Seasoned with Love
By Lois Hoffman
Remember the family cookbook that I started back in January? Well, six months later I have learned a few things about “recipes.” It is amazing the variety that I have. I asked for heritage recipes and what I received have exceeded my wildest expectations. They run the gamut from sugar cream pie that you stir with your fingers to homemade marshmallows to skillet cake baked in cast iron and beyond.
At last tally, my recipe count was a little over 300. These included the normal comfort foods such as homemade mac and cheese, different versions of meat loaf, and new twists on brownies, to name a few. Banana bread was the hands-down favorite, as this was the most popular one I received and, amazingly, they were all a little different.
Some of these family favorites will also pose a challenge for anyone trying them. Many of these heritage recipes come with directions straight from Grandma’s kitchen — with her unique measuring system, too. A dash of this, a pinch of that, a “reasonable” amount of that — the measurements (or lack of) are the purest example of how folks used to cook. Recipes were passed down from generation to generation, with a few tweaks along the way. No need for exact measurements, because kids learned by watching and doing and passing it on.
I didn’t test each recipe and try to figure out measurements. To do so would be to take the character away from each submission. Besides, who am I to impose my interpretation on each family’s tried and true? Many of you will make your own educated guesses and then adjust it to your particular tastes. You will remember what Grandma’s signature dish tasted like and eventually you will tweak the recipe to come pretty close to hers. Obviously, each particular recipe brings back a particular memory or you wouldn’t have submitted it.
After collecting the recipes, I had two options for submitting them. I could let the company enter them on their submission forms or I could type them in using their online program. In the interest of saving more money on the cost per book, I chose to type them in. After all, how hard could it be? That was my thought before the reality of it actually set in. The plan was to do this during the lingering winter evenings and have the last few to finish up this summer. Well, you know what they say about best laid plans!
Here it is midsummer and the garden is growing and the gentle breezes are blowing and I have 300-plus recipes on slips of paper, in e-mails, and in text messages waiting to be entered. Well, last week I thoroughly cleaned house, you know the kind where you pull all the furniture out and vacuum behind it as opposed to running a couple passes in front of it. I despise dusting, after all it is futile since it always returns. Every knick knack is thoroughly spit shined. When I was home, I used to trade out chores with my sister so I wouldn’t have to wash windows. Ugh. Windows are washed.
Literally, I did everything that I could think of to get out of the typing. However, it soon came a time that I couldn’t procrastinate any longer. Then something magical happened. As I started typing each recipe, I thought about the person who submitted it, how I knew them, and why they chose each submission. But the real clincher was the notes. I had asked folks to include the stories behind the recipes. Some of these stories relate tender memories that will trigger those same reactions with other family members and friends.
Many of the notes included stories about how a particular recipe was a special part of Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions for the family. Others related childhood memories that centered around a particular food. Food is very much a part of a family’s heritage. A friend from Pennsylvania related how making homemade ice cream was always a family affair at her house. My nieces submitted cookie recipes that Grandma (my mom) would make for them and now they make with their kids.
What started out to be a monumental chore soon turned to a labor of love. I found myself anxiously anticipating the next submission. I checked the recipe count and I had entered 166. Wow!
Then there were the special “recipes” that gave ingredients such as love, respect, and honesty for a happy marriage; recipes for happiness, etc. It was fun to sprinkle these among the others.
From the onset, I had struggled on what to name the book. After all, it was bringing the heritages of four families together. The common denominator was Jim and myself. Everyone who submitted was connected to us in some way. Now, through the book, they are all connected by this one thread, all seasoned a little by each other.
There it was, staring me in the face, so obvious that I almost missed the whole concept. The title is “Seasoned With Love.” Not only are the recipes seasoned with the tastes and memories of our pasts, but each contributor is seasoned with the connection to all the others that this book has brought together. I can hardly wait to see the finished product that the love of all these folks has created. I love it when a plan comes together.
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