Saturday, September 5, 2009
MEMORIES IN A RECIPE BOX
Despite my not-so-recent pledge to place housework on a lower (and I do mean lower) rung on my ladder of priorities, I nonetheless heard my mother’s voice: “When’s the last time you cleaned these kitchen shelves?” You don’t want to know the answer to that question, but you might be interested in the result. Among my cookbooks I came across the little wooden recipe box that was part of our 1957 Home Ec. equipment requirements. Now I’m not particularly nostalgic about that box, I sure am about its contents. Sure, it contains a 40-year collection of recipes, but more important, it contains memories. From Aunt Dorothy, the most outgoing of my dad’s sisters, there’s Marshmallow Liho Liho, a calorie-laden, decadent homage to Cool Whip® that contains nothing that hasn’t been canned, dried, or packaged. Never made it, but every time I look at that recipe, I think of Dorothy’s warm and wonderful laugh and her obvious enjoyment of life, all the way through the two years she lived following her double leg amputation. Had Mary, my next door neighbor lived, she’d now be into her 100’s. I still miss Mary. She loved to have family over and to Mary, everyone was family. Her recipes had two requirements: easy and fast. Example: 10 oz. currant jelly, 3 T. prepared mustard, and 1 lb. cocktail wieners. Combine jelly and mustard in a 4 c. glass container and zap in micro on high for about 3 min. or until the jelly melts. Beat in the mustard to blend. Toss in the wieners and serve in a chafing dish. Oh gosh; there’s Pete’s recipe, written in his labored scrawl. Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites but that’s an ideal world I didn’t inhabit. Pete qualified for “Ms. W’s. fave” not only because, despite his multiple handicaps, he worked so hard, but also (mostly?) because he had the sunniest disposition of any kid I ever knew. He also loved to cook. Well...maybe “cook” is too broad Pete’s talents lay more in the area of combining things. His fave? Frozen bananas: Melt some chocolate chips. Peel some bananas. Poke ‘em on a stick. Dip ‘em in the melted chocolate. Place on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Pop ‘em in the freezer. Krupnik from my ex-sister-in-law; lemon florentine salad from a colleague at parochial K-9 school at which I first taught; Knox Blox, a favorite treat of my daughter’s childhood. There are probably 150+ recipes in that little brown box, but none starts the gears of my memory movie quite so readily as my autumn favorite - vegetable beef soup. My mom made this as soon as the autumn weather hit. I’d come home from school to a kitchen redolent with the savory smell of browning beef, to which she’d add water, dried onion, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and barley. After simmering for a couple of hours, the pot would be ready for the carrots and strained tomatoes. Some cooked Kluski noodles and fresh, crusty bread made for one terrific meal. Neighbors and family pass on, colleagues lose touch after retirement, friends move. But all of these people still live in my recipe box. It’s cool in Minneapolis today. I think I’ll go brown some beef. I can clean those shelves some other time.