I love getting snail mail, but I am very bad at sending it. However, I inadvertently started a pen pal relationship in 2010. My pal’s name was Eleanor Mailloux, a 90-something woman from Helvetia, West Virginia. Andrew filmed Bizarre Foods at her small restaurant, the Hutte House. After the show aired, she always sent us these amazing homemade pfeffernüsse cookies. Their spicy, peppery bite paired perfectly with coffee. I became obsessed with them wrote her to ask for the recipe. She replied with this letter:
Dear Molly, (love the name)
Here is a Helveita Cookbook that we did in 1967. Just in time— the families with the really old recipes were all leaving us rapidly and the younger generations didn’t give a hoot! Pfeffernüsse, page 40. We add extra pepper… Tell Andrew they’re still coming and still mad about him and his program.
For the record, I think she uses the word “mad” to mean they loved AZ.
For the next year and a half, the two of us exchanged over a dozen letters. On March 11, 2011, my dear friend passed away at the age of 93. We never met in person, but she made a big impression on me— her dedication to preserving the stories and traditions of a disappearing community still tug at my heartstrings. I make her pfeffernüsse cookies every year; they never taste as good as hers, but hopefully I will have another 62 years to perfect them. If you give a hoot, here’s her recipe. Remember to add extra pepper. It’s the secret ingredient.
Cream eggs and sugar until smooth. Mix dry ingredients thoroughly and add to eggs and sugar. Let stand overnight in cool place.
Form in small nuts (size of walnuts) and place on cookie sheet, a drop of brandy can be placed on top of each nut. Bake at 350-375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.