Monday, August 18, 2008

In Memory of Lauretta Baker

Dan’s Aunt Lauretta left us Sunday night to go home to be with her beloved Wiley. Wiley passed away in 2006, and Lauretta has been grieving over him ever since. She was afflicted with Alzheimers, as well as some other physically debilitating problems for the past several years. There was nothing to keep her here and everything to draw her to her heavenly home.

Wiley and Lauretta had three children of their own when Dan and his brother, at young ages, lost both of their parents. Wiley and Lauretta took the boys under their roof and raised them, from that time, as their own.

I first met Lauretta back in my college days, before Dan and I were married. She impressed me with her wry wit and her Godly wisdom. As the years went by and I got better acquainted with her, I grew to appreciate and love her.

Lauretta was frugal. She lived through the great depression, and knew how to make ends meet in hard times. Even when times were good, she practiced the old “waste not, want not” adage. I remember how clean she scraped every jar and every butter wrapper before they went into the trash; how she saved my children’s breakfast leftovers and ate them, herself, for lunch; how she patched clothing and cut bad spots out of over-ripe fruit.

Lauretta was hard working. When we would visit at Wiley and Lauretta's house, likely as not the sounds that would wake me at 5:00 a.m. would be Lauretta cleaning the oven, making pies, or preparing food for later that day. She was the first person I knew who took “power naps,” although I don’t think she called them that. She would work and work, until she was exhausted. Then she would lie down on the couch, fall asleep instantly, sleep for five minutes, and pop back up to go again for several hours.

Lauretta was hospitable. I don’t ever remember visiting her and Wiley when she didn’t have others dropping by for a visit and a bountiful meal at her dining room table. In fact, there were times when there would be up to 30 people in their house, hugging, chatting, watching football on TV, playing card games and laughing, while Lauretta scurried around the kitchen doing her magic.

And speaking of kitchen magic, Lauretta was a master at preparing a large meal for a large crowd. I think of enchiladas as her “signature dish”; she taught me how to make them. She shared numerous recipes with me, including her Heavenly Cake, which is a three-layered German-chocolate-like cake. I called her one day, from Alaska, to ask for her pecan pie recipe, because it was the best I’d ever tasted. “It’s on the back of the Karo Syrup bottle,” she told me. How could that be? I’d used that recipe myself, as had just about everyone else I knew, but no one’s pecan pie tasted like Lauretta’s!

Lauretta had a sense of humor as big as her birth-state,Texas. She was famous for her one-liners, often spoken under her breath. She was adventurous, even getting her pilot’s license “back in the day” and sharing the controls with Wiley on numerous air trips. She loved to write, composing lengthy annual Christmas poems to slip into her Christmas cards and keeping a hand-written daily journal for many years. She was faithful to the Lord, to the end, attending worship services and singing the old songs, even in her last days.

This world is a little poorer, and Heaven a little richer, now that Lauretta has gone Home.

Lauretta’s Heavenly Cake

1 cup butter or margarine
2-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, unbeaten
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbs. cocoa
2 tbs. vanilla
2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp. baking soda

Cream the butter. Add the sugar and cream well, again. Add eggs one at a time. Beat well after each egg. Add vanilla, buttermilk and dry ingredients, alternately.

Bake in three greased and floured 9” layer pans at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until done.

Heavenly Cake Icing (The BEST part!)

2 cups sugar
2 beaten eggs
2 tbs. flour
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup angel flake coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla

Add eggs to the milk and whisk together. Mix flour and sugar together, then add the milk/egg mixture. Cook over low heat until thick. Add coconut, nuts and vanilla. Let cool before putting on cake. Spread 1/3 of icing on top of each layer, letting excess icing run down the sides.

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