Gramma Rhetta’s Lemon Bars

July 20, 2009

My maternal grandmother, Henrietta, has been on my mind lately, probably because of the letter my mother shared with me here.

I was stunned when she died, because I never thought she would. She had more energy at 80 than I did at 13. She zipped around from task to task, shooing errant children outside NOW, because dang it, she had stuff to get done.

She didn’t like anyone bothering her in the kitchen, which is why when my mother married my father, she knew how to make one thing. Salad.

My mother never held it against her though, because Henrietta taught her something far more important: the art of femme fatale.

Gramma could charm a man like nobody’s business. Normally, she was a trouser-wearing, all-business, bossy bit of baggage. But when a man walked into the room…Viola! Suddenly the drawl got thicker, the eyelashes batted heavier and the smile got absolutely vixen-like.

Gramma had three husbands, and was probably well onto collecting her fourth when she died, quickly and unexpectedly. She died like she lived, in a flash of bright light and perfume and a little bit of fairy dust.

Besides her fried chicken (and her cornbread), which are recipes that, alas, died with her, she left this lemon bar cookie recipe. I don’t bake much, and I don’t really like sweets, but I love all things lemon. She always had a batch of these in the freezer when we visited. Yeah, that’s right, the freezer. For some reason, we loved them best that way.

So Gramma Rhetta, here’s to you. I miss you, Sassybritches.

Lemon Bars


1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour

Combine and press into a 8×8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Sift together the sugar, baking powder and flour. Add 2 beaten eggs, lemon juice and lemon zeat Pour over baked crust and bake 25 minutes.


Dust top with powdered sugar, cut into squares and, if you are a Ludlam, freeze and sneak several throughout the day.

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