Most people have a few keepsakes. A piece of jewelry passed on through generations, a box of old love-letters, something meaningful that reminds us of our heritage or a special person. I have a few such items myself, but readily admit, my most cherished keepsakes are old recipes.
I was able to get my Grandmother’s old recipe box after she passed, and I have poured over it again and again. What I love about old recipes is their ability to live on through generations. Whenever I make Grandma’s corn pudding for Thanksgiving, it reminds me of her. It is a way of passing on a heritage of food to my family, as well as remembering people who cooked that same recipe years and years ago.
My husband’s family has traditional foods as well passed on from generations. A cranberry Jello salad is popular at holiday meals in his mother’s home. I have made it on occasion and always look forward to sharing that tradition with his family as well. It is fun to combine foods from both our pasts into the traditions of our own family.
My Mom’s folks lived up the road from us as we grew up. I have many memories surrounding food with them. Grandpa had a huge electric cooker. I remember him cooking it full of creamy corn chowder and inviting us all over for dinner. I have his recipe…clipped from a newspaper with his scratchings on it. My Grandma would invite me and my sisters over on occasion to bake. We made incredible old-fashioned molasses cookies with her, bread shaped into bunnies for Easter, and she taught me how to make pie crust for Dutch apple pie. Several times, all of my siblings and I got to make a batch of root beer with my grandparents. It was the real stuff with yeast, tons of sugar, and root beer extract. I have not had any Root Beer that good since my childhood.
As my blog post on the Food: One of the Most Unifying Tools in the Hands of Homemaker states, food has a way of creating memories and can be used as a tool to bring people together. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I find myself drawn to old family recipes. It is also a way of learning about history and culture. My Dad makes his own venison jerky. It is unlike anything one can buy at the store. The jerky Daddy makes is like a piece of edible history. It can take me back to the pioneer days when drying meat was the best way to preserve it for a long trip.
Old cookbooks and recipes are incredible finds. I recently read through a vintage Fannie Farmer cookbook. It was not only fun to read, but educational to see the perspective on food a hundred years ago. Quality food was very important, now a box of hamburger helper is considered food. In the time of Fannie Farmer, ground meat like hamburger did not even exist! There is a recipe about how to make Hamburg meat. It involved hand chopping chuck. Food preparation and eating has certainly changed through the generations.
I love to see my grandma’s notes and yellowed, soiled recipe cards. One card alone tells a story of meals cooked and served. I can see grandma cooking on the stove with her recipe on the counter and grease from her pan spits on the card. Now grandma is gone, but I have that card and grease spits on it from my stove.
My sentiment toward recipes may seem silly to some, but old recipes are keepsakes that have incredible value to me. They are very personal to an individual and family, as well as a beautiful way to incorporate heritage and build memories into one’s own family. I look forward to continuing my cooking journey through some of grandma’s old recipes!