Our family should have bought stock in wax paper and aluminum foil—so much was needed for my mom’s countless gifts to friends and neighbors of banana and zucchini breads, pecan puffs, and Greek kourambiedes (the latter we called “bend over cookies,” covered with so much confectioners’ sugar that you had to bend over to eat them).
Mom was first generation Greek-American—her maiden name was Pappandreau. After majoring in business administration at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, she worked in the Pentagon for Fleet Admiral Nimitz, the commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during World War II. She was a USO dancer and would tell sweet, sad stories about dancing with soldiers who’d lost an arm or a leg in combat. One day a handsome naval lieutenant came into the office and stood in front of her desk until she was finished taking five phone calls. (“Let him wait,” she told a friend—the cavalier attitude of a pretty girl.) He asked her to a dance onboard a ship that was stationed in Newport News, and brought her a wrist corsage—she saved it for years. Soon after he was assigned to Japan to help repatriate Japanese soldiers after the bombing of Nagasaki—she saved the chopsticks and bright red silk that he brought back too—and after five years of courtship, she and my dad were married.
I took for granted my mother’s expression of faith, generosity to so many, and devotion to domestic skills. We had homemade cinnamon toast for breakfast and homemade garlic bread for dinner. There was always a tray of sweets on our dining room table, and she always took treats to feed the choir at church in between special Easter and Sunday services. The greengrocer would save overripe bananas for her banana bread, and the UPS staff all knew her because she sent so many packages to friends. (Her Greek cousins would send her pecans every year, and she’d send them back as pecan puff cookies.) My sweet tooth, and consequently my cavities, probably sent my dentist’s children through college.
Mom was always beautifully put together—she smelled of White Shoulders, almost never wore pants, and went to the beauty parlor once a week. Deep down, I think she missed going out to work—she had dropped everything to get married and downplayed her strengths—but my brothers and I benefited from her clerical skills because she typed our school papers. Later, she returned to working at Binks Manufacturing in Franklin Park, Illinois, and often expressed how it was a thrill to be of value and working on a team again.
Known by most people as The Scotcheroo Lady, she refused to give out the recipe for the sticky, chewy Rice Krispies treats that were her ultimate calling card. But when she passed away, my brothers and I decided it was time to divulge the secret, and we put the recipe on the inside page of the program at her memorial service. I still have the aluminum pan she used—I swear they taste different made in other pans—and the little masher to compress the sugary peanut butter-coated cereal. (That’s the secret.) Sorry, Mom, now the world knows.
Marjorie Kouns is a voiceover, TV, and film actor and artist in Atlanta, Georgia. She has also created and produced public art worldwide. She can be found at www.marjorieochokouns.com and at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
1 c. light brown sugar
1 c. white Karo syrup
1/2 c. Mrs. Butterworth's syrup
2 T. clover honey
1 c. Peter Pan smooth peanut butter
6 - 7 c. Rice Krispies
butter for greasing pan
1 c. (8 oz.) Nestle semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 c. (8 oz.) Nestle butterscotch morsels
In a large pot, mix brown sugar, both syrups, and honey.
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and remove from heat.
Add the peanut butter, mixing until smooth.
Stir in the Rice Krispies.
Spread in a large buttered roasting pan, pushing down to compress.
In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate and butterscotch chips, stirring until smooth and well blended.
Spread chocolate mixture over Rice Krispies mixture, and score with a salad fork, making a creative pattern.
Cool completely, before cutting into diamond shapes.