I know I ran into them just recently, as I searched for something else. They were just here, and I remember thinking, “I’m going to need these soon, better not mislay them…”. After a search high and low, under the desk, in three different bookshelves, and everywhere they shouldn’t be, I finally found them: my family’s recipes.
I opened the old file card box gingerly, hoping this was the right one. There it was, right on top; the recipe for Frozen Fruit Salad, written in my mother’s neat hand. My oldest daughter had offered to make it for Christmas dinner, remembering that it was a traditional dish she hadn’t tasted often since her grandmother was alive. Cream cheese, bananas, pineapple, whipping cream, marshmallows, and maraschino cherries, all mixed up and frozen in a ring mold the day before the holiday. What’s not to like? Served on a leaf of lettuce, it’s a very 50s “salad”, but when I envision childhood Christmas dinners, I always see that on the table.
I hollered “Found it!” up the stairs, and when my daughter came to look, I asked her to type some of them into the computer so we could keep a digital file in case I lost them again. She leafed through the file and said, “Why don’t you just scan them? I like how they look; then we could keep them just as they are.”
In this computer age the first thing I thought about was cleaning up the recipes and making them readable and accessible. My daughter saw the history of them, and knew that we had to keep the original “documents”. As I looked through the file, I began to see more than just family food. There were recipes in many hands: my mother’s, both my grandmothers, aunts, and my young cursive from when I was not much older than my youngest daughter is now. There was even a recipe for sangria in my father’s handwriting. The recipes are written on different sized index cards, pieces of note paper, and backs of envelopes. Some are barely legible, some were painstakingly typed and saved, some were cut from magazines long gone. Most are not very healthy – full of butter and calories, they are still the tastes of my childhood.
My grandmother Mary McCarty Marburger’s famous peanut brittle. My grandmother Mary Nirider Jones’ fruitcake and sweet potato casserole and date black walnut cookies. My mother’s ice box chocolate cake and gourmet chili and braunschweiger ball. My daughters have missed out on much of this aspect of family history. Perhaps it’s not too late to dust some of these off, and serve up not only the food but the many layers of memories I have for each one.