NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio — If you have ever wished with regret that Grandma had not taken the recipe for her special sweet rolls to the grave with her, you will appreciate Mary Ann Winkowski’s new book.
Winkowski’s name may not be familiar to you, but you’ll probably recognize her television alter ego, “The Ghost Whisperer.” The series was loosely based on Winkowski’s work as a real-life ghostbuster.
Often when she meets up with a wandering earthbound spirit, it will have a recipe to share. Sometimes that’s the reason it hasn’t yet crossed over. Through the years, Winkowski has amassed a box of recipes from the dearly departed and, along with writer David Powers, has compiled them into a book, “Beyond Delicious: The Ghost Whisperer’s Cookbook” ($17.95, Clerisy Press).
Now, before you get any ideas, no, Winkowski cannot conjure up your late Aunt Mae to get her secret cookie recipe. She’s not a medium who can contact spirits who have passed over. But she says she is able to see and communicate with spirits who are still on Earth.
Whether you believe in Winkowski’s ability or are a confirmed skeptic, the families whose recipes she has retrieved are convinced. Either way, there’s plenty of good eating to be found in the book and fun reading as well.
It was about a year ago when someone suggested that her collection of recipes from ghosts would make a great book.
It was a ghost named Bess who started Winkowski’s recipe collection. In life, Bess had been friends with a woman named Eleanor, who was being bothered by Bess’ spirit. Eleanor loved to bake, particularly nut rolls, but Bess knew that while Eleanor was well-intentioned, she was not a good baker. Her nut rolls were terrible and most of the folks she gave them to threw them away.
Bess was trying to get Eleanor to stop baking — the pilot light on her stove would mysteriously go out, the butter she had left on the counter to soften would somehow end up back in the refrigerator.
Winkowski explained to Bess that she couldn’t get Eleanor to stop baking, so Bess offered up her own nut roll recipe for Eleanor to try, which she did with great success.
Sometimes a spirit is hanging around specifically to pass on a recipe, but other times, it comes as an afterthought, when Winkowski explains who the spirit is and a homeowner will ask for a recipe.
This was the case when a woman named Leslie was trying to sell her grandparents’ pharmacy, which she had inherited from them. It was an old-fashioned store with a soda fountain. She called Winkowski, convinced it wasn’t selling because it was haunted.
When Winkowski arrived, she met a spirit named Queenie, whom Leslie remembered as the woman who had worked for her grandparents, making the pies, cakes and sandwiches sold at the counter.
When Leslie realized who it was, she asked whether Queenie would share the recipe for her Malted Butterscotch Bars, and she was happy to pass it on.
The stories in Beyond Delicious are quick, interesting reads. There’s not a scary ghost story in the bunch. The recipes are old-fashioned family favorites, the kind that typically would be passed down through the generations, and can be enjoyed by believers and nonbelievers alike.
Here are the recipes for Bess’ Nut Roll and Queenie’s Malted Butterscotch Bars to try.