My grandmother’s recipe book

July 30, 2010 at 6:15 am Leave a comment

A small inauspicious notebook. Lined paper in a stapled notebook bearing yellowed edges, splotches of ingredients that spilled over from the mixing bowl.  Pages loose and pulled away from the staples that once held all the pages together. Written in pencil mostly, but sometimes a blue ink pen. Recipes taped in, but most of them hand written— recipes from her sisters, her daughters whom she taught to cook, and from  friends and neighbours.

My grandmother was a good cook, and my mother says, if a thing could be done fast, her mother could do it, but if it took too much time, she didn’t make it. Details are slim in this cookbook; it’s no literary work of art.  Much is assumed— that women knew how to mix and measure, that once they had the list of ingredients, maybe a few verbal instructions from the person sharing the recipe, that they could go home and make it. Recipes come in all kinds, many of them desserts, but occasionally a main course casserole. An exception to the usual recipes, there was one for wallpaper cleaner.

Recipes may have been shared after a Sunday dinner or over coffee. They might have come by way of a community dinner. Women cooked to feed their families and knew how to use the meat and produce they bought at market or the grocery store. Well, perhaps there were some who could not cook, but I haven’t known that to occur within my mother’s or my father’s families.

a page from Grandma’s cookbook

As I leafed through the fragile little notebook, I came across a recipe for Banana Butter used for cake filling. Evidently Grandma had tried this recipe and found it not to her liking. She drew an”X” across the recipe and wrote beside it, “No good.”

We’re gathering recipes for a family cookbook. One of Grandma’s all time favourites is tea biscuits. Mom shares that recipe and says that her mother was responsible for raising a bunch of good cooks, and she doesn’t only mean her sisters.

The book will contain anecdotes and photos as well. Excitement is mounting with family members waiting for the finished copy.  It’s a large project, with the gathering of material only part of the process. It’s worth doing, even if it takes tugging and calling to get some of those contributions. One thing for sure, future generations of the family will know that their ancestors liked to cook, and they will know the sort of dishes that people especially liked to make.


Entry filed under: writing family stories. Tags: .

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