New Castle News

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May 17, 2014

Culinary Conversation: Take time to create a family cookbook

NEW CASTLE — One of my most prized possessions is stained, battered, beaten and falling apart at the seams.

But that old composition book with the black and white cover contains memories.

There was never anything fancy about this simple little journal.

It’s what is inside that counts.

Lovingly, my grandmother and mother penned incredible recipes probably starting in the 1940s. Each time I browse through it, I can vividly recall them making some of what is contained on those pages. And the visuals start coming.

Grandma is showing me how to gently fit a crust into a pie plate, mom is making sure I get the right consistency for a white sauce and I’m at my Aunt Peg’s house watching her put out a plate of cookies that includes seven-layer bars and something made with chow mein noodles, dotted with cashews and slathered in butterscotch.

My brother and I often have conversations about food and do a lot of reminiscing about the baked goods and meals that were made by our relatives. We were two lucky kids.

Then he came up with a brilliant idea.

Why not recreate the same type of book for the next generation?

In my year of meeting new challenges, thus began a foray into making a cookbook for his daughter, my niece. I was so happy to be able to present it to her when she received her bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University last week before moving on to complete her physician’s assistant program.

It started with my husband buying me a journal for Christmas specifically so I could start my project. No procrastinating — I got right down to business. But there was nothing about this that seemed like work.

A labor of love is just about that final word — love.

Someone asked why I didn’t just type them and print them out. But that defeats the whole purpose. I wanted this one to have the same attention to detail with which two of the most important women in my life spent on writing the original.

So, in the evenings, instead of doing something nonproductive, I flipped through the old cookbook to locate just the right recipes. There are ones that are so special. At times, I can picture grandma and mom at the table writing them down. Then it was my turn to carefully re-write that recipe into the new journal. It also became a refresher lesson in penmanship.

Nothing much compares to a gift that is handmade. I loved every minute of this wonderful journey of recreating a three-generation cookbook that includes my own recipes, too. Some of the entries include a remembrance like my grandmother packing her famous marshmallow fudge into pails that formerly contained lard. We always joked, “Look, grandma got us lard again for Christmas.”

A gift that goes straight from the heart to a special person in your life is gratifying.

If you haven’t done a family cookbook to pass down to the next generation, I encourage you to do so. You will find it nostalgic and sentimental but most of all, rewarding in the most meaningful way.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

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