We are not just spice packet people. There are a few family recipes that have been handed down. The ‘Nuts and Bolts’ I made the other day is one of them. The photo-copied card I have in my recipe book reads “from the kitchen of Grandma Palmer”, that would my my mom’s grandma, my great-grandma. To call it party mix would be disrespectful. The smell of it baking means Christmas, especially since my mom would make two or three batches between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve.
The first Christmas my husband and I were married (the same year I learned about my mom’s chili), I eagerly bought all the ingredients for Nuts and Bolts. I carefully followed the recipe, making sure my measurements were exact. I remember there was no temperature for the oven written on the card. I probably called my mom to ask, but she must have been away from home and just guessed. The wonderful Nuts and Bolts Christmas smell did not fill our apartment. It burned.
Perhaps the oven was too hot. Perhaps I hadn’t made enough sauce for the amount of pretzels, rice chex and nuts. Whatever the reason the only person who ate it was my older sister who favors the burned pieces of popcorn. Even the small amount of non-burned Nuts and Bolts was bland. I tried to like it. I tried to get my husband to like it. We ended up throwing most of it away.
I related to my mom my failed attempt at the family tradition. When I mentioned how bland it was and how hers always tasted better she replied with: ‘Oh, I don’t follow the recipe. I add way more Tobasco and Worcestershire sauce than it calls for.’
Last years attempt was passable, though still not as good as mom’s. So this year I was excited. No measuring. Dashes of this, handfuls of that and a whole bottle of Tobasco. That’s what she said right? I did pause half way through the bottle. But I remember, she said ‘a lot’ of Tobasco. So in it went. Two and a half hours later I tasted my latest attempt. Yum. Spicy, but delicious.
Well. Yesterday my sisters and our daughters baked cookies with my mom (thoughts of generational cookbooks return). I mentioned that I had finally made good Nuts and Bolts and that they were spicy from the whole bottle of Tobasco.
Whole bottle?? My mom looked at me in disbelief.
Yes, I thought you said you use the whole bottle?
Oh, I only use about two tablespoons.