My mother, Miriam Marcus Sloan, was born in New York City in l900. A graduate of tuition-free Hunter College— before her l8th birthday— she always said in later life, “I owe everything to New York City!” She was a woman of diverse talents and accomplishments with a formidable intellect and knowledge of eight languages. She began teaching and earned a Master’s Degree from Columbia University in 1921.
After a major coronary attack in l954 forced her to retire from teaching at an all-boys vocational high school in Harlem, she was determined to continue doing “something worthwhile” every day of her life. She read of a braille class at Ridgewood High School and took a taxi there, only to discover the course was being given on the third floor. Still recovering, she was forbidden to walk up stairs. Her solution was to crawl up the three flights — pushing her coat ahead — step by step. Descending the flights was easier — bumping down each stair while wearing her coat. She did this for the fifteen weeks of the course. Determination was one of her salient qualities.
When she moved to Ventnor New Jersey, the next year, she joined Beth Judah synagogue and soon volunteered to teach braille transcription to interested members who would come to her apartment once a week for lessons around her dining room table. She was a superb teacher and they each learned the very challenging process of writing braille— by punching the words in dot form manually into sheets of oak tag paper. In later years, she and they bought Braillers from the Perkins Institute for the Blind and transcribed the books on the machines. The books, when completed and proof read, were then sent to the Library of Congress. It should be noted that every page had to be perfect! And my mother proof read every page of every book that went out — her own and those of her pupils. She taught these classes on a volunteer basis for twenty years, and was presented with The White Cane award by The Lions Clubs of New Jersey in October, 1973.
Miriam Sloan learned and transcribed Hebrew Braille as well, and was awarded a “Citation for Distinguished Service to the Jewish Blind” by the Jewish Blind Institute of America. It is framed and hanging on the wall of our study. I also have the letter written to her by the father of a blind boy for whom my mother transcribed his portion of the Torah — so that he could go up to the Bema and become a bar mitzvah.
Lest you think of her only as a woman of intellect and serious purpose, she was also known to her family and friends as the baker of Nanny’s delicious and distinctive cookies. She started baking them, using her own recipe and an aged bottle of scotch whiskey that had resided unopened in her dining room server for decades. In later years, she substituted rum for scotch in the recipe. She often asked her grandchildren ,Steven, David and Faith, to come over one at a time and help her with the baking — and the eating after the cookies cooled. They loved this culinary experience to be followed by playing their favorite card games with their Nanny — which they usually won.
After her death in l974, we discovered that no one had the recipe for her cookies. People would ask my sister or me if we had it. They wanted to bake the cookies and were aghast at our response. “What, you don’t have the recipe!” “How can you not have the recipe!” Since neither of us baked, we had never asked for the recipe. The cookies just arrived, were enjoyed by all and the recipe remained a mystery. My mother was a highly organized woman and we tried to find the recipe among her papers. No success. We decided that perhaps, she didn’t want the recipe passed down. And the cookies faded into memory over many years.
That is how it remained until I learned at a Beth Judah Bazaar that someone did indeed have my mother’s cookie recipe. It was not lost after all. While talking with a friend, the subject of my mother’s cookies arose and she smiled and said , “ I have the recipe. Your mother gave it to me once when I asked her for it.” Hallelujah!
For those of you who have wanted to taste those cookies again — and for others who have never tasted them — here is Nanny’s Cookie Recipe as she wrote it. It’s a surprise gift for all of us.
2 full measuring cups of Gold Medal all purpose flour
2 tablespoons real vanilla, not vanilla flavoring
2 tablespoons good rum
1 measuring cup sugar
1- 3 and 1/2 half oz. package of shredded coconut
7/8 measuring cup of Mazola oil. (A little more if you need it)
2 heaping tablespoons of plain wheat germ
Choice of : chocolate non-pareils, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, cracked nuts. Nestle’s 3 half oz pkg of semi-sweet chocolate morsels.
Stove at 310 degrees. (Depends on your oven)
Grease pans lightly with Mazola
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. If you choose chocolate chips or butterscotch chips or cracked nuts, mix most of the chips or nuts with the other dry ingredients.
Crack eggs in another bowl; add vanilla and rum. Stir.
Add eggs, rum, vanilla and Mazola oil to dry ingredients.
Mix well until all dry mixture is absorbed
Make cookies and place on greased pans.
Sprinkle tops of cookies with extra chips or nuts.
Put in hot stove. Test your stove with a few to find the correct temperature. Watch the chocolate ones especially. They scorch easily.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
Drain off on paper towels. Cool. Keep in a tin can lined with paper towels to catch any excess oil. The cookies will last indefinitely. They never spoil. This amount makes the equivalent of a pound size of graham crackers — a little more.