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Family Recipes and DNA

Friday, December 28, 2018

A few days before Thanksgiving I had oral surgery. Give this girl an award for being so smart as to have oral surgery right before THE major eating holiday of the year. That is why my brother is a rocket scientist and I am not. So I decided that making Thanksgiving dinner was going to require help from the fam. The hubster was put on dish detail. Lucky guy. Son#1 was put on mashed potatoes. They were so freaking good, and about the only thing I could eat. He called them "hate-tatoes" because he said he used all of his inner hate to mash them. I am not sure why he has so much inner hate, but there wasn't one lump. It may have been that I wouldn't let him put "4077" on the handle of my antique potato masher in Sharpie. Get it? 4077 Mash? The youngest made the sweet potatoes. (Funny side note. He went for Thanksgiving at his girlfriend's the next day. He was horrified that their cranberries came out of a can. Mom wins!) Being the technological genius that I am, most of my recipes are stored on my tablet. Trying to have multiple people cooking different recipes at once sharing one tablet was frustrating.

So I came up with this brilliant idea, notice how all my ideas are brilliant? At least that is what I call them. Never rely on other people to stroke your own ego. Not when you can do such a good job yourself. Anyway, after Thanksgiving I made a holiday recipe binder to cover all the major holidays. Each holiday received an attractive menu page, a shopping list, and a separate recipe on each page. Then I pulled out my handy, dandy laminator, and 3-hole punch to preserve them. Do you know how easy that made Christmas? I didn't even have to send my husband on a last minute trip to the store to pick up all the items I forgot--because for once nothing was forgotten. Oh my word. This really was my best idea ever! (Another ego stroke there.)

It got me to thinking. You see, family recipes are important. They are a piece of the heart that ties generations together. That was never more apparent to me until after my mother died. She always kept her recipes in an old blue binder. A leftover from one of her children’s school days. Probably my brother Paul’s, as I don’t think he ever cracked a book open and his school supplies in June were still in the same pristine condition as they were the first week of school. What do you expect from a guy that wore no socks and a poncho in 40 below weather? In case you are wondering, Paul was not my rocket scientist brother.

While visiting my dad one day I went to look for one of her recipes. The cookbook was gone. Dad just shrugged like it was no big deal and said he had probably thrown it out. I was heartbroken, but tried not to show it. I didn’t want to add guilt to his grief.

Fast forward seven years later. Dad was going to move into an assisted living apartment. I was helping him pack. In a box in the back of the closet I found her cookbook. I sat there in his closet amidst his clothes clutching the old blue binder to my chest with tears streaming down my face. Here among the splattered pages were the well loved recipes that made up my childhood: Grandma Tatreau’s Cranberry Jewel Salad, the cookie recipe Grandma Hassel “stole”, and Mom’s Taffy Pumpkin Pie. Dozens of recipes lovingly copied in my mom’s and grandmother’s handwriting. This was more than a treasure trove of recipes. It told the story of their lives. Little notations made by my grandma such as “family favorite” and "Charlie really liked this one". Recipes that spanned my mom’s life as a frugal wife with a husband and 8 children to feed, to the inception of the bread machine, and finally to the healthy fare made to prolong the life of that same beloved husband who had survived a quadruple bypass.

If you have not documented your family recipes, you need to do so in order to keep them alive. Don’t let them be lost. Capture them now as a lasting legacy for future generations. Money gets spent. Toys get discarded and forgotten. If preserved, someday grandchildren will be making your recipes with their grandchildren. Family recipes, like DNA, create a lasting link between our past and their future.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I so agree with you on preserving the family recipes. I looked a long time for some of my maternal grandmother's recipes. I wished I had been old enough to cook with my paternal grandmother because it would have been great to make those dishes for Dad.
    I like to try new recipes and made note of the date and rate the recipe, adding comments if someone especially liked it or if I need to make changes to the ingredients.
    895 days ago
    lol. So much to love in this post. I'm so etching 4077 on my (newish) masher.

    I was the one who helped my grandparents cook when we were young, so, for christmas a couple years ago when my sister was going through a rough time financially, I bought her all the ingredients for our favorite dishes from them and wrote down recipes for each of them. She was in tears, pulling out familiar brands and remembering times when our family had shared the dishes together over the years. Wonderful. And instead of useless trinkets, she got useful meals.
    897 days ago
    emoticon glad to see you still here
    897 days ago
    That is a great idea! I bet those binders will be treasured for many years to come. For us though the problem is we measure nothing, we just do it. I learned watching my mom and my kid learn from watching me, but I just cannot get myself to measure out anything. We also don't bake since I think we all had issues with sugar so any cookies follow this recipe

    1.) Put your shoes on, grab your purse and head to the store whatever way fits your generation and finances (horse and buggy, walking, driving, or biking)'

    2.) Buy enough cookies, but so many that you have a ton of leftovers.

    3.) Put on lovely plate and splatter some flour on yourself. Tell everyone the "family" recipe is a secret. (kidding, we admit they are from the store).
    898 days ago
    Great idea to have a family cookbook on hand. There are a few things that I make on a regular basis and I know my kids would love to continue that tradition after I'm no longer able to. I have some of my mom's recipes as well but there are a few that I can't find. You made a great Thanksgiving out of a challenging situation - good for you!
    899 days ago
  • no profile photo CD15653250
    So glad you found the recipes. Love reading your blogs emoticon
    900 days ago
    What a treasure to find! I applaud you for taking the time to put together your own book. I've planned to do the same...for about six years now...but it hasn't happened so far. Hopefully, you'll be the motivation I need to get it done. I'm so happy that you're back on Spark. You've been missed!
    900 days ago
    So very glad you found your Mother's recipe book, that is a gold treasure! No such history in my family. I grew up on packaged food. Can't blame Mom, she was too busy working three jobs. My grandma just gave us those packages when she babysat us. Their background growing up on a trapline means the food was simple, cook the meat you hunt and make stew or soup with whatever they could forage. They had sugar rarely and flour so the bare minimum was made (they were poor and depended on donations from the American hunters and fisherman that came through. My chef niece may be the start of a tradition if she someday starts a family.
    901 days ago
    I immediately thought of my mother's recipes written on index cards in her own hand and the ones she received from her mother and my father's mother. They are priceless! So many memories! She used words like "Super" and "Fantastic" to rate each recipe!

    Thanks Julia for a thought provoking and memory evoking blog! Love this!


    901 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/29/2018 6:26:49 PM
    What a beautiful story - and reminder. So glad you found your mother's cookbook. I could really relate - my aunt's recipe for carrot cake is lost to me because my handwritten copy faded to the point of being unreadable. She is no longer able to communicate so can't reconstruct it for me and, so far, have not been able to locate another copy in the family. There is a small chance there is a copy buried somewhere in the hundred's of recipe cards still in my Mom's cupboard...

    Another idea to share... as a shower gift for my niece prior to her wedding, my sister and I sent/gave several recipe cards to each family member on both sides and requested their favorites. We put them in a recipe box and gifted it to her.
    901 days ago
    901 days ago
    901 days ago
    Wonderful blog, Julia. It’s given me inspiration for a blog of my own, so many thanks for that.
    Family treasures like recipes are just so precious.
    emoticon emoticon
    901 days ago
    I emoticon this blog Julia!!! I, too, value my Family Recipes. I have recipes from my Great-Grandmother (who came here from Germany when just a child), my Grand-mother, my Mom, several from friends who gave them to me at one of my Wedding Showers, etc.

    I love your idea of dividing them into Holidays and including shopping lists, etc. What a great way to take some of the stress out of meal preparation (and cookie making).

    901 days ago
  • no profile photo CD23858752
    I enjoyed your blog. You have a great sense of humor.
    902 days ago
    Julia, thank you for your beautiful (and funny) blog.


    902 days ago
    Another interesting blog Julia. Even being a man could relate. I agree with the cranberry can, booo hoooo! The only cranberries I like is GLBH makes with fresh cranberries and oranges, ground. Nice that all pitched in to help. Skeeter
    902 days ago
    OH my word. My most precious possessions include: family recipes (YES! They are in a binder used for school!), my Grandma's recipes in her handwriting, her heart shaped pan for cakes and her iron skillet. Such memories. It's like she's there with me when I cook!

    Glad you got your family recipes!

    902 days ago
  • LINDA7677
    Thanks for sharing. My mom was a terrible cook but my grandma cooked for royalty in Hungary in the early 1900's. I still use her stuffing recipe.
    902 days ago
    I made dinner rolls today for our family feast at our son's on Sunday. I used a recipe my mother gave me. The stuffing I will make tomorrow is my grandmother's recipe. I just may have to use your idea. emoticon
    902 days ago
    I was lucky enough to inherit my grandmother's cookbooks. No one else wanted them. I got the cookbooks and a dented stainless steel mixing bowl. I got what matters.
    902 days ago
    Julia I am so glad you found it!!!

    Oh no I keep mine in a binder too! I like your idea much better! I need to get to work on that!

    902 days ago
    Wow, Julia, GREAT IDEA! You rock!
    902 days ago
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