Some of our most-cherished heirlooms, right up there among old silver and art, are the vintage kitchen hand-me-downs like these old cookbooks from our mothers and grandmothers.
We love their splattered pages, the notes in the margins, and particularly the inscriptions in that beautiful old handwriting.
This is John’s mother’s signature on her copy of “How To Cook His Goose (and Other Wild Games)” published in 1973. This always brings a smile to my face, not only because of that cheeky title, but because I can imagine Eleanor actually cooking a recipe from it for the wild goose or duck that John’s dad would hunt on the Eastern Shore (of Maryland.)
This first edition of the “I Hate To Cook Book” from 1960 was given to Allison’s mom by her mom in 1963 when Pat (‘Patty’ in the affectionate inscription) was starting out as a young wife. There’s even a note from the same year tucked inside advising the newlywed, “I can recommend heartily the Skid Road Stroganoff, Saturday Chicken, Aunt Bebe’s Bean Bowl, and Sub Gum Yuk.”
The inscription is endearing, “For Patty, who is already an excellent cook” because while the book title would suggest her interests and abilities lay elsewhere, Allison’s mom is indeed to this day an excellent and avid cook. There are some oddly good recipes in there, and the whole edition is a quirky and fun read. While researching this post, I discovered that the publishers reissued this book in 2010 for a new generation of I Hate To Cook cooks. We look forward to highlighting some of the gems and downright hilarious recipe headnotes in future posts.
I’ve saved this old envelope with my mom’s handwritten recipe for Raw Apple Cake. This must have been a very popular recipe (and a traditional one too) considering the number of Google hits one gets for it. I have to say I haven’t made it yet because Mom’s recipe doesn’t say whether to peel the apples or not and I don’t have a memory of the cake. I’ve transcribed the recipe for you at the end of the post. If you try it, let us know in the Comments section how it compares to your Nana’s. And if you peeled the apples or not.
I also found a handwritten copy of my grandmother’s recipe for Date Pudding which I assume was a family favorite back in the 1930s or 40s. Dates are back in fashion now and I will give this recipe a try in the fall; I suspect it’s more cake-like or bread pudding-like and was probably served with a “hard sauce” although she was a teetotaler. Grandmother Cullen was a Home Economics teacher in her small town in the Midwest and that is her journal in the background (in the photo above) with notes and instructions for homekeeping and meal planning. I love that you can see my mother’s name, Norma, in the upper right.
Some heirlooms are less than fabulous in today’s taste.
But we will never, ever give this sad clown up, even if it has to live in the attic, because of this heartfelt inscription to my husband on the back.
“Made with so much love for John in the Autumn of 1962 before he was born by his Mother.”
Happy Mother’s Day to Eleanor, Norma, Pat, Hazel, and Nellie (both in heaven and on Earth.) And Happy Mother’s Day to you moms out there.
Rebecca and Allison
RAW APPLE CAKE (as written by Norma Lee Horton)
Rebecca’s notes in brackets. [Note that I also changed her original abbreviation “t” to “tsp” so that we are not confused between the modern abbreviation for tablespoon (T) and teaspoon (tsp)]
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla
Add and mix well:
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. soda [she means baking soda]
2 tsp. cinnamon
Stir [in] 4 cups finely diced apple [peeled or not, Mom?]
1 cup chopped nuts [she would have used walnuts or possibly pecans if she had them]
Bake 45 min at 350.
9 x 13 loaf pan [we wouldn’t call this a loaf pan anymore]