Justin raved about his grandma's maple bars early on in our relationship. I'd never been a huge fan of maple bars, so admittedly I was a bit skeptical.
Prior to meeting Justin, I had only ever eaten maple bars from the bakery in the grocery store in my small town. The fried rectangles sported thick, brown sheets of gritty icing that tingled my teeth before taking a bite. I regularly passed them over for more "simple" options like glazed rings or cake doughnuts.
When Justin and I moved to Oregon, we'd regularly visit Grandma Eslinger in her retirement home. Even though she hadn't been able to bake for years, she loved to "talk shop" about baking and her favorite dishes, especially when she learned I also loved to bake. She eagerly shared with me her family-famous recipes, including her recipe for maple bars.*
Justin, of course, was ecstatic. He explained, in detail, all his memories of eating maple bars as a little boy on his grandparents' farm. According to Justin, the maple bars were "bigger than your mouth with huge air pockets and at least a foot long." Based on Grandma Eslinger's recipe, I was skeptical (again), but Justin insisted. So, I followed his directions for my first attempt.
The first batch wasn't great, but they still tasted better than any other maple bar I'd ever had. I was duly impressed. And after a few more attempts--and learning Justin had likely inflated the size of the doughnuts based on his perspective when he was a child--they were delicious. Definitely worth the effort every time.
Making, frying, and eating maple bars inevitably brings up memories of Grandma Eslinger and the family farm. It becomes an event, something to look forward to. It's a time when Justin and I reminisce about our own shared memories, and we begin building new stories together--all from a single doughnut recipe.
These are memories and stories I may never have experienced otherwise. Stories that have gently or substantially re-shaped me, the way stories do. I have been able to connect with Justin and his family--and even my family and myself--beyond a single bite. A recipe can capture a moment, and it can also embody a legacy.
*This is the recipe Justin's Aunt Shari typed up. There has been a lot of love (and grease!) that's made it's way onto this sheet of paper. I'm currently testing and updating this recipe to be more consistent (e.g. converting cups to ounces) and to make about half as much (3 1/2 dozen doughnuts is a lot for a family of 3!).