Behind The Butter

a poem

A few weeks ago, my great aunt passed away and this was the poem read at her funeral. She had written it about her mother, my great grandmother, the woman that I never knew but that left a mark in so many ways in my life. Finding her old box of faded recipes in my grandma’s attic years ago inspired me to go to culinary school in the first place. I wish more than anything she was still around so I could sit across the table from her and tell her just how much she has inspired me…all while nibbling on her famous molasses cookies, the one recipe I can’t seem to quite get right.

My grandma recently sent me a copy of the poem and I just love it because it sums up exactly the image I’ve always had in my head of my great grandma. I love thinking about her in Minnesota, decorating cakes and baking cookies to support her family during the war. She must have only been my age when she found out that her husband had been killed on the front lines, leaving her to support her young children all on her own. I can’t even imagine.

Even though I love the images of the divinity candy, molasses cookies and homemade coats in the poem, I think my favorite four lines are at the very bottom:

So, you see, your life goes on

by the example you set

by what others do

because of you.

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  • Cait H.
    September 12, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I love everything about this. What a beautiful sentiment and you’re so lucky to have recipes from family members that have passed. The first time I ever made butterscotch pudding from scratch (just because I know my dad loves it), he told me that his Scottish grandfather used to make it for him all the time. This terrified me; would mine live up? I think I stopped breathing as he tried it, smiled and eventually went back for seconds. It may not be his grandpa’s recipe, but now I’m for sure keeping the one I used in a box for my kids and grand-kids to find.

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen
    September 12, 2011 at 11:58 am

    What a beautiful poem. She sounds like a wonderful inspiration.

  • B n B
    September 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    How old was your great aunt when she wrote this for her mother?

  • katie @KatieDid
    September 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Food holds deep memories, especially with family. At my grandmother’s funeral, every grandchild was asked to write up a short paragraph to be read during the eulogy by my Dad. Just about every single one of our memories of her had to do with her love through cooking and food. I hold so many cherished memories about her through food.

  • Amrita
    September 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    you have your way with words .. such a lovely piece Jenna it shows ur personality where its beyond food, blogging etc .. very impressive!

  • Joelle (On A Pink Typewriter)
    September 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    I do love those last lines, and they are so very true. Especially fitting to read after yesterday’s commemoration.

  • Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga
    September 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    That’s beautiful and so bittersweet…reminds me of all the Divinity fudge my grandmas used to make and the afghans they used to knit and crochet. And how I miss them so.

    What a touching poem; thank you for sharing something so personal with all of us ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Andrea @ The Skinny Chronicles
    September 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Aw, that is so sweet and beautiful. A beautiful photo also. You have honored your family well. I am sure they are very proud of you.

  • Cait's Plate
    September 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear of the loss but I’m so glad you’re able to look back on fond memories. And you’re so fortunate that you have that box of recipes. That is such an incredible gift.

  • French Heart
    September 12, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    So wonderful about the recipes and poem.

    Love the photo and her very admirable determination and strength as a young widow to continue on and support her family. Because I adored and miss my grandmother, aunt, and Mom so much–esp loved this, ‘So, you see, your life goes on by the example you set, by what others do because of you.’ That’s tremendous. Am sure smiling down on you & all your accomplishments. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ashley L
    September 12, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    What an amazing poem and life. Thank you for sharing that with us Jenna!

  • Liz @ Southern Charm
    September 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm


  • Hilliary@HappilyEverHealthy
    September 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Such a beautiful poem.

  • Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef
    September 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    how beautiful.

  • Moni'sMeals
    September 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    very touching, thanks for sharing.

  • Madeline
    September 12, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Jenna, this is beautiful in every way! Thank you for sharing it…such a tender and personal touch. Love that the art of food has been in your family for so long ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Emily
    September 12, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    So beautiful ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Leslie Means @ Her View From Home
    September 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Fantastic poem. As an author/columnist – I love words – especially old ones! What a wonderful tribute. Something to be passed down in your family…

  • kathleen @ the daily crumb
    September 12, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    absolutely beautiful, jenna. your blog inspires me in different ways each and every day.

  • Sara @ The Foodie Diaries
    September 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your great aunt, but this poem is beautiful ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Erin
    September 13, 2011 at 2:18 am

    Neat poem. Now I really want to know what a trilby is though. I tried googling it and came up with cookies and a weird cheese ball thing. I’m guessing from the other baked goods mentioned in the poem that it is probably a cookie?

  • Vaala
    September 13, 2011 at 3:29 am

    This is a very beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. Makes me think of my grandma who gave me the gift of sewing but never got to see it.

    Not related, but I was skimming the newspaper today and came across an article about these guys and it made me think about you:

  • Kristen @ Popcorn on the Stove
    September 13, 2011 at 3:55 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. That’s a beautiful poem (I love the flour dusted on it).

  • Katrina
    September 13, 2011 at 4:22 am

    So sorry for your loss. What a beautiful poem from a talented lady!

  • amy walters, aDESIGNdock
    September 13, 2011 at 4:40 am

    This is beautiful Jenna. Thank you for this poem. I am so sorry to hear about your Great Aunt’s passing. Sending you a virtual hug your way. xo amy

  • Clair
    September 13, 2011 at 5:39 am

    Really, really beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  • Em
    September 13, 2011 at 6:39 am

    How special! Very meaningful for you to be carrying on such a beautiful legacy of food and family.

  • Sarah@The Flying ONION
    September 13, 2011 at 6:41 am

    This was so, so beautiful!

  • Carissa @ ChoiceSustenance
    September 13, 2011 at 6:50 am

    That’s a beautiful poem! Those last lines, when you repeated them, gave me goosebumps.

  • em @ simplypresent
    September 13, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing!

  • Jennifer
    September 13, 2011 at 8:44 am

    So beautiful! I think of recipes my mother has passed on to me, that were passed on by her mother or my father’s mother, and how special they are even if it’s just a casserole or cookies at Christmas. But they mean so much more. Your family has a wonderful tradition that you’re carrying on. Inspiring!

  • Erica
    September 13, 2011 at 11:18 am

    This is so beautiful, Jenna, and so beautifully written as well. Love you, friend <3

  • Kelly
    September 13, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I absolutely love that poem and completely agree that the last 4 lines are absolutely amazing, what a beautiful writer your great aunt was and beautiful person your great-grandmother must have been!

  • Brittnie (A Joy Renewed)
    September 14, 2011 at 3:30 am

    What beautiful words. This poem makes me think of my own grandmother who passed away a few months ago. Thank you for sharing.

  • Diana
    September 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    This is beautiful – so much love in those words. It moves me not only to find ways to commemorate the amazing women in my life, but to act in ways that will inspire future generations as your great grandmother did.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • chocolate peanut butter mounds bars โ€” Eat, Live, Run
    October 29, 2011 at 4:33 am

    […] Iโ€™ve mentioned this before, but I was lucky enough to inherit all of my great grandmotherโ€™s amazingly retro dessert recipes. That big plastic orange box of faded recipe notecards is one of the most valuable things that I own. […]