Growing up, my bedroom somehow became the family library. I didn’t just keep stacks and rows of my own books. I had all my Dad’s old books, pulled from all the very strange places they’d been stashed around the house, mother’s college textbooks, others that had somehow gotten mixed in… you get the idea.
Originally, I just happened to be one of those kids who read lots and lots of books. They piled up. Later, I found Dad had the sequels to books I’d been reading… somewhere. I may never understand how random books wound up in disused cupboards, corners of the wall unit with old clothes and dishes, with others in the basement, the attic, and so on. I think it has to do with housekeeping. When putting things away, where do you put an object you never quite made a place for? Mom’s old books wound up in all the same odd places, and somehow, it all just filtered it’s way into my room. I dusted them off, made places for them, and generally kept them from winding up in any more junk piles. It’s always fun to watch my parents bicker over which of them a book belongs to. (“It must be yours!” “No, it’s yours!”)
A couple of years ago, I hit the motherlode (at least for an artsy pack-rat nerd who spends too much time baking). I was given my great grandmother’s handwritten cookbook, which had previously been hidden away on top of a refrigerator in Florida.
I never knew my great grandmother, but I’ve heard stories of how wonderful she was from my Mom and Aunt. And this is just amazing. At first, it was a bit of a disappointment to find that she never wrote down the recipes I’ve heard so much about. But I’ve come to realize that she had no reason to write down recipes she made weekly or more. The recipes in this book are the ones she didn’t make often, and that she would have considered special. Like wedding cake. This cookbook is a stream of interesting things from another time, in large flowing script, littered with cutouts from boxes and newspapers, things she saved for one reason or other. I’ll never know how many of them she actually tried, but I have clues in the form of splashes and other use marks.
It can be hard to follow sometimes, mainly because times have changed. A recipe labeled “Brownies” turned out to produce something more like fudge, and I’m not quite sure what “Pot Cheese” is. Unlike my aunt, who actually got to know my great grandmother, I don’t know her speech patterns, or any unusual names she might have had for things.
The book has spent most of the past year languishing in a fire safe. I’ve been so scared of damaging it with my grubby little hands. But this afternoon I’ve pulled it out from it’s hiding place to take fresh scans of it’s pages. I’ve been meaning to put them online for the rest of my family. In the process, I’m remembering how lucky we are to have it.