Oscar, Reggie, and the Recipe

William and Alice Hammerstein had two sons, Oscar  and Reginald “Reggie”.   The brothers were very close.   Born in 1895 and 96 respectively, they grew up in Manhattan where their father, Willy, and grandfather, Oscar I, were famous theatrical impresarios.  Highland Farm became their homestead when Oscar and Dorothy moved there in 1940.  Reggie, who lived nearby, passed on in August of 1958 at the age of 61 preceding Oscar by 2 years.

Upon hearing of my affinity with Oscar Hammerstein, my dear friend, Mary Lindsay told me about Hexie Hammerstein, Oscar’s sister-in-law.  Having lived in Doylestown during Oscar’s tenure, Mary knew of Hexie and her scrumptous cheesecake recipe.  This top secret recipe had been bestowed to Peg, Mary’s close friend, with the stipulation that it not be shared with anyone.

However, unrelenting Mary Lindsay was determined to have that recipe.  Finally, Peg said, “Look, I have to go to the bathroom,” and with a wink she added, ” I keep the recipe in the cupboard.”  Taking her cue, Mary copied the recipe in April of 1968.  She related the story in 2010 when giving me the recipe.  I then presented it to Andy and Will Hammerstein in Feb. 2011 at our Highland Farm Valentine sing-along.  In April of 2011, Will served it to his Aunt Alice, Oscar’s daughter, and me when lunching with Alice at her home in Harrison, NY.  The cheesecake was rich and delicious.  Will did a good job, and I was in seventh heaven for 4 hours that day.

I thought that was the end of the story until I met Reggie’s step-son, economist/author John Steele Gordon, online two days ago.  I had read the charming article below and emailed him requesting permission to publish the cheesecake recipe in our Led By A Rainbow book.  Here is the link: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/my-uncle-oscar-hammerstein/

We had a lovely exchange about Oscar, John’s childhood adventures at “the farm,” and the cheesecake recipe.  He hadn’t known about it and was delighted to have the recipe because he bakes a cheesecake every Easter.  “What perfect timing,” I thought,  “the recipe is returning to the rightful kitchen.”  Wrong.  After some confusion, we solved the mystery.  Hexie whose real name was Mary Manners was Reggie’s first wife.  John’s mother, Mary Steele Hammerstein, was Reggie’s second wife.  No wonder he didn’t remember his mother’s cheesecake recipe.  Oh well.  At least, we had a good laugh.

Since the focus of this post is on food, I included a paragraph from John’s magazine article about his “Uncle Oc.”

“He also wrote often about food (“This Was a Real Nice Clambake” and “Schnitzels with noodles / And crisp apple strudels” were among his favorite things). Oscar loved to eat and took food very seriously. It was a running family joke, invariably alluded to at holiday dinners, that Oscar, who weighed about 220 in his prime (he was almost 6’2″ in height), had been turned down by the Army in World War I because he had then been underweight. In 1954, he and I, as well as my mother and Dorothy, ate our first pizzas together at an Italian restaurant in Trenton, New Jersey, not far from Doylestown. He emphatically approved.”

And now you can approve or disapprove of Hexie’s cheescake recipe.  I’ll have more to share about Hexie next month.  In the meanwhile, bon appetit.

Lorna Doone Cheese Cake

30 Lorna Doone cookies and ¼ cup butter.  Press into 9” spring pan and up the sides.  Put into freezer while mixing filling.

Filling:

  1. 3 ½ pkgs cream cheese
  2. Small container sour cream; beat the two
  3. Beat 4 eggs and mix with the cream cheese and sour cream.
  4. Gradually add 1 cup sugar.
  5. ½ pint heavy cream – whip and blend above.

Bake 350 degrees for 1 – 1½ hours.  Shut off the oven and leave it in there until the oven is cool.  Take it out of the oven and put it in the refrigerator.

John Steele Gordon, who writes regularly for COMMENTARY, is the author of several works of American economic history, among them Hamilton’s Blessing and An Empire of Wealth.

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7 thoughts on “Oscar, Reggie, and the Recipe

  1. Hi Jessie,
    I recently came across your blog posting of “Oscar, Reggie, and the Recipe.”
    How fantastic that you were able to get a copy of Hexie’s “secret” Lorna Doone Cheese Cake recipe!
    I thought you might be interested to know that I once had a chance to meet Hexie (in fact, she served me some of her delicious homemade quiche!). As you probably know, Hexie lived in Upper Black Eddy (Pa.) as was known as “Bucks County’s Bona Fide Witch.” I was born and raised in Bucks County (still my most favorite place on earth!). In the late 1960s, my mother (Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey) was the historical editor for Bucks County Life magazine and was also one of their staff writers. (By the way, I’m assuming that the “Peg” you mentioned in your blog posting – the gal who had a copy of Hexie’s cheese cake recipe in her cupboard -was Peggy Lewis. Peggy was a contributing editor and an art review editor for Bucks County Life magazine in the early 60s. In the 1963 November issue of the magazine, Peggy wrote a profile piece featuring Hexie Hammerstein. When Peggy left the magazine to go work for the New Jersey Historical Commission, my mom replaced her as the historical editor. Another interesting connection!)
    One year my mother decided that Hexie would be a great subject to write about for the upcoming Halloween issue of BCL, and so she contacted Hexie to arrange an interview. I was lucky enough to tag along with my mom when she conducted the interview… an afternoon that I shall never forget!
    Hexie greeted us at the “Great Door” with her waist-long red hair flying to and fro.
    She was a captivating woman, not only in her appearance, but also in personality, as well as, in life style and philosophy. (She could have written the book “The Secret” decades ago!) We spent several hours with Hexie. She gave us a tour of her sixteen room farm house (designed by a famous Bucks County artisan). We got to see her beloved 200 year-old “witches cape,” her collection of brooms that hung on the wall, and her unusual coffee table made from an antique set of bellows! Her favorite room in the house was her kitchen. (Hexie was totally into cooking!). Apparently, she had invented (and patented) a couple of cooking gadjets which she was very proud to show us. She was also putting in a plug for us to buy some of her kitchen wares! (Hexie was quite a self-promoter and a fast-talking saleswoman!). As I said before, it was a memorable afternoon.
    My mother went on to become a famous author (she wrote the #1 best seller “Bermuda Triangle”) but after all of the hoopla with that book died down, she went back to her favorite subject… writing stories about “The Dark Side of the Delaware.” My mom passed on in 1990 before she could complete the last book in her trilogy of Delaware Valley ghost stories. The book was called “Haunted Village and Valley: A Ghostly Journey Through the New Hope Area.” As her only literary heir, I completed the manuscript for her and the book was published in 2010.
    One of the chapters in the book features Hexie Hammerstein! (Obviously, most of the material came from the original interview that my mom had with Hexie all those many years ago.) The story is also accompanied by a fabulous picture of Hexie. (How I came across the photographer whoe took Hexie’s picture way back in 1967 is another story!) A couple of weeks ago, I received an unexpected email from a reader in Florida who contacted me to say that she grew up in Bucks County and that her family lived next door to Hexie! She shared with me some of her wonderful childhood memories of living next door to a “real live witch”!
    There’s no question that Hexie was a strong believer in the “Law of Synchronicity.”
    As she stated in her interview with my mom… “There are no accidents. Things come ttogether as they are meant to be. When we experience what seems like a strange and mysterious incident, we need to wake up! We need to examine the connections!”
    So there you have it.
    When I came across this recent blog posting, I thought to myself… This is not just a chance occurence! This is an unbelievable timely “connection” and one that, perhaps, Hexie orchestrated herself from the magical world beyond.
    All the Best,
    Lynda Jeffrey Plott

  2. I have been looking for Reggie, her daughter and dear friend of mine as teens. A group of us started sleuthing to find Reggie but we hit a dead end until this blog and article. I have many memories of Mrs. Hammerstein (your photo by the way is sensational and exactly as I remember her) but mostly I would love to reconnect with her daughter. Any leads you might have would be appreciated.

    • Hi Cathy:
      My niece in London sent this whole thing about the cheesecake to my sister and it was forwarded to me. Some of the stories are a little iffy. But I did see you were looking for me. I live in Ca. and have for quite some time. Really can’t believe 50 years have gone by.
      you can email me- just put in the subject line that it is you as I won’t open any email from someone I don’t know.
      Looking forward to hearing from you.
      Reggie Hammerstein

      • So thrilled to hear from you Reggie. I am not certain how this blog thing works and did not see an email addy for you. I have just filled mine in and I do hope it gets to you so we can reunite in a more private way. I cannot tell you how often I have thought of you and am dying to catch up. It warms my heart to hear from you. If the email is not evident, I am on Facebook (Cathy Kelly Zega) and you can privately message me so I can give email etc.and we can fill in the stories of the past 50 yrs. YIKES! So looking forward to
        hearing from you. Much love, Cath

      • Hi Reggie,

        I am so pleased that this blog is enabling you to reconnect with Cathy. I will email her immediately so she can be in touch with you as soon as possible. If you’d like to correct any “iffy” material on the blog, please feel free to be in touch with me.
        Wishing you all the best,
        Jessie Barth

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