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Hot Roll Hotline

“Traditions are like a love note from home that your children and grandchildren will take with them into their future”
~Janet Hondrka

Mom always made the best homemade yeast rolls, but whenever I asked her for the recipe, she insisted the ingredients were just thrown together.

Years later, her health began to decline. She surprised me one morning when she called and offered to show me how to make her delicious rolls. I rushed over to her house and scribbled down the recipe along with cheat notes as I watched her combine the ingredients and add a smidge more flour every now and then while kneading the soft dough. After it doubled in size, she formed perfect rolls from years of practice.

Sadly, Mom passed away a short time later with no one in my family aware that I’d learned her yeast roll secrets. That first holiday at Dad’s without her, I decided to surprise everyone and make the scrumptious homemade dinner rolls. As the scent of warm bread wafted throughout the kitchen, one of the nephews announced, “I smell Grandma’s rolls.” Our usual boisterous crowd grew quiet, no doubt everyone missed our mother. As we sat down to eat, mouth-watering hot rolls sailed around the table. Soon laughter replaced our sorrow.

From then on, I baked Mom’s rolls every holiday. Twelve years later, Dad died a week before Thanksgiving. Exhausted from funeral duties and still coping with grief, my siblings and I decided to skip our annual extended family gathering.

Thanksgiving morning, even though it would just be my husband and me for dinner, I gathered the ingredients and started a batch of rolls. No sooner than I’d set the dough aside to rise, my phone rang.

“Hi, Aunt Alice. Mind sharing Grandma’s hot roll recipe? I haven’t made anything with yeast before,” my niece confessed, “but I’m going to give it a try.”

After rattling off the ingredients and instructions, I said, “Good luck! Call if you have any questions.”

Ten minutes later, my phone rang again. I chuckled, thinking it was her. Instead, my youngest daughter asked, “Mom, what ingredients do I need to make Grandma’s rolls?” My husband laughed when the phone trilled once more. “You might as well be operating a switchboard.”

My niece called, concerned her dough was too sticky. I explained that was how it was supposed to feel. She just needed to sprinkle a generous amount of flour on her counter before working the dough.

Barring! Brrring! My daughter wanted to know, “Is it really necessary to knead the dough a hundred times?”

“Yes, Honey. And don’t forget to push down hard with both palms.”

My younger sister called a half hour later and asked how hard Mom’s rolls were to make. I gave her the recipe and assured her she’d do fine.

From then on, I answered my phone, “Hot Roll Hotline.”

“Should I grease the tops?”

“How hot should the oven temperature be?”

“How long do I bake the rolls?”

Later that evening, the callbacks were triumphant.

First my niece, “My rolls might not be as pretty as Grandma’s, but they sure taste good.”

Next, my daughter phoned. “I did it! The boys thought my hot rolls were delicious.”

My sister called to say she had good luck as well. Teary-eyed, I hung up.

Mom would be so pleased the rolls she had “thrown together” with love and a smidge more flour would, like her memory, remain an important part of our family.


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