Got some nice responses to my editor’s page in January about my mother’s recipes. Clearly, the preservation of what one reader calls “heritage” recipes is a high priority with folks who have aging parents. Here’s a taste:
I told my daughter the other day I am going to have to video the process of making some of my relatives’ dishes as there are no words to really explain how much flour to add to egg yolks to make these little egg drops that go in my mom’s potato soup, or how my aunt would squeeze the dough between her hands to plop out a roll. Hopefully they can tell by seeing it. I learned by feeling it.
My most special recipe is the handwritten recipe for my grandmother Margaret Coulter’s butter cookies. The recipe was lost for quite awhile after Grandma passed away and once I found it, I worried that the memory of the cookie might be better than the actual cookie. Fortunately, I was wrong. It is a simple recipe and one I now prepare with my own grandchildren each holiday season.
What’s in my treasured recipe? Grandmother’s sugar cookies. She was a handful-of-this-and-a-pinch-of-that cook and I come from the have-to-have-a-recipe school of cooking. I have fond memories of following her around her kitchen asking her to put her “handful of that” into a measuring cup so I could get the recipe. Of course, it took several times to get this so I got to eat those delicious cookies several times.
Allegany, New York
Whenever my grandmother traveled she would befriend the chefs at the hotels she stayed at and somehow manage to get their secret recipes. One of our family favorites, which I make for every holiday, came to me in her handwriting. It’s a cranberry sauce with a special twist.
My Aunt Rose didn’t have any children of her own, and my mother—her niece—did not inherit her baking and cooking gene. Fortunately, I did. As she aged, she started to write out some of our favorite recipes in her pristine, school-teacher handwriting on pieces of paper and recipe note cards. While not all of them made it to me, perhaps the most important one, her famous apple pie, did. This apple pie was the ONLY pie my family would eat. She would actually bake it and ship it from her home in Rhode Island to us in Cleveland (Ohio) so we could partake in this treat a few times a year.
I now attempt to replicate this pie once a year on a special occasion. I’m getting better at the crust, but I haven’t come close to Aunt Rose’s flaky goodness.
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Every Saturday night my mother would start her roast in an electric skillet. We’d wake up to the same yummy smell every Sunday!!! After church we’d eat together. I make her roast now in a crock pot several times a month. The smell still brings me back to waking up in my lavender-and-white-checked room with pink foam rollers in my hair.
Mississippi native living in southern Louisiana.
I am right in the middle of compiling heritage recipes from my mom and my mother-in-law. My mom grew up near Memphis and my mother-in-law in New Orleans, so the family recipes are delicious. My plan is to create a book to share with all the grown up grand-kids—I have scanned many of the handwritten recipes and related photographs already. Many of my friends are fascinated and asking how I am going about it.
I was amused to find your reference to your mother’s frozen-strawberry topped cheesecake. It was probably the same as my mother’s. While I have substituted a fresh-fruit topping, I have remained faithful to the recipe for the cheesecake and crust. Frankly, nothing comes close in terms of creaminess and flavor. It is still one of my go-to favorites. I treasure all of my mother’s recipes, regardless of source, even though many would not qualify as the kind of fine dining I prefer.