The Big Bowl

My father’s mother, my Gram, was a strong and amazing woman; or so the stories, along with my vague early childhood memories, would have you believe.  And, actually, the facts support both the memories and the stories.   My grandmother was a devoted Irish Catholic from the South Shore of Boston in a time when the Irish Need Not Apply. She left the comfort of her home to travel to college in Pennsylvania, to Bryn Mawr, no less-and this was 1915ish, maybe earlier.  She was an accomplished horsewoman.  She considered taking flying lessons during WWII, because, you never knew what could happen or what might be needed.  She loved to travel, loved adventure and loved people.  I have a crystal clear memory of her warm and sunny smile.  She embodied charisma; and, I could have told you that before I even knew what the word meant. 

Angie Fitzgibbons could bake.  I honestly can’t tell you if she was a good cook- because she died when I was only seven-and I was still very much a timid eater.  But, I can tell you that she could and did bake!  The cookie jars were always full during our summer visits- and she always filled them.

I can remember being barely four or five and waking up early in the morning-before any of the adults were up-or so I thought.  I crept down the back stairs of the house and there in the kitchen-much to my surprise- was Gram.  She was already deep into cookie baking-trying to beat the eventual heat of the day.  I can see her at this very moment mixing a double batch of cookies-there were a lot of us- in a huge ceramic mustard colored mixing bowl with three brown stripes that ran around it’s middle.  Which cookie was she baking I can’t tell you now; but, Chocolate chip, Peanut Butter, Sugar, Oatmeal Raisin, Brownies –you name it, she made it.  Mostly I remember the Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter cookies.  I can still see the spatula marks on her Peanut Butter cookies 38 years later.  Those were darn good cookies to leave that kind of an impression, don’t you think?

This year has been a year of tremendous loss for my family.  My father passed away in August, and his sister, my Auntie Ann, left us in November.  Auntie Ann never married and had lived in and kept my Gram’s house fundamentally the same since Gram passed away in 1973.  Even long defunct kitchen implements were still stored in the basement.   My Aunt’s death was a double whammy of sorts; because, a family touchstone-my Grandparent’s house-would now be dismantled.  As the house began to be cleared out of stuff that was just junk, I asked my sister and Uncle Jim to keep an eye out for the big mustard colored bowl with the three brown stripes from my memory.  Sure enough they found it- tucked in an abandoned coal container in the basement. 

The big bowl from my memories now anchors the center of my kitchen island.  Every time I look at it, I can hear myself asking my Gram if I can have a cookie. And, I can still hear her answer, a resounding “Sure” which with her thick South Shore accent, came out as “Shu-ah. Have two.”

Not My Gram’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies  (but they are really good)

Makes 4 dozen

Adapted from The Fog City Diner Cookbook

1 c. unsalted butter

¾ c. granulated sugar

¾ c. dark brown sugar

1 t. sea salt

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla extract

1/8 c. water

1 c. smooth peanut butter

2 c. flour

1 t. baking powder

1 ½ c. chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.

  1. Cream together the butter, sugars, and salt. 
  2. Add the eggs one at time, beating well after each. 
  3. Blend in the vanilla, water and peanut butter; incorporate thouroughly, but do not over mix. 
  4. Stir in the flour and baking soda until just mixed.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Drop dough- about 2 T worth- on parchment lined cookie sheets and space about 2” apart.  Bake for 8-12 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp at the edges.


  1. Lisa
    Posted March 12, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink | Reply

    Beautiful. I’m amazed Gram let you in the kitchen when she was baking. She always shooed Spence and me away; she knew what would happen to her prized cookie dough. She did make fabulous cookies, as do you.

  2. Ann
    Posted March 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m love reading your blog! And can’t wait to try these cookies, once my version of Lent is over..

    Your Gram sounds wonderful. My Bryn Mawr-going grandmother has a bowl that sounds just like your Gram’s. She made pickles in her’s.

    I’m very sorry to hear about your father. And your Aunt. Such losses alter the universe.

  3. katie
    Posted March 14, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink | Reply

    Such a nice story, Caroline.

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