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.
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.