Friday, March 12, 2010

What I Cherish

This is a Sepia Saturday post.

I am an American.  I have a lot of stuff.  Some of it, I like a great deal.  But, I don't cherish it.  I am not even particularly attached to it.  If you were to set it all on fire tomorrow, I would not care half a whit.  Assuming, of course, that I were insured, so that I could replace my charred stuff with new stuff.  Because, while I may not be attached to my stuff in particular, I think I am rather attached to having stuff in general.  I am an American.

There are a few items, however, which I do cherish.  Two of them are cookbooks, handed down to me by my Grandma Bunny, and (through her) my Great-Grandma Wieser.

We'll start with the oldest first.  Grandma Wieser's is a Woman's World Cook Book from 1931.

Well used, as you can see.  There is much text in the beginning of the book which I find quaint.  Menu plans for "reducing" and elderly couples, for example.  My favorite part though, is Grandma's notes.

On the title page she has made notes for herself on where to find, what I assume to be, often used recipes.  White sauce, page 315.  Standard Baking Powder Biscuits, page 252.  And, tongue, page 122.  Tongue?  As far as I know, Grandma Wieser was not famous for tongue.  She was famous for cinnamon rolls.  Unfortunately, a thorough scouring of the book provides not a hint of how she made them

There are recipes, written in pencil, faded and torn, on the inside front cover.  One of them calls for 10 pounds of salt.  Hmm.  Interesting. But, not cinnamon rolls.

Grandma Bunny's cookbook is a 1965 Fanny Farmer, which is not nearly as interesting or as annotated, though it does have a great recipe for scalloped potatoes.  Yum. 

Another great part about both books, and a quality which I have tried very hard to preserve, is all of the odds and ends tucked into the well worn pages.  That is how I came across this.

And, this.

This recipe for Rhubarb Des(s)ert came fluttering out of Grandma Bunny's book just the other day, prompting this post.  It has Grandma Wieser's name on the back of it, and I think it is in her handwriting, though their hands are similar, so I can't be certain.  I have used this recipe, passed it on to others, and eaten the dish it produces dozens of times over the years.  But, the recipe I am familiar with is called Peach Cobbler, and while it calls for the same amount of sugar, it always comes with the disclaimer that this is too much sugar and to use about half.  Well, no wonder.  The recipe is for rhubarb.

 Great-Grandma Wieser is in the center.  
Grandma Bunny is in the back row, second from the left.  
My mom is in the center of the front row.

These books are treasures to me.  I feel a vein of family history running through them.  And yet, there are so many things not tucked into the pages.  Menu plans for a well-lived life.  A recipe for happiness.  A tasty, low-fat, all-natural substitute for lard.  I can not open these books and access the wisdom gained from raising fifteen children, or being married over a hundred years.  I can not get the answer to one last question.  I don't hear their laughter in there.  Or feel the touch of their strong lean hands.  Sewing lessons, crocheting lessons, how-to-make-a-bed-the-right-way lessons.  Not in there.  Those things will never come fluttering out of the pages of these books, but out of my memories and those of my family.

So, yes I cherish these books.  But I would throw them on the burn pile with the rest of my stuff for just one more conversation at the kitchen table.  Maybe Grandma Wieser would make cinnamon rolls.  I'd pay closer attention this time.

This is a Sepia Saturday post.  


  1. I lovely story.
    In the top photo have you noticed that the dark haired man has a wedding ring, very very unusual for the time. And are those very solemn kids on the right his.

  2. Beautiful post! I have similar cookbooks from my grandmother -- with notes and other ephemera tucked between the pages. More evocative that a photograph in many ways.

  3. You have articulated what family is all about. It's about connections, whether it's memories or objects. Both can transport us to a place and time that we cherish. These precious things are our routes to those who we can no longer speak to in person.

    A very nice post.

  4. Let's go to Grandma Wieser's and have some cinnamon rolls!! Great photos and nice family story. :) The Bach

  5. What an amazing treasure!! I recently started recipe files for my girls...had the various grandma's write the recipes so they will be in their handwriting. My girls cannot appreciate them fully NOW but I know they WILL in the future.

    Lovely Sepia Saturday!

  6. Gorgeous post. Just gorgeous. I really relate to this--all the things they've passed down to us, that we keep alive--

    I have treasured Jewish cookbooks from my grandma, with the bits of writing and revisions and extra recipes tucked in. The pages are, alas, crumbling.

  7. I don't think I've ever read a cookbook, or even opened one' but after reading this post I'm very tempted.

    I like the photos of the books but your story was even better. Very well told.

  8. That family photo at the end is just amazing....everyone is perfectly happy and I just love it! Your mom...isn't she cute?!

    Love the cookbook...I may have to make that rhubarb dessert! :)

  9. It is so true that family experiences are better than things. But as you show, sometimes that's all we have to treasure. "A recipe for happiness" that would be nice to find. I know there would be a great market for that recipe book.
    I love Grandma Bunny's name : )

  10. That's a fine attitude you have to Stuff. And how lucky you are to have that photo with all the generations and everyone smiley and well, and your mother so young and with everything ahead of her, including you. Remember to write down the recipe for whatever it is you're famous for yourself.

  11. Cherished family recipes have been handed down through generations just like old photos. Beautiful post, Tracey!

  12. I was really hoping that cinnamon roll recipe was going to fall out of one of the books and show up here. Darn. Family cookbooks are a great treasure though, especially the notes.

  13. Her handwriting is so similar to my paternal grandmother's. She was also a great cook, though she was a famous pie maker rather than cinnamon roll baker.

  14. Loved the family pic. It was uber easy to pic out Don. ;)
    I am a collector of books. For the kids, I have a recipe book from my grandmother (although she changed/wrote over the recipes so much, I can't see much of the original recipe), a typing book from my grandmother, a literature book from Carol, and a bible from Grandma Bunny. Daniel likes to go in to my little chest and look at the pictures of his "GREAT" grandma's and flip the pages of the book. He's starting to read, so he loves to go in there and pick out the words he knows. ;)

  15. Vince, that would be my Great-Uncle Leon, married to my grand-mother's sister. The picture was taken in 1950(?). I know my grandfather wore a wedding band, but I notice from the picture that my great-grandfather did not.

    Vicki, Martin, and Bach: Thank you for the kind words.

    Jill: We have started doing that for bridal showers. Having all the female relatives provide their favorite recipes in their own hand.

    Leah: Thank you. Mine is crumbling too. I keep it, or the pieces of it, in a paper bag.

  16. Barry: Thank you. You should look inside an old one sometime. They have changed over the years.

    Betsy: I don't know how the photographer pulled it all off honestly. And the dessert is tasty.

    Lady Cat: Her name was really Bernadine, but an aunt or someone called her Bunny at birth and it stuck. Only my grandfather called her Bernadine, and only for emphasis.

  17. Mise: AS a matter of fact, I have a Should-Be-World-Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

    Willow: Thank you.

    Christine: If the cinnamon roll recipe turns up, you will all hear about it.

    Meri: I think that handwriting was beat into them at school. So many women of that age have very similar handwriting.

    Drea: Yeah, we have a lot of family "stuff" to hold onto, but the memories that go with it are the reason we do it.

    Thank you every one for stopping by!

  18. I just made cinnamon rolls - like my mom used to make. I have a cookbook all tattered and torn, stained and full of additions. My daughter already has plans for it. She wants me to make a copy of it for her, so I of these days...
    Lovely post!

  19. If nothing else, your post has helped preserve them for ever. But, of course, it has done far more in that, it has introduced us all to your grandma and great-grandma.