Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: A cookbook of memories

I talk about my mom a lot on this blog, and if that makes you crazy, I'm sorry but I'm not. She's just a really spectacular lady and for all of our failures and fights, I could not have been any more blessed. As a queer person, I'm blessed that my mother (well, parents) love me (and Em) unconditionally. As a daughter, I've been blessed to have a mother that told me that getting dirty was just as important as knowing how to cook, and when I bristled at always having to wash the dishes as a tweenager, she didn't hesitate at all before she swapped my chores with my brother's and sent me into the backyard to mow the lawn. And as someone who aspires to be a homemaker, she inspires me to never stop moving and working, as she managed twice the workload of the average homemaker while working a full time plus job for close to 40 years.

As a teenager, I wasn't really interested in learning how to cook, but I remember the distinct moment when it became something I was intensely driven to do. I was an au pair in Switzerland and I was terribly homesick, and I decided that the best way to overcome this was to share the flavors and tastes of my childhood with the kids I was nannying. My mom e-mailed me recipes regularly, and has done so since then. I e-mailed her the other day because a work associate needed a great recipe for frosting, for example. My mom's incredibly organized, so I can count on her to have the recipe saved somewhere on her computer and it's just a quick copy and paste to send it my way.

A few years ago, though, she decided to turn my persistent requests for family recipes into a memory by using her burgeoning scrapbooking skills to make me a family cookbook. What could've been a rather rudimentary project turned into a family treasure that rendered me speechless and sobbing on Christmas morning when I unwrapped it. My mom took an old book, tore out the center, and proceeded to sew in new pages which she decorated with handmade and pre-made stickers and embellishments to match the recipe card she included on the page. The recipe cards were typed, including the family member responsible for the recipe and the date it was created, all finished off with a sweet twist of ribbon at the top. She used a festive, vintage-y pots and pans fabric to cover the book and accented it with cute ribbons and bows for decoration and function. She tried to include at least one recipe for every family member; the recipe was either their own creation...the turkey stuffing in the picture is from my great-grandma Marsh, she included my dad's favorite baked beans...or something that reminds me of a family member, like my cousin's favorite Christmas cookies. Finally, she included a sweet message at the end of the book reminding me of the importance of family, of shared recipes and heritage, and how we are always and eternally connected through these things no matter which direction the wind sends us.

I'm featuring this for Recipe Tuesday to remind you, and me, that some of the best recipes are not the ones you find buried deep in online recipe websites or in the cookbooks of famous chefs and cooks. The tastiest recipes are more often than not right under your nose, in the fibers and veins of your heritage, and something you can easily access with a little bit of creativity and coordination. I've started to collect recipe cards, vintage and brand new, to give to friends and family as gifts so that we can all chronicle the recipes that are deeply special to our interactions with the people we love. Food is what sustains us, and honoring it with a lovely family heirloom like my scrapbook, or including it in a letter to a long distance friend, is a fantastic way to keep our hearts and tummies full.


  1. this is a great post! your mom is a saint! the book is beautiful (wish my mom would make me something like that!) you should get a bunch of people together for a night of recipe swap...bring a card with a recipe and the food made from that recipe. it would be fuN!


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