Saturday, March 17, 2018
Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Legacy Recipes
I own three recipe card boxes... one that I use all the time, one that holds recipes I no longer use as often but I don't want to throw out, and one that is full of Taste of Home, Country Woman, etc. recipe "cards" cut out of the magazines over a decade or so when I used to subscribe. The prize winning recipes are fun to get out and look through for ideas from time to time.
The recipe card box I use all the time has a place in the kitchen and the other two are on a shelf in my bedroom closet. Close enough that if I'm looking for a recipe, it doesn't take long to pull one of these boxes off the shelf but not taking up space in a small kitchen.
If I am looking for one of my mother-in-law's recipes, I look in one of the recipe card boxes or the church cookbook that has a lot of her favorite recipes published in it, along with recipes from her friends my husband remembers. My husband was hoping the recipe for the German chocolate cake his mom's friend always brought to potlucks would be in it but alas... she took it to her grave as so many women did their secret recipes at the time.
Through the years, my favorite recipes from cookbooks or online have been copied to these cards, too. They get a lot of use and you can tell immediately when a recipe has been around for many years because it will have food stains, grease stains, and if a dessert... a buttered fingerprint or two.
They are so important to me that when we moved from one house to another, the primary recipe card box went with me in the car along with important papers and a cat or two. For quite often, it is the recipe that links a memory to a loved one no longer living. These are our legacy recipes.
I'm not sure if today's society in general has as many legacy recipes as we once did, often passed down from family and friends. It doesn't seem like it generally but I do know individual families who still appreciate them. They tend to be families who appreciate the importance of legacy in general, not just in the kitchen.
My mother didn't use many cookbooks and her written recipes were mainly on scraps of paper stuck in those few books. However, she taught me how to make her vegetable beef soup and I watched her make banana pudding so often that it doesn't need a recipe.
My oldest sister wrote down some of the recipes she remembers from growing up and a few from my maternal grandmother who passed away when I was a baby. One story that still makes me laugh is a recipe Jean sent that our mom used to make when she was a child (Jean is 20-some years older than me) and garlic was listed as an ingredient. I didn't know our mom ever cooked with garlic other than in powdered form! Jean then admitted it was the way she tweaked the original recipe.
That's one of the secret ingredients in legacy recipes... the stories! Even in the passing down of some recipes, there is a story to be told. In this case, the garlic mystery.
We have a lot of food related stories that come back in various seasons. Perhaps the one I remember the most is how, in the first years of our marriage, my husband always told me that his mom's meatloaf was better than mine. So I would tweak mine off and on and it still didn't compare to hers.
Once when we were visiting, I finally asked her what her famous meatloaf recipe was and she just laughed, saying she had no regular recipe. She tried a lot of different versions and often just threw together what ingredients she had in the refrigerator and pantry.
I think what my husband remembered was coming home in elementary school, after playing baseball in a vacant field all afternoon, to the aroma of meatloaf and potatoes for dinner. That makes more sense, actually. Our memories are so wrapped up in taste and scent.
When I prepare Thanksgiving dinner each year, it smells like my mom's kitchen. I make dressing like she did although she had not written the recipe down. However, I remembered her making it and found the same version in many old cookbooks. Easter dinner has two ingredients from my mother-in-law's kitchen... baked ham and creamy cheese potatoes. Always.
I started a new tradition for our family when we lived in Iowa (from where I also came away with a great church cookbook). I started making hors' dourves for Christmas Eve dinner, which we continued to enjoy most years the kids were home.
It provided an outlet for trying fun party recipes and they were easy to make ahead. Other holiday meals were pretty much set in stone but this one could be changed each year if I wanted. Although the creamy cherry cheesecake recipe became a permanent part of a few holiday meals.
Sometimes we don't have the legacy recipes but we continue the traditions of those who went before us. For instance, I like to make various kinds of candies and cookies for people at Christmas.
That idea came from my sister's mother-in-law who gave the best gift each Christmas... a tin of homemade candy. I can still remember how happy we were to receive it as my mom worked full time and didn't make such goodies. I didn't know Nina very well but her gift each year brings back fond memories of her.
Sometimes I wish my mother was here so I could ask her questions that were not important at the age I was when she passed away. I would love to ask her about my grandmother's jam cake and the story behind it, on what special occasions did they always serve that cake?
The whole idea of legacy recipes has been on my mind this week as I prepare the menu for Easter dinner and I'm looking through the card file for a couple well worn recipe cards. Time passes quickly and some of those recipe cards have been there for forty years.
I have a lot of my recipes on the recipe "blog" (which is not really a blog but a place I created long ago to park recipes I mention here). Feel free to peruse them!
As for today being St. Patrick's Day and all, Colcannon will be made for dinner... a tradition I started after my kids left home. So it is never too late to do something new. :)
Mentioned in this Blog Post
Coffee Tea Books and Recipes... here.