After the death of a loved one some families make quilts from their loved one’s clothes. Other families compile memory books. I did something different for my family; I made a memory cook book. After my mother-in-law died my sister-in-law and I looked through her old recipe box. Actually, there were four boxes, and the recipes inside were grouped loosely into categories.
There were hand-written recipes, lots of newspaper and magazine clippings, and many duplicates. We threw out the duplicate recipes and saved family favorites – recipes that grandchildren and great grandchildren would enjoy. Reading the recipes brought back memories of family picnics, holiday dinners, and snacks Nana prepared for her three growing boys.
I typed the recipes (one per page) and compiled them in a three-ring notebook. The title of the book: “Favorite Recipes From Nana’s Recipe Boxes.” For the cover I used holiday stationery with a candy cane border. Each cover had a photo of Nana on it. To protect the recipes from splatters and drips I put them in plastic notebook sleeves. There were only 25 recipes so I didn’t index them. However, I did write a short introduction and it contained a story that is still clear in my mind.
Nana served Sunday dinner at 1 p.m. After one dinner she announced that supper would be cake and ice cream. I laughed because I thought Nana was kidding. But Nana, the only person I have ever known who would eat cold butter rolled in sugar, had a sweet tooth, and supper was just as advertised. We had huge bowls of French vanilla ice cream and hefty slices of yellow cake with Penuche frosting. What a memory.
Because the cook book was a glimpse of family history, I typed the recipes as Nana wrote them, including abbreviations such as “refrig” for refrigerator, and references to family members and friends. I grouped the pages into sets, put the pages in the notebooks, and tucked rubber spatulas inside. Then I wrapped the books in holiday paper and ribbon, and tied measuring spoons to each one.
So much love had gone into the cook books that I could hardly wait to give them to family members on Christmas morning. A few fancy gifts were exchanged , but my homemade gifts were the hit of the day. Family members told Nana stories as they paged through their cook books. If you are looking for a meaningful way to remember a loved one, think about compiling a memory cook book.
Your cook book will spark stories about the meals you have shared, and link the older generation with the younger. I didn’t have time to put more photos in the books, but a photo on each page would make the cook book extra special. Now you are probably wondering about the recipes. My favorite recipe is the one for fudge. Though I don’t make fudge, I love the ending. Here is the recipe, just as Nana wrote it so many years ago.
NANA’S FUDGE 1920
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. milk
2 sq. chocolate
1/2 t. salt
1 T. butter
1 t (teaspoon) vanilla
Mix and cook all ingredients except vanilla & nuts. When it boils up once lower the heat to a slow boil. After 5 min. begin testing for the soft ballstage (1/2 4sp. fudge in a saucer of ice water.)
When you can pick up a soft ball in 3 fingers it’s ready. Cook it 1 minute more. Remove from stove and cool completely before stirring. Add vanilla and nuts and beat until it looks [like] it’s glass and begins to set. Pour into a small square cake pan.
Cut when hard. (If it gets too hard add a few drops of cream at the end of beating.) Cut, enjoy. Save some for mother and dad. Be a good scout and clean up the kitchen afterwards.
Copyright 2006 by Harriet Hodgson
Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 28 years and is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Before she became a health writer she was a food writer for the former “Rochester Magazine” in her hometown of Rochester, MN. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from http://www.amazon.com. A five-star review of the book is posted on Amazon. You will find another review on the American Hospice Foundation website under the “School Corner” heading.
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