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Fran’s Favorites: Mom

I lost my mom last week.

My mother, Mary Struewing, was an incredible woman. Mom was just a great wife and mother, a much-loved grandmother and great-grandmother. She raised six kids and was a wonderful partner to Dad in his business. She was a great cook and a great hostess.

When I was little my dad worked at Morris Bean & Company. He had a gift for making things and building. When I was a baby he decided to build our family a house. Mom and Dad bought a lot in Yellow Springs and Dad started by just building a garage. When the garage was completed, Mom and Dad, my older sister Kathy and I moved into the garage while Dad completed the rest of the house.

A few years later he left his job at Morris Bean and began building homes for others. His brother Paul was a school teacher in Tipp City, and he would come down on Saturdays with another teacher friend and a farmer to help Dad work. What I remember was the incredible harvest lunch that Mom would make for these hard-working men. She’d make huge platters of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, the best gravy, green beans and desserts. But what I really remember was the mountain of dishes and pots and pans in the sink that Kathy and I helped wash and dry. It felt like it took us all afternoon!

Mother helped Dad in the business every day. She was the “runner” for him. She would run to Springfield to WW Electric Co. and Wick’s and YS Lumber Company for supplies, many times with youngest child in tow.

Mom loved to bake and cakes were really her specialty. One year she baked cakes to enter into the Clark County Fair. She used the prize money she won to buy her first KitchenAid mixer so she could make more cakes. She had customers in town who bought them from her each week. I still remember the tall white cakes, with seven-minute icing, topped with coconut, cooling on top of the freezer in the breezeway.

Our family meals were mostly meat and potatoes because that’s what Dad liked. We almost always had dessert. It was usually chocolate cake, served hot out of the oven with milk or ice cream over it — but no icing. Sometimes she would make a huge pot of “Minute Tapioca,” made with the beaten egg whites folded in. We usually ate the whole pot before it could cool!

Mother loved to entertain. She and Dad and five other couples formed a dinner group. They met once a month, and instead of going out to eat, they took turns hosting at their own homes, and putting the money they saved into a fund and then going on short trips together. Mother’s dinners at her house were always beautiful and elegant, and she always served something new — with a dazzling dessert. Her table was never complete without a beautiful flower arrangement. She loved growing flowers and arranging them into centerpieces of beauty and interest.

Mother loved to sew and made most of our clothes when we were little. All six of us kids had a new outfit every Easter. She loved fashion and made most of her own clothes. She really knew how to put together fashionable outfits complete with beautiful jewelry. I thought she always looked beautiful!

As Mom got older, there was nothing she enjoyed more than family parties — especially birthday parties for her grandkids and great-grandkids. All the kids knew that just having Grandma there made it special. She brought joy to every party.

Our family gatherings won’t be the same with Mom gone but my kids and my grandkids have such a feeling that Grandma always had fun — which seemed to always make everyone else have fun. She had a great zest for life. We will truly miss her.

Kiwi Meringue

4 egg whites

3 tablespoons cold water

1 ¼ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Confectioner’s sugar

½ pint heavy cream, whipped

Kiwifruit, peeled and sliced

Beat egg whites in cold water until stiff. Gradually add sugar, beating until glossy meringue forms and holds shape. Fold in salt, cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla.

Line a 8” or 9” cake pan with wax paper, extending it up sides. Lightly grease this, then sprinkle with a few drops of cold water.

Put meringue in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Lower heat to lowest setting, then bake 45 to 60 minutes more.

Turn onto plate dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Spread with whipped cream and kiwi slices.

This recipe was in my seventh cookbook that I made with Janet Voinovich in 1990. It was Janet’s sister Nan’s recipe. Mom liked it because it was kind of unusual and dramatic, but also very good! I sometimes make it with strawberries instead of kiwi.