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Sugar cookie recipe is ‘family legend’

Donna Newman of Champion holds a photo of her grandmother in a cookbook Newman put together last year and dedicated to her grandma. (Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic)

CHAMPION — Donna Newman has lost track of the number of times she has made sugar cookies from her grandmother’s recipe.

“This recipe is kind of a legend in my family,” Newman said.

Her children, grandchildren, husband and cousins look forward to the cookies, she said, and they are a special favorite of her sister, Kathy, who once hid in a closet to eat the cookies so she wouldn’t have to share with her family when Newman shipped them to her in Colorado.

Newman’s grandmother, Hattie Patterson, or “Gram” as she was called by everyone in the family, cut the original recipe off a bag a flour decades ago. Newman still has it, and has photographed it and included it in a cookbook she assembled last year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the only recipe from Gram in the cookbook is the old fashioned sugar cookies, Newman dedicated the entire book to her.

Newman, now 76, still gets emotional when she talks about her grandmother.

“I had always been very close with her,” Newman said. “Even though I had a wonderful relationship with my mother and dad, she was really the person in my life.”

Newman’s grandmother lived with Newman and her family on and off from the time Newman was about 10 years old, she said. Gram’s husband died young, at 49, of a heart attack.

“So she kind of had a hard life,” said Newman, adding that Gram also lost three young children. “She wasn’t educated. She could read really well but she could barely write.”

Newman said according to family history, Gram baked for restaurants, making homemade angel food cake and pies, and cleaned houses.

When Newman’s parents moved to New Mexico in the late 60s, Gram still had children living in Akron and Pennsylvania, but she chose to come live with Newman, who was in her mid-20s.

After moving, Newman’s parents were killed in an automobile accident, she said. She believes God let her grandmother live a long life because she lost them. Gram lived with Newman until she died at the age of 82.

“People would say to me, especially when she got ill before she died, ‘oh, you know, it’s wonderful that you gave your grandmother a home.’ I said, ‘no, it’s the other way around.’ She did so much more for me than I could have ever done for her,” Newman said.

While Gram was alive, Newman never made her famous sugar cookies with her, but since her passing Newman has made them for every occasion.

“I have every cookie cutter you can imagine. I’ve done them for baby showers and every holiday. I have football cutouts I did for football get-togethers. My sister… she was into pink flamingos for a while, and I even have a pink flamingo cookie cutter for her.”

Newman still has some of the cookie cutters Gram used, and Newman’s son, 56, remembers seeing the cutters as a child.

“He’s like, ‘mom are they copper colored?’ And he remembered those,” Newman said.

In addition to including the cookie recipe in her cookbook, Newman has memorialized the recipe on two plates, one of which she gave to her sister as a Christmas gift and one she kept for herself.

Over the years, Newman started adding a simple glaze to the cookies for her son and sister, both who enjoy icing.

“But that was something my grandmother never did,” Newman said. Gram only put sugar on the cookies, Newman said.

While the cookies are a family favorite, Newman has a monopoly on baking them.

“I think as long as I bake them, nobody else will do it,” Newman said. Some day, she hopes someone else takes up the task, she said.

As for Gram, Newman said, “I think she would be amazed if she knew her sugar cookie recipe made it to the newspaper.”

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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