Great Aunt Ida Loved Cheesecake

I was a little kid when I was introduced to a short woman and told she was my Great Aunt Ida. I was about five, she looked like she had to be at least a hundred, and she wasn't much taller than I. But she was very round. She was like a little bird, a 20-pound little bird. Her ankles were the skinny hinges between her tiny feet and thin legs. How she balanced her girth on such tiny feet is a mystery, something I think about today; but as a kid, I accepted her way of mincing from here to there as normal for a fat old lady supported by bird legs.

The occasion was a family gathering at the home that had belonged to my great-grandparents but now their two widowed daughters lived there among all the memories - Aunt Louise and Aunt Evie. They were outstanding cooks. They prepared soups fit for kings. The fresh vegetables were well-seasoned and garnished with melting butter. In season, bowls of fresh peas swam in butter and cream. Luscious desserts crowned the meals. Their cakes were fluffy, their pie crusts flakey, their homemade ice cream smooth and creamy. The crème de la crème of their desserts was their cheesecake. For the crust, they crushed a combination of graham crackers and homemade zwieback, added confectioners' sugar and melted butter, stirred well, and then patted the crumb mixture into a deep pie pan. They placed it in the ice box (yes, this all happened during The Great Depression) where it spent 24 hours becoming chilled, ready to receive the cheese filling.

This is when the aunts' artistry was tested. Their filling was especially delicate because it was made without flour. The cottage cheese was farm fresh as were the egg yokes, butter, and thick sweet cream. Granulated sugar, lemon juice and grated lemon rind and vanilla were added. The egg whites were whipped until stiff and folded into the mixture before pouring it into the chilled crumb crust. When the aunts determined with their hands that the oven's temperature was appropriately "moderate" (probably somewhere near 350 degrees), the cheesecake baked for about 45 minutes. The oven was turned off, and the cheesecake remained in the oven until it was cool. A topping of whipped heavy cream was added at the table.

Great Aunt Ida ladled whipped cream onto her slice of cheesecake. She ate it daintily, every last crumb. When the aunts asked if anyone would like more cheesecake, Great Aunt Ida was the only one who said, "Yes, please," and she smothered the cheesecake with whipped cream. She ate the second piece a tad slower but with greater relish. After the last crumb disappeared and she set down her fork, she said, "My, that's rich. A body couldn't eat much of that!"

Maybe not, but hers could.

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About The Author, Mark Woeppel
Mark Woeppel has been writing and eating desserts longer than most. In his day, he often dated Scarlet O'Cheesecake, who was a bit of a dish herself. Now she beguiles with her tales, both bland (well, not really) and spicy (verily). More of her stories and of course, delicious cheesecake can be found at: