Edible Bozeman

Hazel Hartwell’s Date Nut Bread

Hazel Hartwell’s Date Nut Bread Recipe

“In the Fall of 1950 I was newly married, in Germany, and facing my first Christmas away from home. My mother sent me her date nut bread recipe; this is it, in her handwriting, on her very own 3×5 card! Same bread I’d eaten for 21 years! All notations on the edges are my own. I put in more dates and lots more nuts than she did. My search for ‘measurement tools’ in Germany frustrated, so she also sent me an American measuring cup and spoons!”

Thus reads the handwritten note that accompanies the scan of a tape-reinforced, age-worn, liquid-stained recipe written on a three-by-five. My cousin Lindsay had asked our grandmother, Constance Hartwell Fullerton, for her date nut bread recipe, and while I don’t believe Grandma resisted in passing it on, I sense her solemnity despite those exclamation points: Grandma had been the safekeeper of the recipe since my great-grandmother mailed it to Germany in 1950, and now she was passing it on to us.

Grandma used to spend hours preparing for the holidays by baking a loaf for each of her six children and their families. Because we lived in another state, our date nut bread arrived by mail, wrapped tightly in foil. We loved it—cold from the fridge, topped with butter; toasted and drizzled with honey; plain.

Grandma turned ninety last June, but her voice still has a heart-lifting spring: “Hell-o, Mindy!” she says when I call, as I did recently to ask her about publishing this recipe in Edible Bozeman (clearly, she gave her permission). “It’s the only thing I still make,” she said, unprompted—a nod, perhaps, to the recipe’s simplicity, or better yet to the way flavor can be fresh and familiar at the same time. The card may wear and tear, the ink may smudge and run, the months and years may pile up at alarming speed—but each new loaf is dense, chewy, and perfectly sweet; each bite tastes like home.

Readers who would like to submit a family recipe and short essay for the Family Dish department are encouraged to contact the editor.

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