Aunt Monie’s Butter Cookie Cutouts

This week’s 52 Ancestors prompt is “Dear Diary,” but I’ve only inherited one diary over the years. I wrote about it a few months ago, too: the diary belonged to Maude (Merrill) Hammond in 1948, and she penned a few lines each day about the weather or her shopping trips for the entire year. It’s mundane, to be sure, but even the mundane offers clues into our ancestor’s past; I love being able to follow an ancestor’s footsteps and to read their thoughts, even if it’s only for a little while. I wish I had another diary to share this week, but we’re unfortunately out of luck. So I’ve decided to share the next closest thing: my Aunt Monie’s butter cookie cutouts recipe.

Struzynski, Monica
Monica (Struzynski) Marczynski, center

For the women in my family, recipe books and boxes are practically diaries, anyway. My paternal grandmother’s red-and-white-checkered Betty Crocker cookbook has notes about each recipe scribbled in the margins (the banana bread was “very good,” but the Russian tea cakes were “too crumbly”), and Grandma Hattie’s recipe revisions over time have been captured on each index card. When my sister and I would visit our grandparents over the summer, my maternal grandmother would always ask us to help her bake cookies, and I’m pretty sure this is what sparked my own love for baking. I remember making my first recipe in second grade: I was trying to make a cinnamon coffee cake for my parents, but I completely messed up the ingredients; it ended up being better than the original, and the recipe stuck. I don’t always have the same luck!

But today’s post is about Aunt Monie’s recipe cards, not my baking fails. Monica Stella Struzynski was born on April 10, 1913 in Dunkirk, New York to Joseph and Stella (Mendikosky) Struzynski, but everyone called her Monie. After graduating high school, Monie started working at the Safe Department Store, and she married my great-grandmother’s brother, Louis Marczynski, on August 7, 1935. Monie’s daughter described her as a “twenty-first-century kind of woman:” she played semi-professional baseball in her early twenties, and her wardrobe was “tailored” (“which really meant pants”). Like her husband, she was a nurturer, selflessly caring for “all those close to her with a heart that held no bounds.” And she was a good cook, too.

Marczynski, Louis
Louis & Monica (Struzynski) Marczynski, 1935

According to Monie’s son, she prepared Polish food, including kielbasa (Polish sausage), czarnina (duck soup) and platskis-latkes (potato pancakes). She even opened a restaurant and ice cream parlor–Sweet Shop–with her friend, Vicky Kwasniewski, between 1948 and 1954. But I’ve always loved cutout cookies (they’re the cookies my maternal grandmother taught us how to make over the summer), and, luckily enough, I have a copy of Monie’s recipe. It’s simple, straightforward and no-nonsense–just like Aunt Monie. And it’s a classic, sure-fire recipe for butter cutout cookies, too. You really can’t go wrong with this one; the ingredients you’ll need are 2 cups of butter or margarine, 1 cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 4.25 cups of sifted flour (plus decorations and icing):

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla and egg.

Gradually blend in flour.

Set out baking sheet. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out one fourth of dough at a time to an eight inch thickness and cut out, as you like.

I first roll all the dough into small rolls and refrigerate it till you can just slice.

Monie

Sweet Shop
The Sweet Shop Cartoon in the Dunkirk Evening Observer // Tuesday, March 30, 1948

Monie’s husband passed away on July 10, 1962 when she was only 49 years old; in the years that followed, she learned how to drive, got a job at Sidey’s Department Store and began a new life, determined to stand on her own two feet. And she did it: Monie had always been outspoken, independent and steadfast, and that never changed. She made sure that her children were loved and provided for, and she continued to try new things and to challenge herself to travel or rise up through the ranks at work. The way her children describe her today says it all, but I think her recipes give us a pretty good indication, too: like a diary, her short-but-sweet butter cutout cookies recipe gives me a glimpse into her world and personality. Maybe recipe books and diary entries aren’t too dissimilar, after all. Jamie

24 thoughts on “Aunt Monie’s Butter Cookie Cutouts

  1. Honestly, maybe her journal was mundane, but sometimes I’d rather read about an ordinary character…last night I started a nbook where everyone is so fabulous I’m already bored with them

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Right? And you never know–even mundane diaries hold clues to our next family history find. I try to mix it up here, but I do love the “ordinary” stories more than the ones that are fit for the big screen. I just see myself more in them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The ordinary things do tell you so much!! It’s why I love looking at lists, and reading epistle type books…it’s how people actually think and act! And so much insight!!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! I don’t have any diaries that belonged to my grandmother–I would give anything to be able to read a few of her thoughts–but I do have her recipe books, and I know baking was her favorite thing to do. It’s told me a lot about her!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always wished I’d discover a diary of an ancestor but never did. I kept diaries as s child but threw them away before I married. Dolly child!! I have sev journals now I’ve written in through the years Hope my children enjoy them one day

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I did the same–I threw away the diaries I kept as a kid (they were embarassing, but I’d probably laugh now at them!). I keep telling myself I need to start recording everything in a journal, but it’s tough to start and keep up with it! I know how much I wish I had more diaries from my ancestors, though, so I really should start–you’re right, your children will appreciate it one day.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s one of my favorites of hers! Ours is tattered and barely held together by tape at this point, but it’s the best. (Plus, she tried almost every recipe and left reviews in the margins, so we have great suggestions to go by.)

      Your husband is awesome–that’s the perfect Christmas gift. I’m sure you treasure it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the idea of recipes as a sort of diary. Aren’t memories of what our ancestors cooked and fed us some of the strongest memories we have?
    What an unusual wedding photo with six women and two men!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree–food is often at the heart of our stories! And I was wondering if anyone would make a comment about the wedding photo–I had the same thought when I posted it. I wonder why the groups didn’t match up! (I have no insight for you there, sadly.)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I love family recipes – my mom has my grandma’s recipe collection, and there’s so many things in there that I grew up eating and have so much nostalgia for. Though my grandma would disagree with yours about the Russian tea cake recipe in Betty Crocker; it was the one she made every Christmas, and I still make them because my mom likes them, even though I’ve never been a fan myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no, haha! I wonder if my grandmother slipped up with the recipe–I’ve never been a fan of Russian tea cakes, either, so I wouldn’t know.

      My ancestors’ recipe collections are probably my favorite heirlooms for exactly the reason you describe–there’s so much nostalgia tied to the recipes I recreate. We’re lucky to have them!

      Liked by 1 person

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