Note: This article has been clarified to better explain how family members were related and when the bakery closed.
LANCASTER, S.C. — There are certain meals and/or desserts that remind us of people or places from our past. An aroma permeating throughout a room can lead us back to our childhoods or a taste can trigger a memory in our minds of a dinner we shared with loved ones.
Anita Hinson Cauthen, of Lancaster, S.C., tasted memories from her past and recalled memories of her childhood when she wrote her memoir cookbook, “Lancaster Bakery: Thank you, Come Back to See Us.”
The raconteur of her family, Cauthen shares stories from her childhood as well as recipes that were well-loved by patrons of the bakery. She converted the recipes so that people at home could recreate the confections sold in store.
She said the crispy, tea ball thumbprint cookie recipe is by far her favorite. The flavors of confectioner sugar and pecan remind her of being surrounded by family during the holidays. Her family loves them, too, she said. She added that sticky buns are her other favorite treat from the bakery.
Tea balls were enjoyed by patrons in addition to the gingerbread boys, chocolate sandwich cookies and lemon meringue pie — which she says is a refreshing summertime recipe.
She said the biggest difference between original recipes from the bakery and recipes used today is one ingredient: lard. To her, lard gave patrons a better tasting experience.
Cauthen shares the joyful memories of growing up in the bakery and watching her family run the business.
The Lancaster Bakery’s story begins with Cauthen’s great aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hernig. They opened a bakery in Monroe around 1915. Cauthen’s grandparents helped her great aunt run the bakery following her husband’s death in the 1920’s.
Her father, Robert Jackson Hinson, was an apprentice of his father-in-law (E.N. Courtney) at the family bakery in Monroe. Hinson met his future wife, Martha Louise Courtney, at the bakery. Hinson was hired by the Hernigs.
Around 1939, Cauthen’s grandfather decided to open his own bakery in Lancaster, moving the family to Lancaster a year later.
The only family member with formal training in baking was Cauthen’s father, who traveled to Chicago to receive training in the 1930’s.
Recipes were shared among a bakers’ association of which her relatives were members. Cauthen said some of the most popular desserts at the bakery came from recipes passed around through bakers networking via the association.
She also shares heartbreaking stories. Cauthen’s identical twin sister, Rita, lived with severe epilepsy that Cauthen described as “socially isolating.” At 15, Cauthen’s sister took her own life. To honor Rita’s memory, 10% of royalties from the book will be donated to the Epilepsy Foundation.
“I think today, a lot of people still don’t understand the disease and they’re afraid of it when they’re around someone who has seizures,” Cauthen said. “I wanted to talk about growing up and the tears, the joy and the conflict of growing up with an identical twin sister who had epilepsy.”
Cauthen said her sister was “gifted” in music and could play by ear. Her sister learned to play piano, accordion, harmonica and violin.
Cauthen described that writing “Lancaster Bakery” was a comforting experience for her when writing about her sister. She said she is now “at peace with herself.”
She wrote the cookbook as a way to preserve her family’s history.
Cauthen found her father’s recipes on old index cards. “As I went through his recipes, it brought back so many memories of growing up in Lancaster and all the people and the neighborhoods and the different childhood experiences,” she said.
Lancaster Bakery closed its doors in the 1980’s after the family sold the business; however, its legacy and recipes will live on through Cauthen and her cookbook.