I was going to do one on the amazing CSA we joined. Mmmmm. Last night our box was overflowing, and so are our plans.
Then I thought I'd talk about the new dietary restrictions I've placed on the fam (no food dyes, no HFC in our house). The inside scoop of how I became a crazy person (little o can't have food dye. I started reading the labels. You'd be shocked by the krappe that's in even the "healthy" food!)
Then PB wanted zucchini bread. The one he made last week was... less than delightful. I remember my Mom making it when I was a kid and it was delicious. When I dug it out I realized what I had to write about this week. My Mom's recipe book. The tome of food knowledge. The edible archive.
Let's start with the book itself. It's an old 1969 binder edition of the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook. The one with the red and white gingham cover? The one everybody has at some point in their life (even if they never crack the cover)? I think that was the basis of everything, but it clearly didn't stop there. I suspect she got it when she was first married (based on the date) thinking she needed to American-ize her cooking style for her new family. I honestly don't think it worked. The pages of the book are pretty pristine. It's the add-ons that are the real meat of this book.
|Mom at the stove. That's me next to her, and my brother at the table.|
First are the articles. She cut them from magazines, had handouts from god knows where (one really helpful one on canning, another on how to convert measurements, a third on how to shop for kitchen implements). Their contents are still relevant, but what makes us giggle are the ads on the back pages. One has an add for Bacardi rum from the 70's. He, he, he.
Then come the clipped recipes. They are kept in one of those school binder, zip, pencil cases. The ones that had 3 holes so you could put them into the binder? All sorts of tiny little cut out recipes, all jammed into the pouch. These have some good stuff, but mostly stuff I don't think she ever got around to trying. More like "dream" cooking. She'd see something in a magazine and think "Oh, it sounds good" but then it had an exotic ingredient, or a challenging step that just didn't seem worth it at the moment. I do the same thing.
Then comes the real treasure trove. The things PB thinks make the book an heirloom. The hand written recipes. They come on every imaginable source of paper. Some are on index cards, some are on actual sheets of loose leaf. There is a whole series written on the back of a letter from my Dad's cousin Louise (I was 3 or 4 when it was written judging by the questions she asked about me!) I have an old memo given to my Brownie Troupe about an up coming event, with recipes written on the back (I can only assume that when it was handed out someone wanted to share a recipe and that's what was handy?) These recipes are really the only remaining "handwritten" items I have from my mom or my dad (yup, some he wrote!), so that alone makes them a treasure. PB laughs because in some of them, the words are half English, half Italian. At one point I thought I would type them up, because the ink is fading and there are splotches all over them. Then I realized that I would be denying the boys a means of getting to know their grandmother. Which is at the heart of why I love this book.
For my Mom, cooking was many things. An adventure, a means of expressing creativity, a labor of love, a chore that needed to be done multiple times daily. But it was also a way to remember her mom and feel close to her family again. Many of her recipes were ones she learned from my grandmother. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with her in early December making all the holiday cookies and having her tell me the stories about how her Mom taught her to do the little things just right. Hours we spent rolling dough, whipping frostings, cutting shapes. When I look at the recipes for all those cookies, I tear up. All that time we spent together, just the two of us. All the cookies we "sneaked" saying we had to make sure each batch came out right. I know she only wrote them so I could have them (she knew them by heart!) And I'll keep them because hopefully my boys will love to make them, too. We'll sit at the table for hours, talking and making the finishing touches just right. And that will be a gift from their Grandma.