Please keep reading for a very special recipe from my Grandfather’s collection.
Cholangiocarcinoma. That’s… not an easy word to say, to spell, but once it becomes a part of your life, it’s a word you can’t forget. I like to know my grandfather as someone who wasn’t defined by the cancer that eventually took his life. But truly, I remember so many things before the cancer was a part of his life. Today would have been my grandfather’s birthday.
For a short time in my youngest years, my mother and I lived with my grandparents. I am often told the story of a time when I was very little, on Christmas Eve. I wouldn’t go to sleep at all, wanting to stay up. Then finally, out my grandparents’ house window, someone pointed out the lights from the radio towers nearby… flashing red lights, akin to Rudolph’s nose. I got so excited, knowing Santa was near, and knowing he wouldn’t visit if I was awake, I rushed to bed. I was asleep within minutes.
As a young girl, I had a variety of makeup brushes to play with at my grandparents’ house. I’d sit there for hours looking in the mirror putting on “MakeMuck.” My grandfather was a hairdresser for most of his life, and he formed a lasting bond with all of his regular customers. It seems he continued those friendships with many of them even after his retirement.
My grandfather had a passion for horses. A World Champion in the Missouri Foxtrotters Show circuit, and a Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association Hall of Fame Inductee, he truly loved horses with all of his heart. Because of that, at a young age, I did the whole Stick Horse Circuit, riding around a stick with a stuffed-animal style horse head in the arena. I never got into his passion for horses, but his love of them meant the boot closet in the old house always smelled like worn leather and, others say, manure. When I close my eyes, I can picture the smell of the boot closet, bringing back memories of my grandfather coming in from doing chores.
One of my earliest memories in life was a memory of my grandfather. I had read The Foot Book a million times, listened to it a million more, so when I’d sit and read it, no one would believe that I was really, truly reading it.
I changed everyone’s minds when I crawled up into my granddad’s lap, as he sat in his chair, and started reading that day’s paper. There’s no way I could have memorized it– it was the edition from that day. The things I was reading had been unread by others in the room, and it was clear that I really did know how to read.
When my grandfather was ill, and we’d go down to visit, I loved that we were able to bond over episodes of Jeopardy. He always told me I should go on the show– that I knew so many of the answers. In reality, once there, I’d choke and never get one right. I’d rather be a good couch player.
February is Cholangiocarcinoma awareness month. Cholangiocarcinoma is very rare. It’s not something you expect to take you, especially so quickly. This cancer is rare, arising from tissue in the bile duct. Only about 5% of Cholangiocarcinoma cases are inside the liver, the way my grandfather’s cancer was. There’s a very small chance that people diagnosed with Cholangiocarcinoma will survive longer than 5 years, and in fact, because it’s caught so late, even 6 months is a long survival rate.
However, The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation is working very hard to find a cure by promoting collaboration, understanding research, and education about Cholangiocarcinoma. You can help them achieve this mission by donating.
When my grandfather passed, he left me the recipes and cookbooks, many of them old family favorites, handwritten on scraps of paper or pulled from newspapers. These incredible recipes are a huge part of my heritage. One special treasured recipe that he loved, that everyone seemed to love, was the recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Bars that my grandfather’s mother would make when he was younger.
With a flaky, buttery crust and crumble top, and a rich raisin filling, these bars are spot-on and perfect for bake sales, potlucks, or even just enjoying on a Sunday afternoon.
You’ll begin by taking 1 cup of raisins, 1/2 a cup of water, and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Right now, you can see all of the little wrinkles on the raisins, and the clarity of the water.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer as you stir constantly, mashing the raisins a bit with a fork. The raisins will get plump, losing some of their wrinkles, and the water will start to disappear, the water darkening into a syrup. You will want to cook them until there is nearly no liquid left. Set the raisins aside to finish soaking up liquid.
In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups instant oats, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of packed brown sugar, 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. This will make the start of your crust.
Add in 1/3 cup of melted butter and 1 egg white to create a course crusty dough.
Press half of the crust into a greased pan, making sure it’s well-packed and sturdy.
Spread the raisin mixture evenly over the bottom crust. This will bake nicely in to create a sweet filling.
Press the other half of the crust mixture gently over the raisins. You’ll want to bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned. Cool the bars for a minimum of 1 hour in the pan on a cooling rack before slicing.