MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
In case you're wondering, the queens of comfort food live in Cambridge, Massachusetts with a lot of vintage cookbooks.
MARILYNN BRASS: I'm Marilynn.
SHEILA BRASS: And I'm Sheila. We're the Brass sisters.
BRASS: The one and only Brass sisters.
BRASS: And we love old recipes.
BLOCK: So much so that they've written two books of their own, "Heirloom Baking" and "Heirloom Cooking." With those credentials, we figured the Brass sisters would have a story for our series Found Recipes and indeed they do. It's about a cookie recipe they got thanks to a gentle interrogation. Marilynn starts their story.
BRASS: We used to spend every Friday night with Aunt Ida at her apartment on Henn(ph) Street in Brookline, Mass. We would have a bagel and we'd have turkey, and we'd chit-chat. And she'd criticize the length of our hems...
BRASS: The color of our lipsticks.
BRASS: Yes. And it was wonderful because she loved us.
BRASS: And we loved her, too.
BRASS: We miss her every day. Now, Ida was a special person. She did the most wonderful baking.
BRASS: She did not know how to cook or bake before she got married, so she was self-taught. And I have to tell you that her poppy seed cookies were like manna from heaven. And I don't mean to be disrespectful.
BRASS: They crunch, they much. You can't have just one of them. You can have one, you want another. You can have another, you want another.
BRASS: Now, one night, Sheila took an old birthday card out of her purse and I said, Auntie Ida, I never called her Ida. You know, she was such a...
BRASS: She was too intimidating.
BRASS: Yeah. Fear into me. I said, how about that recipe now? And Ida said, a little grumpy, oh, all right, hold on a minute. And she went to her pad box and she got it out.
BRASS: And we wrote the directions down.
BRASS: Time went on and we have to say that we no longer are able to spend our Friday nights with Aunt Ida. When Aunt Ida passed away, we decided we wanted to do a tribute. We typed out her recipe for poppy seed cookies and Sheila will tell you about the paper we used for printing.
BRASS: It had a beautiful aqua, sky-blue background and then wonderful clouds...
BRASS: White clouds.
BRASS: It was like heaven. And we brought them to the funeral so that all the people could have a copy.
BRASS: All her children and her grandchildren.
BRASS: And friends.
BRASS: The place was jammed with friends and we baked.
BRASS: Oh, boy, did we bake.
BRASS: How many dozen? 12 dozen?
BRASS: Oh, at least. It turned out that the family and friends sat around talking about Ida during memorial week, reading her recipe for poppy seed cookies and crunching those wonderful cookies. We just think that it would be wonderful at this holiday season if you did do that gentle interrogation of the elders.
And if you were able to make Aunt Ida's poppy seed cookies, it would be a tribute to her and to all the home cooks that you know who have wonderful recipes that should never be lost.
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BLOCK: Marilynn and Sheila Brass, the Brass Sisters. And you can find Aunt Ida's recipe for poppy seed cookies and a picture of young Aunt Ida on our food blog, The Salt.
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.