In Search of Mrs. Brooks Randolph

Mar
21


The other day, after I posted the Strawberry Cake recipe and sadly maligned the author of the recipe, Mrs. Brooks Randolph, as “ornery” and needing a spankin’, one of my readers sent me the phone number to Mrs. Randolph’s nephew.

304-555-3300
This phone number has been given the “Hollywood” treatment.

What would anyone IN THEIR RIGHT MIND DO WITH THIS PHONE NUMBER?

I picked up the phone and dialed it. (That is NOT, by the way, the correct answer to the above question.)

Mrs. Randolph’s nephew’s wife answered the phone.

Me: “I’m looking for Mrs. Brooks Randolph.”

Mrs. Randolph’s nephew’s wife: “Who?”

Me: “Mrs. Brooks Randolph.”

Mrs. Randolph’s nephew’s wife: “That was my husband’s aunt.”

Me: “YES! Is she alive?”

Mrs. Randolph’s nephew’s wife: “No, she died.”

Me: “I need to know what she would have thought was a small teaspoon.”

Mrs. Randolph’s nephew’s wife: “A small spoon?”

Me: “A small TEASPOON. What did she think was a SMALL TEASPOON?”

Mrs. Randolph’s nephew’s wife: “OH. I don’t know.”

Me: “Did you ever eat her strawberry cake?”

Mrs. Randolph’s nephew’s wife: “Streudel cake?”

Me: “STRAWBERRY cake.”

Mrs. Randolph’s nephew’s wife: “She never made strawberry cake.”

Me: “Yes, she did! She put it in a cookbook! And she measured in small teaspoons. What would she have thought was a small teaspoon?”

Mrs. Randolph’s nephew’s wife: “I have her daughter’s phone number. Do you want that?”

304-555-3782
This phone number has been given the “Hollywood” treatment.

What would anyone IN THEIR RIGHT MIND DO WITH THIS PHONE NUMBER?

I picked up the phone and dialed it. (That is NOT, by the way, the correct answer to the above question.)

Mrs. Randolph’s daughter answered the phone.

Mrs. Randolph’s daughter is 87.

Me: “Are you Mrs. Brooks Randolph’s daughter?”

Mrs. Brooks Randolph’s daughter: “Yes????”

Me: “I need to know what she would have thought was a small teaspoon?”

Mrs. Brooks Randolph’s daughter: “A small spoon?”

Me: “A small TEASPOON.”

Mrs. Brooks Randolph’s daughter: “A small teaspoon?”

Me: “YES. A small TEASPOON. What was a SMALL TEASPOON?”

Mrs. Brooks Randolph’s daughter: “I don’t know.”

Me: “What about when she made strawberry cake? When she made strawberry cake, what was a small teaspoon?”

Mrs. Brooks Randolph’s daughter: “She never made strawberry cake.”

Me: “SHE NEVER MADE STRAWBERRY CAKE?! I have book. I have a BOOK! She submitted a strawberry cake recipe.”

Mrs. Brooks Randolph’s daughter: “She made strawberry shortcake. She never made strawberry cake.”

Head reeling. Mrs. Brooks Randolph? Where are you, Mrs. Brooks Randolph? What secret life did you and your strawberry cake and your small teaspoons lead that was hidden from your family?

Me: “Okay. Can you just tell me something about your mother? What was she like?” I had to know the deep, dark, secrets of this strawberry cake woman.

I had to know….something. GIVE ME SOMETHING.

Mrs. Brooks Randolph’s daughter: “Oh, she was funny. She loved the farm and she worked hard at it. She canned and made lard and soap. She enjoyed a joke and she saw fun in things. In the summer when the farm would come in, we’d have all that cooking to do. She never fussed about it. She’d pack baskets to take to the hands on our other farms and she was just a good-natured person, very happy. She loved to cook. She made strawberry shortcake, but I don’t remember any strawberry cake. She was a good cook and always jolly.”

Mrs. Brooks Randolph was born in the 1890s. Mr. Randolph was a farmer. She was a “farm mother” as her daughter put it. He died first. She died when she was 92. She moved to town when she couldn’t take care of the farm by herself anymore and lived with her daughter. She died of a stroke. And her daughter does not have her strawberry shortcake recipe. I asked.

I said, “Can you just tell me one more thing?”

Mrs. Brooks Randolph’s daughter: “Yes?”

Me: “What was Mrs. Randolph’s NAME?”

Mrs. Brooks Randolph’s daughter: “Marie.”

She was a good cook and always jolly. RIP.

The End.





Comments

  1. CATRAY44 says:

    That is awesome! I think you and Mrs. R. could be kindred spirits!

  2. mommafox says:

    My answer to why she had this recipe is——She got it from a good friend or church member and being the hard working, joke telling farmer’s wife that she was, she just never had the time to actually make it herself, but wanted to share it so put it in that recipe book. Now you have shared it with all of us, and the mystery of the strawberry cake lives on. :sheep:

  3. Nancy in Iowa says:

    Only you would go to such lengths to get a recipe right, Suzanne!

  4. Cathy Bendzunas says:

    I’m thinking she said “small” to distinguish a teaspoon from tablespoon maybe.

  5. Bev says:

    I love this story. You are kindred spirits for sure. A lovely legacy from years past, shared so many years ago and now shared once more. Best of all, being able to bring alive Mrs. Marie Randolph and her years of life on a farm. Thank you Suzanne.

    Bev in CA

  6. Mariah says:

    What a great story! What a great opportunity to actually track her down! Love it!!! Thank you for sharing it. And what a great woman she must have been!

  7. princessvanessa says:

    That is a fine epitaph and no doubt the late Mrs. Brooks Randolph would smile and nod in approval.
    Thank you for all your efforts to find out what “small teaspoon” is…..even though it remains a mystery.

  8. Karen Anne says:

    I’m still thinking small means scant.

  9. Julie says:

    You definitely found a kindred spirit!!

  10. Samantha Sullivan says:

    Mrs. Brooks Randolphs’ contributions to the world live on through you. Lifting a glass for Mrs. Brooks Randolph and Suzanne. Cheers Marie, Cheers Suzanne!

  11. trish robichaud says:

    sounds like she lived the simple life and left this earth taking her recipes with her. im glad you not only share the recipe but show us step by step how to make, bake,fry or can it! thank you suzanne , i would like to have known marie. may she rest in peace. have a good day, trish in florida

  12. CindyP says:

    I would have picked up that phone and dialed, too! Even though you didn’t find the answer, it’s great to have a story for Marie. I’m sure she never thought she’d make it to blogland in 2010 almost 30 years after she passed :happyflower: RIP, Marie, and thank you for your Strawberry Cake, though your family can’t remember you making it. MAYBE they were already gone from the farm by the time she made this!

  13. Jan says:

    I think my next question would have been, “Are you related to Jennings Randolph, the US Senator from WV, born in Salem WV?” or “Is Randolph County WV named after your family?” Too much fun, gives a new slant to “cold calling.”

    If you have time to check out the John 3:16 placard my blog photo today, I think the idea could totally have applications for your farm, posting giant signs with your spiritual and general living philosophy at every hairpin turn and ravine.

    Jan
    GDP

  14. Cynthia Stinson says:

    How unbelielvably random that one of her relatives would find your blog in the first place. Totally kismet.

  15. Carol Langille says:

    Well, now I absolutely HAVE to make this Strawberry Cake but I’m going to re-name is Mystery Cake. I would have made those calls, too, Suzanne….I think most of us here would because we have been influenced, rightly or wrongly, by a Farmer in West Virginia!
    We have two or three inches of SNOW in Dallas this morning….all the pretty daffodils, all the Bradford Pears, all the sweetly scented hyacinths are wearing a coat of winter white on this first full day of Spring!
    Mother Nature strikes again!

  16. Diane says:

    This made my day. Funny no one questioned why you were calling?? lol. I am thinking a small teaspoon was either how she told the diffrence between a regular big spoon we eat with and the small spoon. Not the measuring teapoons we have now. Also could mean not a rounded teaspoon but a little less than that. lol. Fun to try to figure out what they ment by a dash of this a scant of that and a small tea spoon of this. :)

  17. Sandra says:

    What a fabulous story. I have a “samll teaspoon” theory. Just a theory mind you. A small tsp. was half of a tsp. But back then it took 4 tsp, to equal a Tbs. So, if the math is right, that would be equal to 1/4 a tsp. but she calls for 2 small tsp. so, bottom line, that would be 1/2 tsp.

  18. Cathy J says:

    In the old cookbook,”Housekeeping In Old Virginia”, small teaspoons are used a lot….

  19. Julie Curtis says:

    It’s so funny to me how in those old cookbooks never used the woman’s first name.

  20. Peggy says:

    Kindred Spirits is correct. Did you find out where she lived? It would be interesting to know if her farm is near your farm. I know I could mention some items my Mother used to make to my family and I would be the only one to remember these items. So no one remembering the Strawberry Cake didn’t surprise me at all. It could be they remember the Strawberry Shortcake because it was a favorite to eat after a long hot day of farm work. :hungry:

  21. Nanny says:

    That is a great story!!! Did you make the cake? How did you convert the small tsp?

  22. The Retired One says:

    Wow, how fun that you did this investigation! I love that! That is something I would have done. ha

  23. Beth says:

    Mrs, Randolph Brooks sounds somewhat like another farmer lady that we know! *wink, wink*. Always happy and loves to cook! She cans and makes lard and soap…etc. etc. :purpleflower: :heart:

  24. Jenni in KS says:

    I think the story you got was far more valuable than knowing exactly how much a small teaspoon should be.

  25. Nevermind says:

    Delurking to say that my grandmother and great grandmother used the term “small teaspoon.” Both were from North Carolina, so it may have had a different meaning from West Virginia. Granny was born in 1894 and grandmother in 1911 so the time period is about right.

    They didn’t have all the fancy measuring items in modern kitchens, so most of their measurements were by eye, but when I pushed them to give me something more specific, they used terms applied to canning jars and their cooking spoon-1/2 small canning jar, 1/4 of a big canning jar…etc. A small teaspoon was the amount that would be held on the tip of their cooking spoon, between a 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon depending on their eyesight that day. ;)

    Hope that helps

  26. Claudia Warren says:

    That is cool that you called her family. Sorry you didn’t get your answer though. But you learned the most important thing, that “Marie” was a farmer like you!

  27. Cate says:

    How fun was that to call her descendants! Maybe they didn’t call it strawberry cake, but spice cake instead.

  28. Beth says:

    Wow, I admire your determination. And now you know her name! Personally, I still think this is just a great excuse to make a whole bunch of strawberry cakes and see which you like best. :hungry:

  29. LeAnn, in Washington (the state) says:

    I agree with Jenni in KS, great story.

  30. Nicolezmomma says:

    That was a great story, and you made me laugh out loud!

  31. Leah says:

    I loved hearing about Marie. I wonder if a pinch of salt is 1/8 of a teaspoon,haha!

  32. Rose says:

    Great story, and hopefully someone will find out what a small teaspoon is!

  33. Cheryl says:

    Loved this ditty about the Strawberry Cake lady. And you’re right ~ what would anyone in their RIGHT mind do, calling those numbers ~
    I think we could be friends! LOL

  34. Barbee' says:

    Oh, Suzanne! That is SO! sweet! More power to you.

  35. KentuckyFarmGirl says:

    AWESOME! I love it! You always manage to put a smile on my face even while I’m battling what I think is a kidney stone this morning!

  36. MMHONEY says:

    Hi Suzanna
    You will never know how much I have enjoyed the comments on your search for the Strawberry Cake Lady. I am sure her family wonders just what is going on…and how all of this come about. One can never tell what an entry in a Journal or what a trip to the Post Office can bring into our lives and give us some enjoyment – That is what life is all about. May God Bless Real Good.

  37. Miss Becky says:

    what a charming story Suzanne, thanks for making my day ~ AGAIN! :heart:

  38. Senta Sandberg says:

    I am so sentimental that your story brought a tear to my eye. How wonderful for Marie’s daughter to get that phone call. To remember her mother in such a wonderful way. I pray to leave such a legacy in a simple strawberry cake recipe. Senta.

  39. AA says:

    Maybe the strawberry cake was the struesel cake to the family. You said it was kind of spicey. Maybe she only called it strawberry cake for teh cookbook. OR maybe the other women in the book already took her good ideas so she had to borrow a recipe from her mom or friend to have something to submit. Might have been a requirement for some club or something.

  40. catslady says:

    Maybe you are Marie reincarnated – makes soap and lard!!! and jolly – great sense of humor is you! I was thinking a small teaspoon would just be opposite of a heaping teaspoon maybe. Great blog!!!!

  41. Quietstorm says:

    What a wonderful story! :snoopy:

  42. Darlene in North Georgia says:

    I just remembered this spoon my mom had. Maybe the small spoon was the one they used to feed the baby it’s meals. Because if you work the recipe out by modern measuring amounts (what the flour to spice ratios are), the 1/2 tsp Suzanne used would equal about 2 small baby spoons – at least the one my mom feed us with – back in the 50’s. And that spoon, leveled would have netted about 1/2 tsp in an “approved” measuring set. I don’t know if modern baby spoons would work as the ones I have seen are larger than this older model we had.

    Just a thought.

  43. NorthCountryGirl says:

    I rarely ever precisely measure when I make a recipe. I pour salt or baking soda or baking powder in the palm of my hand till it looks like a teaspoon or tablespoon to me. Whatever I make comes out just fine. The only time I ever use my measuring tools is if it’s the first time I’m trying something completely new to me. Then, when I make it enough to feel comfortable, I resort to my own measuring method. Don’t sweat the “small” teaspoon. What she probably meant was a teaspoon that was leveled off. Your cake came out just fine! AND, you didn’t even know for sure you used the absolutely precise “teaspoon” method that the recipe called for. From what you found out about Mrs. Randolph, I’m sure she would want you to relax and have fun and enjoy baking her cake.

  44. Janie in Idaho says:

    Suzanne,
    I think it would be cool if you took a picture of the recipe page and sent it to the daughter just to show her the page and everything. She would probably enjoy seeing it. Just a thought.

  45. Gini says:

    WOW! What a great connection you made! I hope you keep in touch with Mrs. Randolph’s daughter. :)

  46. Ruth C says:

    I HAVE that recipes too but it not credited to Mrs. R. I eat it once and it was DEVINE. I asked for a received the recipe and then made it… however my recipe called for not 1 CUP of BUTTER but 1 Cup of OIL and as luscious as it was .. I just couldn’t Just COUld NOT eat a small loaf of bread that I knew had an entire cup of oil in it. This is coming from a woman who eventually had weight loss surgery (me) and is still in the throes of adjusting to that!
    Great taste …I can still remember it.. probably 25 years old that recipe is… :dancingmonster:

  47. Jennifer says:

    That was too funny, that sounds like something I would do. Seeing the small teaspoon reminded me of some of my Memaw’s recipes. She was always telling me to just put a little of this and a little of that. The story of her life sounds like Memaw’s too. She grew up in the depression and it was always neat to learn from her.

  48. Susan says:

    What a great story! Both of my grandmothers, long gone from this earth, but born in the 1890’s NEVER used measuring spoons! It drove me NUTS to try to decipher their recipes. A “small” teaspoon is a long handled ICE TEA spoon. Look at your flatware..most have “teaspoons,” my flatware has 2 SIZES of spoons..so confusing…but my old, vintage TEASPOONS are SMALLER…because you needed a SMALL spoon to get in the glass and STIR all of that SUGAR in your TEA! Right? So after all is said and done..a level measure in an ICE TEA SPOON, will equal a standard measure TEASPOON!!!

  49. RosieJo says:

    A small teaspoon would have been leveled. A heaping teaspoon would have been…heaping.

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