What would inspire a newlywed to say to their spouse, “I don’t like that unless you cook it the way my mother did”? Why would otherwise educated foodie palates enjoy such guilty pleasures as mac and cheese from a box or beanie weenies?
Have you ever had a food flash? Has the smell, taste or look of a dish sent your brain back in time with an overwhelming emotion? In “Ratatouille,” Disney’s animated film about a “rat” chef, the climax of the movie involves a food critic who flashes back on his childhood when he eats the perfect version of ratatouille. Its perfection comes not only in the preparation, but in the fact that it tastes just like his mother’s ratatouille. A simple peasant dish is transformed into gourmet when it is paired with memories.
Food is such a part of our past, our culture and our heritage that we often forget its importance in our history until we have one of those special moments. Memories of my grandmothers are tied to food. Both grandmothers were exceptional cooks. They cooked different styles, but their holiday meals and desserts are still an important part of our family celebrations even though they are both gone.
My Granny Jones had to learn to cook for a large family of six children, so her dishes often reflected frugalness. I still remember the baloney spread that was made at every large group gathering. It included ground baloney, pimentos and mayo for quick and inexpensive sandwiches. Though not my favorite, I do have fond memories of my aunts gathered around the food mill as they ground the baloney. My grandmother’s coconut cake and pumpkin pecan pie recipes, on the other hand, are treasured parts of my collection.
My Nonnie Hurley embraced the peppers and other ingredients of New Mexico. Her posole was a New Year’s tradition much like black-eyed peas are in the South. She also loved to make candy for holidays. It was hard to resist her Martha Washingtons and her rum cake. In both cases, the food my grandmothers prepared was as much a reflection of their personalities, family expectations, culture and generation as their taste in food.
How can you preserve food memories besides teaching your children and grand-children how to prepare the recipe?
The art of scrapbooking has developed a new branch called Heritage Recipe Scrapbooking. People are combining their love of scrapbooking with the need to collect and protect priceless family recipes for future generations.
Where do you begin? There are several books available on this topic. My two favorites are Better Homes and Gardens Scrapbooking with Recipes and Barbara Winkler’s Cookbooking: The Delicious New Way to Scrapbook. Both books offer pages of ideas on how to save precious copies and pictures of recipe heirlooms and the cooks who passed them down in the family. They help you decide which type of book you would like to make.
After you have decided whether you want your recipe book to be in a traditional size notebook or in a scrapbook binder, begin collecting food-oriented scrapbooking supplies. Several companies carry paper, stickers, brads, etc. based on a cooking theme.
Next, gather recipes (especially hand written), pictures, and verbal memories (for journaling) from family members. This is a great activity to do together at your next family gathering while the rest of the household watches football. You may not get much scrapbooking done, but you will have some great conversations about recipes and family history.
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups flaked coconut
1 stick butter, melted (Nonnie’s recipe called for oleo)
3 cups chopped pecans
Mix all ingredients but the chocolate together. Shape into balls, chill until firm.
Dip chilled mixture into melted dipping chocolate. Set on wax paper to cool. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.
1 cup pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup pecans
1 unbaked pie shell
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except pecans. Pour into unbaked shell. Place pecans on top of pie. Bake for 40 minutes or until knife in center comes out clean. Cover crust if it begins to brown too much.
My Recipe Box - By Gaye Tate
“What’s your recipe?” someone asked.
And off I went to complete my task.
I shuffled through files and I shuffled through books.
Till my old recipe box was the last place to look.
And inside that box, I found such pleasure,
Re-discovering old friends and a few family treasures.
Each recipe a memory to grasp for free,
Each family treasure handed down to me.
Some written by hands now gone, but alive in my heart.
Some moved away, but never too far.
The next time you’re asked for a recipe sublime,
Take joy and be glad for the sweet memory time.
For the past 20 years, Cindy Welch has been involved with all aspects
of cooking, including formal culinary training, experience as food service director for First Baptist Church of Euless, a personal chef and owner
Cindy’s favorite hobby
is “providing delicious food for the people of Sulphur Springs.”
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