Barbara Erkkila, journalist, author of “Hammers on Stone,” a history of Cape Ann granite, and “Village at Lanescove,” told me a year ago that she doesn’t cook. Then she told me how years ago, when Robert Frost was in Lanesville posing for Walker Hancock, Hancock came to Erkkila to bake our National Poet Laureate’s birthday cake.
“Plain white cake with white frosting,” Erkkila told me impatiently; she had other things to tell me about than cakes, such as the UPI award she won for getting the story of the first Gulf of Maine shrimp landing in Gloucester, or swimming in the Baltic Sea in 1960, post Sputnik. Erkkila studied Russian at Boston University to prepare for that trip.
When I first met Erkkila I would ask her for a recipe, hoping for something from the good old days of Finns and artists partying in Lanesville, but Erkkila always seemed impatient with that request; she would much rather talk about the new book she’s working on.
Still, she may be a hardcore journalist, but she’s also kind. The last time I went to see her, just before Christmas, I didn’t need to ask; she offered a recipe. It took me a couple of months to get around to making these “oatmeal macaroons,” which Erkkila says came from a Royal Baking Powder Company cookbook from 1927 titled, “Anyone Can Bake.” When I finally made them, I just laughed. After all these years of “not cooking,” Erkkila still knew not just a good, but a great recipe.
These cookies are amazing; not a macaroon at all, but a thin, crisp lace cookie studded with earthy oatmeal. They have a “snap!” that could crack the air. They are ridiculously easy to throw together, and — ta-da! —gluten-free!
Still stylish at 94, Erkkila still knows a great story, even if it’s about a cookie.