My mother used to make these really great cookies called Mrs. Whitney's cookies. She said she got the recipe from a very kind elderly woman who used to hand them out to kids making their way back home after school. Or maybe she just made them and my mother always asked her for one of her cookies on her way back home. Either way, she inherited the recipe for these cookies and now so have I. But looking at this recipe again has made me dig deeper into the early days of Uxbridge, an out of the way town in Southern Ontario. This is a brief summary of my findings.
This is a story of my favourite cookie, unpretentiously called Mrs. Whitney’s Cookies. That is quite a claim to make about cookies but there is something about these cookies that I just couldn’t get enough of. And the backstory about these cookies is just about as intriguing as the cookie itself. It all begins in Uxbridge, Ontario.
Electric Light Pond, west end of Uxbridge, Ontario. My mother lived in a house next to this pond. Obligatory leaning against a tree photo of me next to the pond.
Mrs. Whitney was a real person, it turns out. Seems this famous cookie maker was for me an imaginary person. My mother called these cookies after her but I never knew whether she really existed. The story goes that each day Mrs. Whitney would bake these cookies and leave a basket of them on her porch for kids to take on their way home from school. Or she would sit on her porch with the cookies and any child who passed the house was offered a cookie from the kindly Mrs. Whitney. I never knew what the right story was, but you had to be a child coming home from school to be offered one or if you were lucky two cookies.
Mrs. Whitney's Cookies.
I imagine a kind, elderly woman dressed in a apron and bonnet sitting on her rocking chair on the porch waving hello to the kids returning home from school. This was Uxbridge in the 1920s and early 1930s so the town was small and everyone knew everyone. It was out in farming country Ontario and life was slower and kinder, in my imagination anyway, than say Toronto. So Mrs. Whitney would know all the kids by name, where they lived, who their parents were and what school they attended. She served as the local guardian looking out for the kids as they made their way home.
In the early 1930s my mother would have been in grammar school (grades K to 5 or 6). She was a sickly child with diet problems so getting a cookie on the way home would have meant alot to her. Her parents were not very well off. They were poor. In a town with some quite famous residents, my parents would have been working class. But they were one of the few residents that had a pond and a stream passing by their house. They had a dairy creamer not far away where in the mornings they could get fresh cheeses and milk. My mother’s family all learned to swim at an early age by swimming in the pond next to the house. It was on the western edge of town so closer to the nearest train station, at least for my grandfather for some reason, was in Goodwood, a hearty 12 mile walk away. Despite the poverty and health challenges, This little spot in Uxbridge was a good place to build a home and family. In a family of five girls and one boy and a father off at work most of the day, family duties fell heavily on my mother’s mother and her older brother. And as my grandfather was a Cabinet-maker and wood worker, the house was forever incomplete. This is typical - a carpenter’s house is always the last house to be done.
Mrs. Whitney's Cookies.
So a little joy in life for my mother was the daily visit to Mrs. Whitney to stop and chat and enjoy a very delicious cookie or two. This moment in her childhood must have meant much to my mother. She would bake a batch of these cookies for us and put them in the cookie box for us to enjoy as we got home. It was my mother’s joy to give us these cookies even as it must have been for Mrs. Whitney out her cookies to kids.
So, here is the recipe for Mrs. Whitneys cookies if you want to try them yourself.
- 1 cup butter
- 1.5 cup browns sugar
- 1 tsp soda
- 3 eggs well beaten
- 2 3/4 cup flour
- 1.5 cup raisons
- .5 cup nuts
- 1 tsp vanilla
- pinch of salt
- Mix in order listed.
- Place on greased backing sheet.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes.
Provided by Joan Lea, Guelph Ontario