A busy octogenarian, Joyce Behrman makes time to bake and cook, sharing the bounty with friends and family.
Bill Zars | Staff Photographer
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Bill Zars | Staff Photographer
Joyce Behrman's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
85-year-old wins the hearts of many with homemade cookies and from-scratch dinners
Eighty-five-year-old Joyce Behrman contends she landed two of her three husbands with her chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and attracted a long-term gentleman friend with from-scratch, homey dinners.
I think she's too modest. An energetic, involved octogenarian, Joyce brings a lot to the table, and it's not all about food.
She plays bridge, is president of her condo building, walks daily and works out with weights three times a week. She loves watching birds and knits afghans and scarves while listening to audio books.
Family is front and center in her life. She stays in touch with four children, two step children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
And yes, she is one heck of a baker, cook and storyteller.
When her first husband died after 38 years of marriage - he was 64, she was 54 - Joyce was a widow for about two years when a neighbor noticed her house for sale and stopped by to see if she needed help.
"I gave him some chores and offered him a cup of coffee and cookies," she says. "He came back all the time looking for more jobs because he wanted more cookies. The next year we got married."
She was 57, he was 60. Eight years later he died, but she wasn't alone long.
She and her late husband lived a floor below a doctor and his ailing wife, who suffered from lung cancer. As a neighborly gesture, Joyce would bake cookies for them.
After they both lost their spouses, their friendship deepened and they married. She was 67, he was 70, and they shared a love for bird watching.
"We went all over searching for different birds, in Hawaii, Arizona, Texas," she says.
After five years the doctor died and Joyce became good friends for eight years with a fellow bridge player and inventor.
"He didn't like cookies, he just wanted dinner," she says. "I like to cook, it wasn't a problem. I made him dinner twice a week."
He died just before he turned 90; Joyce was 80.
Throughout her life Joyce has always cooked for family, friends and herself. A light eater who doesn't enjoy sweets - at 130 pounds she weighs about what she did in high school - Joyce favors soups like beef barley, spinach or bean.
She entertains regularly. When I called recently she was expecting guests for bridge and dessert.
At the holidays and throughout the year she bakes mountains of cookies, like her famous husband-winning Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and unusual Macadamia Pear Custard Squares, which she shares this week.
Cakes are another specialty, like Raspberry Custard Torte and Cranberry Coffee Cake.
When she wants the family to visit, she prepares their favorite Braised Short Ribs. They are slow-cooked with wine, herbs and vegetables.
"I can get them all to come over for Sunday if I make that," she says.
Leftovers often find their way to neighbors, but Joyce isn't hunting for another husband.
"Oh God, no!" she says. "I had three wonderful husbands, and a very interesting friend.
"It's been a very, very interesting life."