Naomi Odessa Miller-Dawson’s grave in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery is marked by a three-foot-tall piece of stone carved to resemble an open book. Etched into the pages for all eternity is a recipe for spritz cookies. But what do measurements of butter, flour, and eggs say about a life?
The headstone is the brainchild of two of her children. According to her son, Richard Dawson, the unique design is based on a familiar template: “It’s probably from the design that [one would] use if someone was putting a Bible verse onto the headstone, but instead of having the Bible verse, we put the part of the recipe from spritz cookies.”
Naomi Dawson was a first-generation American. Her parents and two older sisters were born in Barbados, and her family immigrated before she was born. She lived in Brooklyn for her entire life, and supported her family as a postal worker for over 20 years. When she was at home, she loved to bake.
The Dawson home didn’t have a shortage of good cooks. When he was growing up, Richard Dawson lived with his mother, two aunts, an older sister, and his cousin George. He described eating a mixture of Caribbean and American foods, “ranging from Bajan fare like peas and rice, [and] coucou with kingfish … to all-American favorites like pot roast, roast chicken, ham, and, for a special summer treat, hot dogs from Macy’s 34th Street meat department.” His mother and aunts shared the cooking duties, Richard Dawson recalled: “They would each have a specialty. My mother was the baker. My aunt Marie made turkeys and different things like that. The oldest, my aunt Sybil … her specialties were more Caribbean specialties. My mother was really any type of cake, any type of cookie.”
What do measurements of butter, flour, and eggs say about a life?
The spritz cookies weren’t Naomi Dawson’s only recipe, but they were certainly a family favorite. Richard Dawson described her lemon squares and oatmeal raisin cookies fondly, and joked that she had other recipes that she refused to share with him. To him, spritz cookies are the ultimate embodiment of their family gatherings. He…