A cookie recipe handed down from a loving mother can make a heaping batch of remembering the past.
I recently was involved in an occasion that demanded I bake a multitude of cookies. I wanted something simple, yet elegant; light, yet filling. I remembered a lemon cookie that my mother used to make 40 years ago. I thought it involved a lemon cake mix. First, I did what every cook does these days – I Googled it. I found a few lemon cookie recipes, but they didn’t seem quite right. So I decided to go to an authentic source – my mother’s recipe box.
First, I had to call my brother to be sure the box had made it through the various physical moves my mom had in her life – home in Maine, then home in Florida, then to an independent living center, then to a nursing home. And thankfully, yes, it had. It was still at our family summer camp. I got the keys to the camp and found the box and took it home.
I quickly found the cookie recipe, but then got waylaid by others and proceeded to read the entire box. What a great time it was.
Some were splattered by cooking stains. Some were newspaper clippings held on by yellowing plastic tape. Some were in my aunts’ handwriting, and most were personalized. I found Helen Pride’s sesame seed cookies, Hilda Robbins’ ham and pork loaf with mustard sauce, Leona Love’s white fruitcake, Mabel Hayes’ fish loaf and Rita’s mushroom business.
Often Mom had annotated them. The steak in the paperbag with the potato chips on top was a favorite of my sister-in-law Jane’s. Always add more cream and more shrimp to the sauce for the fish loaf. Be sure to use Coleman’s Mustard for the ham sauce. Sometimes she would add details like, “Add chicken chunks and another can of mushroom soup to the celery casserole to make it into a main dish.” Or “Try a sweet coleslaw and maybe broccoli with the Best Chicken Ever.”
Seeing my mother’s beautiful cursive handwriting on those small cards, reading her notes, smiling as I remembered each person mentioned in the recipes, brought her just a bit closer. She’s been gone six years this November.
Providing wonderful food in gracious surroundings was as natural to her as breathing. Her recipe box went with her each time she moved. It was part of her life as a wife, mother and homemaker.
I know most people will still use Google when they need a recipe. You do get to see many variations and some even have reviews and star ratings. I will too. If they are really good, sometimes I print one off and save it in my recipe files. But it’s not quite the same.
And by the way here’s the recipe for the lemon cookies. Combine one lemon cake mix with one small container of whipped topping and one egg. Form into balls and roll in powdered sugar. Bake at 325, for about eight minutes. And Mom added, “Watch carefully because they burn easily.”
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