Thursday, January 21, 2016

Profiles in Cooking

Cooking is my passion, a hobby since I was a kid. My family believes this love was handed down from my grandmother, Sadie. Watching her prepare a meal and bake for others, it was clear her efforts were about more than making a meal.

She wanted you to be happy.

 Early on in our dating relationship, my husband learned that if Sadie offered you a piece of pie you had to answer carefully. “No thanks,” earned you a normal sized slice.  “Sure, I’ll have some pie,” earned you a slice as big as one-fourth the pie! We’d chuckle over it, but always understood it was a way to show her love.

When my mother (who doesn’t like to cook) said she had my nana’s old cookbook since her passing and did I want it, right away I said yes.

She delivered THE RUMFORD COMPLETE COOKBOOK by LILLY HAXWORTH WALLACE (a lecturer and writer on home economics).

A tattered volume was held together by scotch tape on the binding. The original copyright was 1908, but this edition had been printed by the Rumford Company of R.I. in the year 1934. The pages had yellowed from age. Some had torn edges. Others had food stains.

On several blank pages, she’d handwritten recipes. Just seeing her handwriting brought her back to me for a few minutes. I miss having her in our lives and it's hard to believe she'd been gone twenty years. 

As I read through the book, it was the simplicity of the recipes that grabbed me. My personal belief is that sometimes the best dishes are made with the fewest ingredients. Cooking in 1939 appeared to be uncomplicated and basic. Then it struck me how, like everywhere else in life, things have become more complex so why how we cook.

Nostalgia lead me into my own cabinets, where I found the first cookbook I ever owned…The BETTY CROCKER COOKY BOOK, given to me by my mother’s friend back in 1972 (at age thirteen) for Christmas. The gift was a treasure not only for the content. It mattered to me that someone noticed how much I loved cooking. Condition-wise, this, too, is well on its way to the same fate as my grandmother’s recipe book. The type of wear and tear that comes from giving something too much attention.

Life changes. The cookbooks in our house chronicle more than just food trends. They say something larger about the world around us and even our own lives. And when I think about my relationship with cooking, I see how—like my grandmother—cooking is one way I let the people I care about know it.

Got any cookbook treasures in your closet?

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