Skip to main content

Meet Jeanne Eddy

A woman who found liberation, and her long-lost child, in the kitchen

{From the 2024 Spring magazine}

Written By Megin Potter  |  Photos PROVIDED

When Jeanne Eddy’s Irish Catholic parents, who were originally from New York City, moved to Saratoga in the 1950s, the meat-and-potatoes meals her mother made for their family of nine were simplistic and the desserts formulaic. 

Bananas seeped in milk, Junket custard, and pre-packaged Freihofer desserts dominated the landscape, yet Jeanne was fascinated by baking. As a child, she hung out in neighbors’ kitchens, studying their secrets. Much to her mother’s chagrin, recipes clipped from Women’s Day, McCall’s, and Good Housekeeping magazines filled Jeanne’s recipe boxes (often before the articles printed on the reverse side had a chance to be read).

Jeanne’s first attempt at baking was at the age of nine, when she won a cooking competition with her white cake-mix cake, store-bought white icing, and a sprinkling of chocolate chips on top. 

An Unheard Voice of the Baby Scoop Era

By January 3rd, 1971, Jeanne was 16 years old and giving birth to her first child, who she named Patrick John O’Farrell, before putting him up for adoption. 

“It wasn’t my decision in any way. It was a different time and, in those days, keeping the child just did not happen and it was not a topic you talked about.” 

Unlike today’s open adoptions in which the birthmother can choose the adoptive parents and keep contact with the child, the era of secretive closed adoptions proved to be emotionally devastating for the mothers who loved their babies but had no input in the decision making, and the children who had no information about their history. “It was so painful and just torturous because it was kept completely private.” 

A Private Celebration

Jeanne and Patrick’s father, Gene, were married at the age of 20 and went on to have four more children together, Joe, Katie, Meghan, and Tricia. Still haunted by the uncertainty of their first child’s fate, five years later (after Joe’s birth), Jeanne began baking a cake on Patrick’s birthday each year. 

“Every year it was a different cake, but I couldn’t make a cake for my other children on their birthday without making one for him, too. He was still my child even if he wasn’t with me,” said Jeanne. 

This private celebration of his life, the act of baking this cake, continued annually for 26 years, liberating Jeanne by transforming grief into an act of expression with a symbolic meaning that only she completely understood. 

A Heartfelt Reunion

On Patrick’s 21st birthday, Jeanne registered with Catholic Charities, and other organizations, connecting adopted children with their birth mothers. After a handful of false leads, incredibly, in September 2001, Jeanne and her older sister met with Patrick’s two adopted aunts in East Greenbush. They discovered he’d been raised in an Italian/Polish household and renamed Jeffery. 

In April 2002, after her mother’s passing, Jeanne reached out to Jeffery directly, attaching photos of the family, and asking if he wanted to connect. Two weeks later, he responded. 

“He said, ‘It was the first time in my life that I saw faces that looked like mine,’ and that just hit me in the heart because I’d always imagined what he looked like, too.” In June, mother and son were finally reunited. 

The Greatest Gift

Despite being apart, and having different culinary traditions, Jeanne and Jeffery shared a mutual love of baking, and today often end up bringing the same dish to family gatherings. One year, they prepared a groom’s cake (shaped like an armadillo!) together.

“It was so joyful, a full-circle moment I felt like I’d never be able to experience,” said Jeanne. 

From 2009-2021, Jeanne’s blog, Adirondack Baker, inspired by her Skidmore College thesis work on the Evolution of Food Traditions and the American Kitchen, chronicled her multi-faceted baking adventures. 

Grateful that her four grandchildren; Peter, Henry, Willow, and Leila, still want to cook with her, Jeanne said she hopes they come away with wonderful memories of more than just the food, because besides that, the time they spend together is the most precious thing she has to give them.