The Quest to Attain a Complete Family Recipe Book

13 Mar

A rare artifact from my mother's kitchen - battered, bruised, but full of delicious potential.

It’s a wonder any recipes get passed on from one generation to another in our family.

Let me first say that our family is, in my opinion, supremely skilled in the kitchen.  We don’t do fancy things, and we don’t do particularly healthy things, but if you’re looking for some tasty, warming, homestyle yumminess, we can rock it pretty hard.

The only problem is attaining the original recipes.

From my understanding, the majority of my mother’s most delicious recipes are either directly passed down from or are a derivative of something my grandmother makes, which are mostly passed down from her mother.  I assume this is the case in most families of good cooks, but I think that the fact that any artifacts survive through our blood line is phenomenal – because the original recipes usually can’t be found anywhere.

When I ask my mother how to make something, she uses imaginary units of measurement.  Her reference to things like “a little”, “some”, and “a bunch” leave me in quite a gray area. I’m a planner – I like to plan.  So to have all the necessary ingredients gathered and to be told to put them in the sauce “until it looks right” just isn’t gonna swing it for me and my type A personality. In fact, the only way I learned how to make her super awesome spaghetti sauce was by watching her make it over and over again.    There is simply no other way to do it – the woman makes the spaghetti sauce base, and then pours all the spices and goodness on top, measuring it by “how it looks”.

Even when I manage to find a scrap of paper with true measurements on it, my mother mentions casually that it’s just a  guide and doesn’t actually reflect the amounts used in the food I grew up on.     Which basically means it’s useless.

So the only way to attain super awesome family cooking skills is to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen,  huddled over my mother’s every move.  It’s not an exact science, but it sure is an intricate one.  And if you stick it out, you’ll come away with a book’s worth of recipes, safely sealed within your head.

So this weekend I’m at home, brushing up on my imaginary units of measurement and making sure the amounts in my old school favorites “look right”.    Yesterday, I had the pleasure of finding a real, genuine recipe that I actually saw mom referencing during her preparations.   I got excited and thought maybe she was looking at something that was able to be copied and taken away for a new start to the family recipe library.  If true references actually exist, perhaps I could be the first in the family line to actually create a comprehensive guide for them!

But after I had hung out in the kitchen long enough, I realized she was just brushing up on something she’d made a thousand times.  And after helping her through the process, I feel pretty confident that I can replicate the deliciousness we created.

And I started thinking – maybe I don’t actually want to write all these things down.  I mean, I kind of like that in order to master a family favorite, I have to put in the face time.  It’s a great bonding experience, it’s a good time, and it’s really the only fair way for me to inherit all these awesome foods.  After all, why should I just be freely handed information that took three generations before me hard time in the kitchen to acquire?  It’s one of the few things in this world that’s still old school and lovely, and I like that.

Come to think of it, maybe there’s a method to my mother’s madness. 


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