Cigarettes, hospitals and lemon squares

This is one of my favorite food stories and it comes from my friend Marlene Khoshbin, who is a great cook and with whom I often talk about food. She’ll guest blog for us in the next little while, and you want to watch out for that.

I told her about the handwritten recipe I’d begged for from my friend Ariadne for scones and she responded with this story. I’m not sure I’ve got it exactly right but it’ll be close..

Marlene grew up in Saskatchewan and, one time, when her mom was in the hospital, her mother wrote down a couple of recipes on the back of her cigarette package. Now, that will tell you just how long this recipe has been around in this form, because it’s been a whole lot of years since anyone could smoke in a hospital. Marlene was back home not that long ago and they were talking about food and her mom pulled out this recipe and gave it to Marlene, just as it had been written, on the back of a cigarette package.


Marlene's mom's lemon square recipe, written in hospital on a  cigarette package

Marlene’s mom’s lemon square recipe, written in hospital on a cigarette package


Now remember that Marlene is a great cook and she’s had years of reading her mom’s handwriting. She deciphered the recipe, did the best with it, then revised it (as she often does) until she got it exactly right. The exactly right recipe is below and a photograph of the original is above. Marlene says these lemon squares are terrific and, because I absolutely love lemon, I’m going to try them myself. Here is it, just as Marlene sent it to me.

“Here is the recipe I was talking about. Since Mom wrote it on a
cigarette pack while in hospital, the instructions are absent.”

10 soda crackers (double)= 20 squares
Roll not too fine

1 cup brown sugar (I put a little less)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

I just dumped it all together but I suppose the butter and sugar
should get blended first and then the dry ingredients.

Divide in half and put in square cake pan. (I greased it)
It did not say to bake the bottom so I didn’t.

Make a box of lemon pie filling and put it in the pan on top of the
crumbs. Put remaining crumbs on top.

Bake at 350 degrees until brown. I baked it for over an hour but that
was too long. Maybe 45 min.  (there’s a rib recipe on the right hand




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