Saturday, May 19, 2007

Granddaughters, recipes, and Laurie

My five year old granddaughter has developed an interest in cookbooks. That is a very good sign that the cooking gene has passed down to the next generation. She also likes aprons. :)

I find it interesting how women from various families put together a meal. My mom rarely measured anything. I had to watch her a few times to know how to make her famous vegetable beef soup (which my sister makes completely different but we learned from the same mom...twenty years apart). I don't even recall mom using measuring cups when she made biscuits.

That is the same way my daughter and I cook so the dominant gene here was from the maternal line. I want to post my potato salad recipe on my recipe blog but I haven't figured out how to write it out (well, you put a glop of Hellman's, a couple squirts of French's mustard...). As with so many dishes I make, it started with someone elses recipe (in this case, Heloise) and I it. Stephanie does exactly the same so I'll often e-mail her a recipe I just made and tell her to make it her own.

It was quite amusing when she called while making dinner last week. She wanted to use up a couple of leftover stuffed chicken breasts so she was cutting them up and making a cream sauce to put them in, to be served over noodles. It made her think of me so she called. When she told me what she was doing, I said that it sounded exactly like what I would do (uh...huh). I will say that she's much more likely to get creative with seasonings than me.

We also both have the ability to taste something at a restaurant and come up with something similar in our own kitchen. If not immediately, then sooner or later. I think that's why I love the late Laurie Colwin's books so much because this is how she cooked. It may also be why I love to read cookbooks and watch cooking shows on The Food Network and PBS. It's like being Miss Marple in the kitchen. :) There is always something new and exciting to learn when it comes to cooking!

Now, my mother-in-law was a wonderful cook but entirely different. She followed recipes exactly and the wildest she ever got was perhaps changing the seasonings a bit. She always said she wasn't a great cook, she thought anyone could follow a recipe. I'm not so sure about that. It's funny to me that her way of cooking was very much like her personality.

I have many of her favorite recipes, typed out on index cards and yellowed with age. Because she followed recipes so closely, she was always a treasure house of recommendations and there were often one or two such index cards in her letters. Time goes so quickly and when those cards were stuffed in my recipe card files, I didn't realize how much they would mean thirty years later when I would pull one of them out...especially during Holidays...when the card, in that familiar typing, was all that was left of the past generation.

My mother-in-law lived during the era of the Women's Pages in the newspaper (if you remember them, you are probably more than forty years old). Many of her favorite recipes were prize winners from the Chicago Tribune. She particularly liked to look for new favorites for luncheons and to be served when the ladies met for their bridge clubs. I was recently reading through a "vintage" recipe pamphlet about entertaining, written in the 1950s. I smiled when I saw many ideas for ladies' luncheons!

For a great summer read, I highly recommend Laurie Colwin's two books, Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen and More Home Cooking. They are in paperback, each chapter is self contained, and if you are a'll find yourself laughing out loud as well as drooling through each chapter. Colwin was a regular columnist for Gourmet magazine.


Maggie Ann said...

I'll look for those at the library sometime if I can remember. I like to laugh AND read cookbooks. Can't say I like to cook though. My Mother loved to cook and but had a heavy hand with the salt shaker. Throw in a brand new recipe and some cat hair sifted in...honest, I'm not being 'catty'...grin. Her desserts were my favorites. Totally. Cat hair and all.

smilnsigh said...

Brenda, I sent an email to you. :-)


Anonymous said...

My father is an incredible chef, so I'm thinking that's where I got my ability. My mother can't boil water to save her life. My great grandmother Lula and her daughter (known as Auntie Mom..yes, there's a story there and I'll share it on my blog sometime) were tremendous cooks. I have their cookbook and of course there are no exact measurements. :o)

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

Uh...yes. We have that cat hair situation in our house.

Fortunately in this kitchen there isn't anyplace for them to sit very long. :)

lynn said...

I love Laurie Colwin's books, too. Reading them makes you want to run out and buy a whole chicken to roast :)

Beginning Again said...

The article inspired a post on my blog
entitled Cooking Styles