My sister and I were hanging out at her house Sunday evening, just gabbing, making fun, laughing and all that good kind of stuff that sisters do. She fed me a homemade ice cream sandwich, made with homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with not-so homemade ice cream and a good sprinkling of extra chocolate chips.
And I felt no guilt whatsoever eating all of that sugar and deliciousness, because it was delicious, and I had been to the gym two days in a row!
After I enjoyed my ice cream cookie sandwich, we sat at her table. Suddenly, she got up and walked away and just as quickly returned with a recipe box which she plopped in front of me. I opened it up and found…
A big smile spread across my face and I dug in. And my grandma came flooding back in my mind. See, my grandma had a way with recipes. She didn’t just have recipes, she collected them. She clipped them and she copied them. She made notes on them where she made adjustments to the measurements or process. Many of the recipes had a handwritten note to remind Grandma that she’d made a particular dish or dessert for a birthday party or an open house.
Wherever possible, Grandma would make note of who the recipe had originated with and she would often write whether it was good, or VERY good. She was also sure to document if a recipe was similar to another recipe she already had in her possession, as I realized when I came across the recipe for Scotcheroos which included a note stating, “O’Henry Bars,” which were one of Grandma’s standards!
I remember the Sundays we’d spend at my grandparents’ house and I remember looking at her recipes back then too. Sometimes Grandma would ask me to copy a recipe or two for her. Obviously, she asked my cousins to do the same when they visited too. So many of the recipes were neatly printed in a child’s writing. I loved to look through Grandma’s recipes even when I was a kid. The cards held the names of people in my grandma’s life, people I didn’t know. I tried to picture them based on their names. What kind of cakes were made by a woman named Agnes? Just how good was Beulah’s white bread? Just how short was Shorty Neumann and where did he learn to make dill pickles?
My grandma was green before being green was the thing to be. She wrote her recipes on scraps of paper, recycled index cards that my aunt brought home from her office job, and even… bank deposit slips.
My sister had just one small box of Grandma’s recipes. It was just one of the many Grandma left behind when she died. By the time my grandma passed away, she had box upon box of recipes she’d transcribed and collected over the years. And when Grandma’s children divided her possessions among them, my mom was either lucky enough or smart enough to find herself in possession of the collection.
There wasn’t anything my grandma couldn’t cook or bake. We loved her stewed chicken and a particular salad she made just for us kids, with lettuce, apple slices and mandarin oranges. But if you take a look through all of those recipes, you’re not likely to find most of Grandma’s standards documented on an index card. And all of those boxes mostly contained recipes for desserts anyway!
Looking through Grandma’s recipes brought her back to me and brought me back to her kitchen, where I’d kneel on a chair and watch her knead bread dough or prepare her delectable cake doughnuts. Sometimes she’d be mixing up a batch of our favorite no-bake peanut butter balls, letting us kids help measure, mix and stir and then roll out the balls on a cookie sheet. Many times, she’d be cooking up a banana or chocolate pudding to pour in graham cracker pie crust. Grandma knew how much we loved her goodies and there was never a shortage when we went to visit; never a shortage of treats accompanying us on our ride back home again either. Grandma loved us well and in many ways, but we sure liked how she loved us up with her home-baked treats.