THE RECIPE BOX – Mémère’s cookies are a family favorite

THE RECIPE BOX – Mémère’s cookies are a family favorite

WOONSOCKET — What struck me most about the letter I received from Janice Auger, of Lincoln, was the love of a daughter for her mother. “My mom, Lucille Paquette, turned 90 years old this summer, she is still active with a keen sense of humor,” Janice wrote. Janice sent me her mom’s cookie recipe along with some information about them.

I knew then that I wanted to meet this lady, who unwittingly had shared her Italian Egg Biscuit (aka Mémère’s Cookies) recipe with me through Janice. Calls were made, arrangements too, and the three of us met last Wednesday at Lucille’s home in Woonsocket.

Lucille was born on July 19, 1929, the oldest of what would become 10 children over a 20-year span, in a French Canadian family. As the oldest, she was expected to help her mom, Germaine, with caring for her younger siblings. She and her next sister in line did just that all the while learning and honing the skill of making good food.

“My mother was a good cook,” Lucille said. “We always had a hot meal. She never used a recipe, so it was hard to duplicate her meals.” They lived in a family complex, a tenement and a cottage behind it, on Summit Street, off Providence Street, in Woonsocket.

Over the years, various family members would inhabit the home and cottage. A newly married child might occupy the cottage for a time, then move into the couple’s first home at a later time. “It was well used and much loved there,” added Janice.

Lucille met her future husband, Lucien, while they were both students attending Holy Family School. The couple’s first date was to the YMCA for dancing, she recalled. Lucien and Lucille were married for 53 years before he passed away. Together they had three daughters, Susan, Laurie Ann and Janice.

Lucille’s early career was as a telephone operator for New England Telephone, then located on Ascension Street. “I worked the switchboard, the information board and long distance, along with 230 other girls (over the three shifts),” she shared.

Once she and Lucien had a family and he started to work for General Motors in Framingham, Mass., she stayed home with the children. Dinner was always on the table when Lucian came home, even when she had a part-time job to get to in the evening.

Fortunately for them, they were able to retire early, which freed Lucille up to babysit for her five grandchildren, three girls and two boys.

Through it all, these cookies have played an important role in the family.

Said Janice, “You know, you go through life, you remember events and things that have significance. It is the baking of these cookies that I remember and how they played an important part at each family gathering.”

“They are intertwined in holiday baking when the grandchildren were young and would sneak downstairs to eagerly swallow a few before the grownups would find quite a few missing. The platter of cookies has been front and center for First Communions, a grandchild’s baptism, a wedding or baby shower.”

“They make a nice centerpiece on a milk glass platter,” Lucille shared. “The plastic wrap and appropriate ribbon to tie it off.”

“And Mom’s M&M decoration in the center always reflects the season, green and red for Christmas, or pastel for a baby shower,” said Janice. But more than that it was the ceremonious manner in which the platter was set upon the table, Janice said.

The recipe is basic and a bit time consuming but well worth the effort, her daughter shared. Lucille rolls the dough out, cuts it into strips and hand rolls the strips into a rolled shape. She then loops a small “pretzel” shape into a delicate cookie. You could just roll them into balls and bake them that way, but the delicate bite-sized cookie is what makes hers so special.

She usually starts with the dough on a Wednesday for serving by Sunday. She’ll measure and bake just shy of the recommended cook time so they don’t become too dry. On Friday, she’ll glaze and top with the M&Ms. Now, they are fresh for about four days and ready for a party. They also freeze well, Janice said.

Lucille’s secret to a long and happy life is keeping herself busy. “I’m never bored,” she said. She still cleans her whole house. “Well I don’t get it all done at once,” she said, smiling. She drives and enjoys her weekly outings with her daughters; Janice and mom go to the movies at the Lincoln Library, Susan takes her to Phantom Farm for a muffin on Thursday, and Laurie Ann – who loves to cook – has her mom over for Sunday dinners.

Her best advice is to be patient. “Some things are not always easy, but try to be patient,” Lucille said. “And you have to be kind to people.” She practices this on people by complimenting their outfit or finding something nice to say.

“If you turn around and say something kind, well it changes the interaction.” We could all learn a thing or two from Lucille about the comforts of family.


Mémère’s Cookies

(Italian Egg Biscuits)

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

2 tsp. anise or lemon flavoring

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. baking soda

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup milk

Directions:

1. Mix together in small bowl, by hand, sugar, oil, eggs & flavoring; set aside.

2. Sift together in a large bowl the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

3. Make a “well” in a large bowl and gradually add contents of small bowl. Stir to blend. Slowly add in the 1/2 cup of milk, a little at a time. If dough becomes too sticky, add more flour.

4. Knead dough on floured counter or wooden cutting board. Roll into large (8x14) rectangle. Cut into strips lengthwise. Divide strips into five 2-inch pieces.

5. Roll piece into a ball, then put between your hands – roll into 3-inch rope form. Twist rope into a pretzel shape and pinch to seal.

6. Set cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 11 minutes. When light brown, remove from oven and let cool. Store in sealed containers.

Icing

Directions:

1. Mix 1/2 box of confectioner’s sugar with small amount of half & half. Mix with a spoon. If glaze is too clear (thin) add more sugar. Glaze the top of cookies and set on waxed paper covered cookie sheet to set.

2. Add decorations: an M&M in the center, sprinkles or colored sugar. Store in air tight containers, or on a platter covered with plastic wrap. Enjoy!

Lucille Paquette, of Woonsocket, displays a tray of her delicate Italian Egg Biscuits, also known as Memere’s Cookies. They are a staple at all family events, placed at the center of the table and decorated according to the season.