I've always been attracted to old cookbooks. There is history in them. Cookbooks, and old recipes provide an aspect of history that isn't in the history books. You get a glimpse of people living life, preparing food, caring for families in years gone by; I connect with them, and discover that it helps me find ways to live my life by thinking of how they used to live, how they cooked how they over came problems, what brought them joy. What did they do well that we could still be doing today.? Have we forgotten the good things of days gone, with all of our conveniences and technologies? Have we missed something as we have run through our own hectic lives. I feel a common bond to homemakers of the past. In their cookbooks, recipes, notes and journals, they left us treasures from their lives that we can still enjoy.
My daughter in law, Himilce, is putting together a treasure box of recipes for our granddaughter, Eylse. She is filling it with recipes from all of the grandparents and relatives while she still has access to their lives. She has asked her own Mama and relatives, me, my mother in law, and my mom (before she had passed away) for recipes in their own handwriting, so that she can make a little recipe box for Elyse. Elyse won't understand the value of it for many years, but one day she will realize what treasures it contains.
I was going through some of my mom's recipes the last couple days. I would sit in the evening when we were finished from a day of decisions and sorting through all of Mom's stuff, and find comfort in looking through her recipes. It would get me choked up to see them in her handwriting and to see that she had actually written down many from my blog. I hadn't know that she had written them down, or that she was even interested in them. I wish she would have told me. It would have meant so much to me to know. But to find them later in her handwriting, seeing that she wrote "Pam's" recipe, was like she had spoken a sweet word of encouragement to me and I treasured it. In the group of recipes, I found a recipe of her grandmother; Grandma Nina. Here was a little nugget of gold in a stream. There was only one; it was like a tiny bit of ancestry had trickled through and reminded me of some of who I was, who I cam from. I wish I had known her. From what I hear, I think I would have really loved her.
I have a collection of old cookbooks; not super old, necessarily, most of them are from the 50's and 60's, but enough that I think of them as fine old friends. One book that I have is from the late 1800's. It is called "The White House Cookbook". My son and husband found it in an old trunk that was being thrown away about 20 years ago. Nathan still has the trunk, to this day, and I have the cookbook. there were other old pictures in it as well, and all of it was a marvel to us. The cookbook was written for young women in those days to learn the art of homemaking; everything they would need to know about homemaking, hospitality, entertaining, cooking, menu planning and more. It features special etiquette, menus, recipes, how to prepare meat, how to butcher meat and so on, with the emphasis of how these were done at the White House at that time.
As I have been looking through my mom's recipes, and planning which recipes I, myself, will write out for my granddaughter Elyse's collection, I felt impressed again to try to re-write my own recipes by hand and organize them, so that they can be left as a treasure for my own children some day. I don't think that while we are "doing" life that we realize the importance of a moment set a side to record "life" and "recipes" that mark history, joy, memory and love in such a way.
So here's a thought: Go buy yourself a new box of recipe cards. Pick out or order some that you really love, and start sharing some of your recipes with friends and family. Be ready to write and give a recipe when someone asks and share a little part of yourself in the process. I treasure the ones given to me over the years from my mom, my mother in law, and various friends and neighbors, all with the little worn out places, stains and spots, and all with their handwriting; a special memory of them.