By Madeline Kallio – Kanata, Ont.
A number of the companies that sold baking items offered free cookbooks. My mother’s kitchen always had a Red Rose cookbook. Knox offered a free booklet on gelatin recipes and my mother was quick to get a copy.
That was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with making marshmallows. There it was – a simple recipe that produced a mouth-watering, light, fluffy concoction that she coated with toasted coconut.
She made it a tradition. Each Christmas Eve, before the days of Mixmasters, she’d whip up a batch of marshmallows, which required a lot of beating, and pass the bowl around for us all to take a turn.
When all of us were grown and far from the family nest, the marshmallows kept coming.
By this time, mom had taken a course in cake design and chocolate making, so she fancied up her marshmallows and made moulded chocolates.
Each Christmas, we would receive our parcels (or mom would come with the parcels!) and there would be the container of marshmallows.
Known as the ‘candy lady’
Mom had a special fridge downstairs that held only desserts. She was able to make some of the old traditional Norwegian delicacies including krumkake, a butter-wafer cookie, which she made with a specially designed iron.
For special occasions, she’d make the Norwegian ring (or tower) cake, a series of rings from large to small with special decorations like flags, wedding paraphernalia, depending on the occasion.
Everyone knew her as the ‘candy lady’ who brought the wonderful confections, and children would crowd around her to get some of her ‘knox blox’, gelatin candies.
When mom died in November 1996, I realized that when Christmas approached, there’d be no mom and no marshmallows that made her Norwegian custom so famous.
Searching through my recipe books that mom and I had sent for, there it was! The Knox book and the famous marshmallow recipe. I made it and sent it out with mixed reviews.
“Okay,” I said to myself, “we can do something with this!” I tried honey marshmallows, chocolate marshmallows, and strawberry marshmallows.
‘I think of her fierce love’
I sold them at craft shows and sent them to relatives. Now, certain people began requesting special marshmallows, like caramel or chocolate, and I improvised. Each year, as I mix up the batch of marshmallows, I think of my mother.
I think of her desire for us to continue to know our Norwegian roots. I think of her fierce love for her family and her desire to bless them with her talents, and her love for her friends and those around her who profited from her gifts and her caring.
I now am a grandmother and have no family at home to help me whip up the marshmallows. In fact, my Mixmaster has done the job for me for years.
It is not my labour of love, but something I do for my mother. My Knox book is worn and stained and written all over – but it is still at the top of the pile in my cookbook drawer.
It will be one of the treasures that I pass down when I no longer feel capable of making the fluffy delicacies. I hope that there will be someone who will want to take over mom’s marshmallow legacy.
When we sorted my mother’s earthly goods after her death, I realized that, no matter how dear these items were to her and what significant connections they represented, no one else would ever value them as she had.
All of her things that we chose to keep were kept for their beauty and their usefulness.
There were some items from Norway that we kept because they were from Norway, but there was no way we could know how she felt when she received them and who had blessed her with them.
My most precious moments of that time are the comments about her giving and caring that were shared with us by her friends and neighbours.
I keep those close to me when I think of her – and that is why I will continue to make marshmallows and share them with my family and friends. It’s the least I can do.