One of the things I did for Christmas was make scanned-printed-bound copies of my mother's cookbook, her well-loved, oft-repaired black book, as gifts for my brother and sister. It was her repository of recipes, tried and true, and perhaps never tried at all. Some are edited, or annotated: “good w/ peas instead of carrots”. Some were cut out of magazines or newspapers, glued into the black book, tried, and ripped off the very page - no good, bland, awful, never make this again! And some are part of the family history - Butterflied Leg of Lamb followed by Fruit Ice Cream? Yup, that sounds like dinner.
For me, reading it is a huge nostalgia trip. The Seven Layer Dinner is, I think, the meal that got served to Aunt Gertrude once - it didn’t cook long enough and the potatoes were raw. Then again, maybe it was the Lamb-Potato Casserole - that too has raw potato layered with the meat. That lamb-potato casserole also has the note “add 1 c. garlic”. I have to think that’s one clove, not one cup. The Duck with Lentils has this uncharacteristic note from the woman who didn’t generally cotton to fruit or other sweet notes in savory dishes: “more apple would be good”.
Lots of friends and relatives supplied recipes which made it into the book. There's a hand-written recipe for Shish Kebabs in my grandmother's hand, which Moky edited to “omit” the ground chili. Gigi - my grandmother - also appears with a recipe for Brownie's written out my handwriting, complete with that errant apostrophe.
Possibly the simplest recipe is Elizabeth’s Pork Chops:
Close together in
pan - cover
350 °F for an
hour or more
A couple of the printed recipes include pricing - a nod to the economizing housewife. The punch recipes are said to cost $15-$25 for fifty servings. And Lydie Marshall’s Poulet a la Grecque says that a 2 1/2 pound chicken will cost $1.42. Um, right. But the recipe sounds tasty - chicken and onions and tomato sauce and feta, baked and served on orzo.
Making the book was a labor of love - I scanned about 150 pages, made a half-assed (idiosyncratic and incomplete) index, wrote an essay of sorts, and uploaded the whole shebang to Blurb. But it was about my favorite gift that I gave anyone this year, and I had a third copy printed just for me - and for my daughter, one day.