Sunday, July 17, 2011

History In Recipes

At Mother's Day I wrote a post lamenting the fact that I had never met my mother-in-law.  As Weber remembers stories about her he shares them with me.  And as we unpack more boxes at the house, things that she owned, made, and collected are surfacing.  With each discovery comes another opportunity to come to know a woman whom I greatly admire and will never meet.

Today's discovery was her cookbook.  You know the one; we all have one just like it.  Most of us got it as a wedding present  - The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook or the Joy of Cooking or something similar.  There is no doubt that the information in these cookbooks has been a lifesaver at least once in our cooking careers, but it is the recipes that have been clipped from newspapers or handwritten on now yellowed paper and stuck inside the book's cover that give us real insight into the woman behind the cookbook.

My mother in law's cookbook is titled Household Searchlight Recipe Book, published in 1938 by The Household Magazine in Topeka, Kansas.  I have not yet had time to digest all that lies within the pages of this book.  I am looking forward to all that it has to offer.  Today I want to share one of the first clippings thatI I found when I opened the book.

Right inside the front cover, on that characteristic yellowed paper that I spoke of earlier, is a collection of favorite recipes from the First Christian Church of Carrollton, Texas.  It is an example of what desktop publishing looked like in 1975.  On the first page of that collection is the following:
At a time when this country is mourning the passing and celebrating the life of Betty Ford, I found this to be a synchronistic finding.  If you are interested in cooking like a first lady, here is Betty Ford's recipe.

Mrs. Gerald Ford's recipe for
(Quick Cooking)

2 ruby-red grapefruit
1/2 whole cranberry sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 fryer, disjointed
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine

Peel and section grapefruit, squeezing all juice from membranes into saucepan.  Add cranberry sauce, honey, cloves and salt, mixing well, then bring to a boil.  Stir in grapefruit sections.  Brown chicken in butter in fryer, then place in a shallow baking dish.  Baste with grapefruit sauce.  Bake in 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes, basting frequently.  Serve chicken with remaining grapefruit sauce.  Serves 4.

I'm amazed at how many of our memories reside in food, both that we liked and disliked.  How many times have you heard someone say something along the lines of "Do you remember that awful jello casserole with the cottage cheese and walnuts that Aunt Lulu made?'  Or, "I have grandma's chocolate chip cookie recipe but they just don't taste the same when I make them."  I remember thinking the first Christmas after my mom passed away how much I missed the jar of bread and butter pickles made from cucumbers from my dad's garden that she always gave me at Christmastime.  And now I'm on the hunt for her cole slaw recipe.  Cole slaw was something that I didn't care for as a child so I never asked her for her recipe.  Now I love the stuff!  Go figure!

To all of you cooks out there who make a family favorite that has become a tradition, make sure you write it down.  Stick it in the front cover of your "work horse" cookbook.  It will make someone smile once you are gone.  I promise!