Today my husband (this guy) and I celebrate our third anniversary. It's been a wild three years during which we both quit our jobs, moved across the ocean, and found a new life in a country we love. I wrote a dissertation and got a Master's degree. Judson wrote the soundtrack to a well-acclaimed video game (and named a character in it after me!). We secured new visas that guarantee us three more years in Scotland and moved all of our belongings here. We've had ups and downs, but so far it's been more of the former than the latter, and that's just the way I like it.
Recently while going through some old family letters, I found the catering bill for Eleanor's wedding to my grandfather Wilbur. They had 48 guests, and the meals, venue fees, and rental of all the tables, chairs, and dishes cost a total of $84, including wine.
EIGHTY. FOUR. DOLLARS. Just let that sink in for a moment.
They got married in 1942 while Wilbur was still in the Navy, exactly seventy years before Judson and I did, and I'd love to know more about their wedding. I've always wondered about what it was like for her to be a wartime bride. Eleanor was a tough cookie when I knew her (and by all accounts, she always was), but it couldn't be easy to get married and then see your husband off for an indefinite period of time, not knowing if he'd be safe or not.
I don't want to make her a wallflower in her own story, though: she didn't sit at home pining for him while he fought in the Pacific. She went to work in a factory (Kenmore or Maytag maybe, no one seems to be sure which anymore) in Brooklyn, doing wartime work. I've always assumed she made airplanes, but it just occurred to me that I have no idea if that is actually accurate. She worked there with her two best friends: her sister-in-law and the woman who would become my mom's godmother. I can't imagine how hard it would be to have your brand-new husband whisked away from you so soon after getting married, but I know if anyone could do it and come out swinging, it would be Eleanor, and I wish I had known her long enough to ask her about that time in her life.
Other than the catering bill and two beautiful pictures where they look like the happiest people in the world, the only other remnant of their wedding day is their wedding cake topper, which sits on a shelf in my flat in front of a photo from my own wedding day. Judson and I didn't have a proper wedding cake, so I figure their topper is as good a stand-in as any. It's seen better days, but it's still one of my favourite family heirlooms. Eleanor was not a packrat and she threw away plenty of family artifacts I'd love to have today, but the wedding cake topper got saved all these years. It must have meant a lot to her, and I'm glad she (and then my mom) kept it safe for seventy years before passing it along to me with the recipe box.
So, in celebration of weddings, love, and all things domestic, I give you this recipe. It's the easiest thing I've made from the box so far (one of the easiest things I've EVER made), and if you make it, everyone will think you are a domestic goddess. The recipe is written on a torn-off sheet of notebook paper with a list of names on the back, and I'm pretty sure the names are bridge teams, which is just about the most quintessentially Florida thing I can think of.
Fun fact: there are only two lines of instructions on this recipe and I can only read one of them, but the recipe is so simple and so reliable it doesn't even matter. Make this bread and impress someone you love. (But seriously: let me know if you can read the second line from the bottom, just because I'm curious.)
5 Spoons out of five. This recipe is so easy it shouldn't even qualify as a recipe. I like bread that's dense and chewy with a crunchy exterior, which is exactly what this loaf is like. It's best the first day, but it keeps well at room temperature for at least three days (possibly longer, but we had eaten it all by then). If you're more of a fan of fluffy breads, it might not be your favourite, but I'd encourage you to try it anyway because it's just. so. easy.
3 cups self-rising flour
2 tbsp sugar
12 oz room-temperature beer (in the US, this is one normal-sized bottle. In the UK, it's ¾ of a normal-sized bottle, which means you get to have a noon-day sip while your bread bakes... as long as you don't mind warm beer)
Note: this bread does not rise very much, so you're in for a fairly dense loaf better for smearing with butter and jam then trying to make a sandwich. If you'd like it taller, use a smaller loaf pan and sift the flour before mixing the ingredients.
Grease a loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, pouring beer slowly to avoid foam.
Pour into pan and bake 40-45 minutes until lightly browned and firm to the touch.
Turn out onto a cooling rack and let cool as long as you can stand it before slicing it open.
Yields one craggy, crunchy, delicious loaf.