Nancy McGuigan’s smile lights up the world, as do her genuine grace and insight.
Nancy and I met last year when I was searching for fresh lavender for one of my culinary projects. After we connected, she invited me to check out her garden. Small but lovely, it is in the back of her home and was in full bloom. This year, the alley area is covered by dahlias shared by her Gay Street neighbor.
Nancy was one of nine McGuigan children (five boys and four girls) that hail from the “northside” on Franklin Avenue across from what today is known as Franklin Commons. From 1973 to 1989, the call of the beauty of our Northwest led her to relocate there; she finally settled in Seattle, Wash.
Along with her university work, while there she became involved with many efforts such as a coffee/tea shop located in Madison Park, being a rectory cook and catering with a specialty in baking. In 1989, Nancy returned to Phoenixville to care for her mother, Anna McGuigan. Along with her family, they cared for their mother for 14 years.
About two years ago, the High Bridge Club was formed. The group was started by Nancy and her good buddies Richard “Gump” Devaney and “Captain of the Bridge” Larry Matthis. Usually they meet each evening on the “high bridge” located as an extension of Gay Street (between Bridge and Vanderslice streets) to shoot sunsets and evening skies. They are often joined by other photographers, as well as strollers. The pictures taken are usually shared to the delight of their Facebook friends.
She is very active in her church, St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church. The church and her work within are an important part of her life. She enjoys doing handwork, along with the joy of antiques, biking and hiking. Nancy calls herself a “picture-taker.” That doesn’t begin to do her justice. Some of her most breath-taking shots are closeups of flowers, plants, birds and bugs shot with perfection.
Though she enjoys cooking in general, she is a “baker,” always whipping up a treat for friends and events. Here is her recipe for a favorite.
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar — packed
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cream of tartar
½ tsp. salt
For sprinkling on top:
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with non-stick aluminum foil, leaving a bit of overhang for lifting from pan. Microwave butter in a glass measuring cup for one minute or until barely melted. Stir until completely melted. Cool slightly. In a mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until just combined.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. Add into butter mixture. Mix well until blended but not overmixed. Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Smooth top lightly with spatula. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon. Using a small spoon, evenly sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over top. It looks like a lot but will sink down while baking. Bake for 30 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs but no batter. Remove from oven. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Then lift the bar with the overhanging foil or paper. Place on rack to cool completely. Cut into desired size.
Let me hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org. Search YouTube for “Look Who’s Cooking with Bette Banjack,” as well phoenixvillenews.com (search bar: Banjack) for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.”