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.


Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

I learned to make sage stuffing from my grandma, by helping every Thanksgiving when I was a young girl. I still make like she did. I also have her Carrot Cake recipe, and her Pumpkin bread recipe.

As a family, my kids have the recipe I have used to make pizza crust, scones, holiday tea.

Passing recipes down through a family is a wonderful heritage!

Vee said...

Well that’s just it! Mr. Coffee... can not have your meatloaf dinner until he plays baseball for at least an hour! 😃

The way you have your recipes organized makes a lot more sense than my way. I may have to take a few hours to do some reorganizing. Thanks a lot!

Now I am worried that your family doesn’t know how to make your Banana Pudding. You must get some of those recipes in your memory written down on paper.

I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but my own mother had her secret recipes and, even though we have “a recipe,” often it does not come out like hers. My sister and I are on our own trying to replicate our childhood meals and desserts. (I have decided it is extra sugar and butter, even though I see that you have reduced the sugar in the pumpkin bread by an entire cup.)

Another cozy Saturday afternoon read. I do especially look forward to your weekend posts.

Anonymous said...

I love old recipe boxes! Thanks for sharing this! After my Mom passed away, my daughter (who enjoys cooking more than I do) went through all my Mom’s cookbooks and recipes, deciding which ones to keep. My sister-in-law asked for some of her recipes, too, (my Mom loved to try new recipes all the time!) and was honored when I sent her a few of my Mom’s handwritten ones. They really are a special kind of legacy! The stories that go with them are an added bonus, too!
Have really appreciated all your posts recently, even though I haven’t commented on each one. Just want you to know that your blog is one of my favorites!
Hugs and Blessings,
Laura C.(WA) said...

I can read a cookbook with as much delight as any good read! When we moved my MIL into assisted living this year, I made sure to rescue her boxes of recipes and well worn church cookbooks. What a treasure trove.
To this day, when I make a pie, I hear my mother's words in my head. Another treasured memory.

Anonymous said...

Brenda, you know which recipes in those church cook books were used but do all of your family? And the stories behind them? I put a large sticky note [but also taped} in the front page of a couple recipe books and told my kids about it. I listed the recipes I used out of it and wrote any information by the actual recipe including any changes I made to the original recipe. Also the date I first used it. Looking back I have actually seen recipes I had forgotten I had tried!! :) I rated each recipe so I could look back and see how well we liked it. Since a certain cookbook was mainly used later each child wanted their own copy of it when they married. It took a while but we located copies. I put a note in each listing the recipes and page number of the recipes they loved growing up.
Don't forget to write down all those 'recipes' we store only in our heads so the next generation will not have to keep wondering just how you made it. My recipe box is over flowing..I need to get another too...thanks for the thought! Sarah

Melissa said...

Yes, this post brings back lots of memories! For years I could not replicate my MIL's Holiday rolls, even though she gave me her recipe. I now finally have a finished product that is equal to hers after lots of trials and error from an older sister-in-law that had many more years of experience working side by side with my mother-in-law.
Now I'm on the hunt for that Plum Jam recipe from my husband's grandmother that used her own plums from Grand Rapids, Michigan!

Anonymous said...

Living so far away (a continent) from the most of our grandchildren, and rarely getting there to visit, one thing hubby and I are working on is a book...he on our faith path mostly...mine about my mom and her parents who were the salt of the earth...and also I am continuing my work on a "someday" deal with the allergies in our family...and maybe one day will help others on our path as well. Some recipes are pretty well "done" now...others still being tweaked. Some of the common ingredients for those with our issues, I am allergic to, as well as some of our it means a lot of trial and error as to finding ways to make food truly yummy as well as nutritional. I like your ideas as ways to continue the legacy of your families, via recipes...a great idea I think!! Years ago, after my beloved grandma passed away, and she was a superb cook...but probably mostly just in about a dozen of her most common I went through her recipes and put together some booklets for us and our kin, as well as where the recipes came from and other memories of my mom even sent to her cousins...who also appreciated receiving them.