Nothing unites a group of women like family and church cookbooks do.
For the most part, cookbooks only take up space in cupboards. But they bring great joy when we find mouth-watering recipes, surround them, and then leave them in the dark for all eternity.
I recently came across a treasure – a family heirloom, really. It’s a cookbook that belonged to my husband’s grandmother, a kind, soft-spoken woman who was probably the most humble person I’ve ever known. (Maybe you get that way when your life of birthdays always lands on Christmas Day.)
The cookbook is a softcover three-ring binder filled with yellowed and tattered pages of recipes she collected from family and friends. Each recipe is written in its own handwriting, with source citations for each.
Although she left us over three decades ago, her cookbook is still here, giving us yet another reason to remember her and all the love she put into everything. she did for her family.
There are some interesting recipes. One is called “4-H Casserole”. Her “Butterscotch Pie” recipe is one her grandchildren would love to try again. Although some have tried, no one can make their caramel pie taste like it does. His recipes for “Pumpkin Pie” and “Eggless Plum Pudding” feature parentheses next to them that simply say “Momma”.
She even has some unusual entries: recipes to relieve arthritis and bad breath; for cleaning woodwork and windows, removing postage stamps, cleaning the coffee maker or kettle and removing insects from spring lettuces.
It’s interesting to flip through an old-fashioned cookbook – especially if you study the back pages (like I did when I cheated in the Map Skills class in fifth grade).
In fact, it could be seen today.
In a church cookbook, I found all sorts of wisdom: substitutions, herb guides, what to serve with various meats; ways to use leftovers, amounts needed to serve 100 people; sandwich fillings, easy snacks, how to lose weight, freezing prepared foods, removing stains from washable items, first aid tips and locating Bible verses to help feed our souls.
In another church cookbook I found a section called “Kitchen Cosmetics”. There are recipes for making facial cleansers, astringents, eye masks, hair highlights and conditioners, cuticle and skin softeners, and ways to get rid of dry, flaky skin. scaly heel and elbow…all using foods you find in the kitchen.
It pleases me a lot that using foods for beauty purposes, I can dwell on mayonnaise and avocado and never gain an ounce.
Mother Nature is a genius.
My own mother has a cookbook full of handwritten recipe cards. Didn’t enjoy it growing up, but used it again and again to help feed the corn shellers. I certainly appreciate him now – with his patience with me as I learned to follow a recipe.
I made cookbooks for our kids a while back. For our daughter, I found a sort of cooking album that had pages for writing recipes by hand, as well as pages for photos. I collected some recipes and wrote them in there, and invited her grandmothers to do the same. I’ve also included photos of her cooking or baking while she was growing up.
Our daughter says it’s one of her most prized possessions. I hope she passes it down to her daughter one day, with some of her own recipes hidden somewhere and pages splattered with her own brand of love.
When I created cookbooks for our boys, I decided to type them up to save time, and included some cooking tips I thought young farmer chefs should know (which I gleaned mainly in my own personal school of hard knocks). I finished more than halfway, when something went horribly wrong in the process, and I had to start over.
Back then, I might have needed a recipe for reassembling a laptop after my machine was sandwiched between the farmyard driveway and my angry hammer.
I settled for a margarita recipe, an ice pack, and a recliner instead.
Karen Schwaller brings “Table Talk” to The Land from his home near Milford, Iowa. She can be contacted at [email protected]