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Family Recipes as Stories

If your family is anything like mine, you have inherited family recipes. Some of these were handed down directly from the creator, while others were gleaned from cookbooks, notes, and newspaper clippings after the relative had passed. In my case, my most treasured recipe from my Grandmother Ollie was given to me when I was first married. Now, mind you, my husband does the cooking and always has, but she gave it to me because she knew how much I loved it! It is THE staple of our Thanksgiving table: Grandmother Ollie's Cornbread Dressing. In fact, we only eat it on Thanksgiving and I won't even consider having Thanksgiving without it. (It is a good thing we reserve it for one holiday per year though since the two-part recipe calls for seven eggs and four sticks of butter!) My husband does an excellent job making it. We even have a giant stainless steel bowl that only comes out once a year when he makes the dressing! (BTW, I am always happy to share her recipe!)

Not long before my grandmother died, we were visiting Tennessee from California and I asked my granddad if I could look through her cookbooks and recipes. He was more than happy for me to do so and encouraged me to take any of them that I wanted. (That was dangerous! Remember the "book problem" that we have?) Well, even though I am not a cook (though I do enjoy baking), I have always loved cookbooks! In fact, my home office has two, 8'8" long shelves full! So needless to say, I took him up on the offer and shipped all of them home to California. It was (and is) so fun to flip through her cookbooks. She taped recipe clippings inside the covers of many of them and also hand wrote recipes there. Even though I had gotten my own copy of the Better Homes and Gardens NEW Cookbook, as a young newlywed, I wanted hers too. Her version (also NEW), was published in 1968 and includes separate tabs for "Casseroles and one-dish meals" and "Easy meals" which mine does not have, while my 1996 edition has separate tabs for "Beans, rice, and grains" and "Pasta" that were not in hers.

I also took her Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, where you can see images of the June-Cleaver-like wife cooking the meals and where I can find a cheesecake recipe on a slip of paper that my grandmother stuck into the vegetable section.

I couldn't find a copyright date, but the comparisons in the introduction of the book are between the kitchen of 1750 and the "kitchens of tomorrow" in the 1950s. In her copy of Southern Living: Our Best Recipes: First Collector's Volume published in 1970, she has hand-written the recipes for her delicious Christmas treats, Rocky Road Fudge and Marshmallow Fudge, inside the covers. These books are such a delight for me to look through and I do utilize them for recipes from time to time (even though my husband does the cooking, I am in charge of meal planning). Sometimes it is a challenge to use a recipe, such as the one for her famous Garlic Cheese Grits from the Southern Living book, which calls for "1 roll garlic cheese, which Kraft no longer makes!

My Granddaddy Walt (Ollie's husband) passed down to me a love of chopped salad (he would spend hours prepping it, chopping each ingredient up so finely -- it has spoiled me for salads ever since. I love how you get all of the flavors in each bite of a good chopped salad!). He also made the best cocktail sauce, which we had with boiled shrimp every year as a snack break during marathon Christmas Eve gift-opening sessions. I asked him for his recipe on several occasions and each time received a different version! My husband has perfected both the cocktail sauce and the chopped salad (though he cheats to make the latter by using a chopped salad cutter bowl that has groves in it and can be turned a few degrees between each cut).

My husband regularly makes several recipes passed down from each of our mothers as well, especially my mother's turkey meatballs and baked halibut, as well as my mother-in-law's meatloaf and roast pork tenderloin. All of them are so yummy! I hope that our son's palate will mature as he grows (I know mine did!) and that he will gain an appreciation and love for the recipes that have been passed down to us. I have so many wonderful memories and stories that are tied to these recipes (and many others!) and I hope that he will have those too (along with our stories that we tell every time we eat a certain dish!).

What are some of the recipes you have had passed down to you? What stories do they bring to mind?

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