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My Mother’s Cookbook August 3, 2010

Posted by Ruth in Learning.
Home made cookies
Image via Wikipedia

My mother loved to cook.  She really didn’t need a cookbook, as she had many dishes that she had learned to prepare when she was young, and she was never afraid to experiment and create new dishes.

Even though she didn’t need cookbooks, she loved collecting them, and she enjoyed finding new recipes to try.

My mother, also, loved to journal.  Her journals were usually stenographers notebooks, but she also tended to use her favorite cookbooks like a journal.

I was fortunate to inherit a few of her favorite cookbooks.  They had been used frequently, and were in rather a dilapidated condition when I received them, but even with pages falling out, they are my favorite mementos from my mom.

One of her most used cookbooks was the Three B Garden Club Cook Book.  My mom was a member of the 3-B Garden Club, and she helped collect the recipes, from neighbors and friends, that fill the pages of this book.

It’s now missing its back cover, and the cover art on the front is looking faded and scratched.  That doesn’t matter to me.  What I really love about this book are the many notes that fill its pages, written in my mom’s familiar handwriting.

Next to the Banana Nut Bread recipe, is a little note that says, “Good! made 9/26/76.”  By the Raisin Cookie recipe, are two notes.  One says, “Very good. Took to Gary’s in Vermont, 9/21/86” and in the opposite margin, “Took to Ruth’s place in Pittsburgh, 11/1/86.”  I remember eating those cookies at my new apartment in Pittsburgh.

Not all the notes in this book are about the recipes.  Her cookbook was always handy, and she used it to jot down so many things that she wanted to remember.  Here are a few examples:

“‘When you can’t remove an obstacle, plow around it.’ – A. Lincoln”

“Soak gladiolus corms in 3 gal. water and 4 tbsp. Lysol a few hours before planting.”

“Elaine Heath has this motto on her wall, ‘Life is a song. Let’s sing it!'”

“Bonds of matrimony are a good investment, only if the interest is kept up.”

“Another blender goodie from the Mike Douglas Show today:
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 c ice cream
honey to taste
1 fresh peach
Note: I doubt that a recipe with raw egg would be on any TV show today.

“HIckory Cane Corn – best lady ever ate.”
Note: I don’t know who the lady was, but probably someone on TV,  or mentioned in the newspaper.  Today, Hickory Cane Corn heirloom seeds are quite valuable.

Also, in the cookbook, are various newspaper clippings, including one titled, “Know Your Vermont Apples” and another about Alfalfa Tea and it’s ability to cure arthritis.

My mother added recipes to the book frequently.  She found them in the newspaper and in magazines, received them from friends and jotted them down during TV cooking shows.  I did notice that most of the recipes from TV are really only partial recipes.  Evidently she did not write fast enough to get the entire recipe.  Julia Child’s Excellent Roast Chicken recipe lists the ingredients, and half of the first line of preparation directions.

I love sharing this cookbook with my daughters.  They remember their grandmother, but by the time they met her, she was no longer doing much cooking, so this gives them an opportunity to see her sparkling personality shining through her unique cookbook journaling.

What does this cookbook have to do with learning?  Everything!  There are lessons in history, science, agriculture, cooking, humor, gardening and medicine, but the most important lesson of all is love.

Now go make some notes in your cookbook…

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1. Yvette - August 3, 2010

Thanks for sharing, Ruth! This is a wonderful story. My grandmother makes this wonderfully yummy chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. My husband, daughters and I love to eat it when we visit with her. Several years ago, she did write the cake recipe on a notebook page for me. It is safely tucked inside my cookbook ~ a binder with sheet protectors. She only gave the ingredients for the frosting without the exact amounts. It took several tries, but I finally got it to taste like hers. My daughters had so much fun helping to figure it out. Fortunately, my grandmother still makes her cake and last time we visited with her my daughters were amazed how they tasted the same. What a fond memory for them to have and talk about with their great-grandmother.

Ruth - August 3, 2010

How wonderful, Yvette! What a great experience for you and your daughters! My mom’s secret recipe was for potato salad, and although I can make it, it is not consistently like hers, although it’s close. My brother, Gary, does the best job of duplicating it! He made it for my mom before she passed away, and she told him it was really good… but it needed more salt. We still tease him about that to this day! I am so happy that your daughters had this great opportunity to be involved in duplicating the recipe. That chocolate cake will always hold those special memories for them! Thank you so much for sharing!

2. Laura Weldon - August 4, 2010

So true. Our mothers, like their own quiet version of the Internet, kept information and memories where they could be readily accessed. I too have several of my mother’s cookbooks. One I keep in a cedar chest, bound with ribbon because it’s falling apart. It has her penciled references and in-between the pages are drawings, cards and hastily scrawled notes. She never would have imagined how priceless it is to me now.

Ruth - August 4, 2010

Absolutely priceless! I’m sure they had no idea their notes and miscellany would be so meaningful to their daughters, in the future. We are blessed!

3. josie - August 4, 2010

great post, ruth! i inherited all of my grandmother’s ‘scrapbook’ cookbooks- so many recipes with her ‘very good’ or ‘good’ scrawled in loopy handwriting next to the titles of things. those scribbles really are a path through the wilderness- you never know what you’re getting when you try a recipe!

remember the days when there was no internet and you would watch a cooking show and they would tell you the ingredients so fast you couldn’t write them down? lol. the story of your mom’s “half recipes” makes me remember that.

it’s true- even if 5 people have the exact same recipe, not a single one of them will make it the same way. must be one of those weird laws of the universe no one ever told us about!

thanks 🙂

4. Arlen Yoder - August 4, 2010

I can still hear your mom’s voice. I didn’t know her very well except I think that she was my grandma’s little sister and we occasionally met at the Oswald reunion. It is really interesting the things she wrote. I also miss your dad and his presence in school. He one time paddled me. I broke out a school light. He did not hit hard. All us boys were trying to hit the outside school light with stones, but I was the lucky one who hit it and got into trouble for it. My only incident…at least where I was caught.

Ruth - August 5, 2010

Thanks for your comments, Arlen! My mom was your grandpa’s little sister. She loved your grandma, and we often visited her. I remember playing with thread spools at her house. She had 100’s of them (or at least it seemed like hundreds) and they were as much fun to play with as Lincoln Logs or Tinker Toys. I’m sorry to hear about the paddling! It was something my dad hated to do, but at that time, it wasn’t an unusual punishment in schools. I don’t think he ever hit anyone hard. He always carried the paddle, hoping that kids seeing it would keep trouble from happening, so he wouldn’t have to use it., You must have been a pretty accurate stone thrower! 😀

5. Ruth - August 5, 2010

It’s so cool to hear about other mothers’ and grandmothers’ cookbooks, and the differences and similarities. Those little notes really are helpful, and give us an idea whether something is worth making or not.

My mom loved Graham Kerr’s Galloping Gourmet show, and of course, Julia Child. I think she tried to write down every recipe she heard/saw on TV, and most of them end mid-recipe… some mid-sentence! 😀

Thanks for your comments, Josie! I guess all of us cook in ways that are as unique as we ar!e

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