Yesterday my mother, all moved into her new assisted living facility, has decided that with three wonderful meals provided each day, she no longer needs her old recipe box. It’s a scratched old and red tin box that probably once held candy many years ago. In it she’s got recipes she’s copied down, some cut from magazines, some cut from the sides of boxes like cream cheese, or saved soup labels with recipes on them.
I’ve found Mrs. Clark’s Egg Custard recipe, which Mrs. Clark (our next door neighbor in Pensacola) always made and brought over when I was sick, and I can’t be sick to this day without wanting some of Mrs. Clark’s egg custard. Of course now I am the only one to make this, so it doesn’t get made when I really want it. Let’s face it – who makes egg custard when they think they might get sick? Nobody tells you these things … tomorrow you will be sick and want egg custard. Best make up a batch tonight before you go to bed. Nope. That’s not the way it works. At least not in my life.
But looking through these recipes, I found my Aunt Margie’s Coke and Bing Cherry Salad recipe, Margery’s Cornbread Casserole recipe, and my mother’s Grits and Sausage recipe (be still my heart!). There’s the recipe for Old Fashioned Rice Pudding (I pulled that one out), and another for English Shepherd Pie (Ummm), and one for Cranberry Salad. My favorite was my mother’s Oatmeal and Peanut Cookies recipe.
I also found ‘How to rid your house of annoying ants’ from a newspaper article, and a great recipe for cleaning windows, from 1989. Even these don’t seem that old to me, but the yellow card stock and paper notes from so long ago all lend themselves to be nostalgic for me on so many levels.
After trying to decide which recipes to keep and which not to keep, I know deep down that I’ll simply put them all back into this old tin box and put it away in my linen closet, to go through and remember on some rainy afternoon. I always loved the rain in Pensacola. Now this seems like it’s just the thing to do on a dark and rainy ‘Pensacola afternoon’, even if I don’t live there anymore.
The thing that really sticks in my throat looking through these recipes is that it never once occurred to me when I was younger that putting meals on the table might have been a chore for my mother, or that going to the store and paying hard-earned cash for groceries to feed a family might have ever been something that she dreaded to do, as I sometimes find for myself. It seemed that cooking happened, things smelled good when I came home from school, and we had dinner every night and somehow the dishes got washed, without any help from me. Little did I know then about the recipes my mother must have consulted after I went to school, in the middle of the day, wondering what to pull together that evening for dinner. No internet. No cooking shows to watch on TV, at least not until I was 12 and we got our first TV. The recipes were a lot more hard to come by for my mother than any ever are for me now, with our computer age at hand.
I doubt I’ll use the recipes for getting rid of ants or washing windows, but I’m going to definitely cook up some of that Chili Cornbread, and maybe mix up a nice batch of that Cranberry salad. And soon!