Muncie native carries on Grandma Carrie’s ‘sweet’ life lessons
By Kate H. Elliott
Most every day after school, Carol Bradshaw’s mom would stand in the driveway, hand blocking the Indiana sun, as she watched Carol hustle—as the crow flies—to grandma’s house. Carrie Pearl Campbell would squeeze her granddaughter before waving mom off and shooing Carol into the kitchen, which “forever smelled of bacon.”
The two would whip and stir the afternoons away. Lemon meringue pie was their magnum opus. Grandma Carrie never once relinquished control of making the crust, but sous chef Carol did ascend—after a decade—to the role of filling stirrer. Too fast? Grandma Carrie would walk over and gently guide the spoon to demonstrate the correct cadence. Too slow? She’d pat Carol’s arm, then motion to rev up her whirl.
“It was a bit of a dance, working with Grandma Carrie in the kitchen,” said Carol, who guides Muncie Symphony Orchestra’s marketing and customer relations. About age 5, Grandma Carrie lost hear hearing from complications of meningitis. She learned how to cook (and other life skills) at a boarding school for the deaf in Indianapolis.
“She could still pronounce some words, based on the language she had acquired until age 5, but some of her words were off. People said they couldn’t understand her, but I never had an issue,” said Carol, a native of Muncie. “One of my favorites was when she would call me ‘clumpsy’ (instead of clumsy) in the kitchen. I still am a messy cook.”
Carrying on Carrie’s legacy
The aroma of caramelized buttery citrus signaled Carol’s favorite part of the process: the end, when Grandma Carrie let her mold mini cream pies and itty-bitty cinnamon rolls out of leftover dough. As Carol thumbed mini shells and the meringue browned, Grandma Carrie finally sat, draped in a floral house dress with a Kleenex jutting out of her bra strap.
It was in those moments of stillness Carol now wishes she would have asked her grandma about “all the things,” like growing up in 1910, when fuel for cars was sold at drug stores and the average U.S. wage was 22 cents an hour. Or about raising seven kids in a house roughly the size of a racquetball court.
But Carol was a teenager, and teenagers don’t focus on yesteryear, they focus on pies (especially the mini kind that are all for them). Even though she can’t answer specifics about some of Grandma Carrie’s life, Carol said she learned enough about “the perfect little woman” to name her only daughter, Carrie Colleen, after the stoic matriarch.
“She was always so happy and seemed to truly enjoy every moment,” said Carol, the mother to two children, James, a senior at Delta High School, and Carrie, a senior honors student at Ball State. “Every time I get bogged down in my lists and lists, I try to remember her, moving through the day, being present with people and doing what she wanted to do, and then I reprioritize.”
Recreating cherished recipes
And what she can’t recall from memory, Carol fills in through conversations with family and friends. A few years back, Carol jotted down all of Grandma Carrie’s recipes, except her bread pudding and the caramel frosting of her signature chocolate Miracle Whip cake, which “sounds gross,” Carol admits, but is a “heavenly blend of light chocolatey cake and decadent caramel sweetness.” These treats accompanied fiddles and euchre at regular family gatherings at the house Carol’s father and grandfather built.
“We would have up to 60 people in that tiny house, with Grandma Carrie’s beloved Cocker Spaniel, Jessie, running begging for scraps,” added Carol, who is a board member for Cornerstone Center for the Arts and Muncie OUTreach. “When she passed away in 1996, everyone slowly stopped getting together. She was the hub of the family.
“I wish my kids could have met her.”
Carol has now assumed the role of family baker. She doesn’t pass up an excuse to bake goodies for friends and colleagues. She also enjoys canning and tinkering in the garden.
“Food is my art and a great source of relaxation for me,” she added. “I think it takes me back to those easier times, with Grandma Carrie and that sweet lemon meringue.”
Miracle Whip Cake
- 1 c sugar
- 3 T cocoa
- 1 c Miracle Whip
- 2c flour
- 3 t baking soda
- 1 c water
- 1 t vanilla
- Dash of salt
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together sugar, cocoa, and Miracle Whip. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour into a prepared (greased and floured) 9 x 13 pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool.
- ½ c butter (one stick)
- 1 c brown sugar
- ¼ c milk
- 2 c powdered sugar
Directions: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar. Reduce heat to low and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add milk. Cool to lukewarm. Whip in powdered sugar until smooth. Ice cooled cake.