe that good. Then he realized her matter-of-factness was just that - she was pointing him to the lid of one of those old Quaker Oat tins. She'd used their recipe. Back then they used lard or Crisco instead of butter. I guess the secret Granny Barwick didn't share was that pinch of extra seasoning. Or the recipe for that other element, the quiet but deep love that only a grandmother can give - whether to a batch of cookies or to anything she does.
Oh and if your in Vermont, stop by and see John and his dad at the Old Stage Coach Inn for some of that old New England B&B charm. I think they still make those cookies there, too. Unless you just get them yourself off the back of the box!