Royal Alden and the Ginger Bread Cookies
by William F. Alden, Sr.

     "Aunt Het" Davis recalled that in early pioneer days at McLeansboro, it was the custom to hold a "Charivari" (pronounced: Shiv-ah-ree) for newly wed couples on the night of their wedding.  This compiler can still remember that this custom was widely practiced even when he was a boy, growing up in McLeansboro. (Note: the custom has since given way to the modern day wedding reception part and dance).  These wild, gay, frontier social events gave the men folk of the community an opportunity to prank and horseplay (sometimes very boisterous and rough), and they also afforded the women folk a chance to "show-off" their skill in culinary art by providing treats and refreshments for the get-together affairs.    It was to one of these Charivaris that Aunt Het brought a large basketful of her "special-secret recipe baked ginger cookies as her contribution of treats, which she placed on the long makeshift table, together with the other ladies pies, cakes, etc.  She noticed that Royal Alden, the schoolmaster, lingered long in the arms reach of her basket of cookies and helped himself repeatedly to several handfuls of the dainty cakes--apparently enjoying them immensely.

     "I see you like those ginger cookies I made" she said, as he reached for another handful.

     "They are delicious, Hester.  You must tell me your secret recipe.  Is it in the ingredient mixing of them or is it in the way you bake them?", he asked.

     "It is neither one", she said.  "It is in the beatin' of the batter for the proper length of time".

     "And what length of time would that be?", he asked.

     "Not too long---not too short", she said.  "I beat the batter while I sing three choruses of Jesus Love of My Soul in Methodist Temp...not in the long meter whine, like the Baptist sing."

     Aunt Het had expected him to laugh at her joking answer, but instead he quickly put the handful of cookies back into the basket, and with a decidedly angered flush on his face, he stalked out of the room.  She had hurt his feelings, with her not too well chosen remark.  (Royal Alden was a strong Baptist!)

     Some time later, Royal Alden was taken very ill with an attack of 'biliousness', so much so that he was confined to his bed for about two weeks.  He could take no nourishment, whatever and was greatly weakened. Aunt Het baked a batch of ginger cookies and went to visit him--bring an apron full of the dainty cakes, and a chilled pitcher of cider, to his bedside.

     "Mr. Alden", she said as she entered the sick room, "I baked these ginger cookies 'special' for you. I baked 'em Baptist style this time and they turned out every bit as good as the Methodist style ones.  I mixed and beat the batter while I sang Amazing Grace in the long meter, and there wasn't one whit of difference.  Just you try one and see for yourself."

     "All right, Hester", Alden said weakly. "If you say you baked them Baptist style, I shall eat every one of them, but I'm taking no chances.  I shall 'baptize' them before I put them into my mouth", and with that he carefully dunked each cookie in the pitcher of cider, before eating them.*

     Compiler's note: The above was a 'slam' at the Methodist way of sprinkling water on the head.  The Baptists believe in baptism by complete immersion of the entire body in water.

Published in Goshen Trail's
July 1969
Printed by permission

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