What’s in a Cookbook?

3 Mar
Family Cookbook

Curran Family Cookbook given to Anita Curran in 1969 by her sister Peggy.

In 1969 my Aunt gave my mother a Cookbook with several family recipes hand written in the first pages of the book. The rest of the pages were blank, ready for my mother to add to over the years. She added dozens of recipes but mostly by folding clippings and sheets of paper into the back of the book.

Thanks to that cookbook, I have the famous recipe for my maternal grandmother’s iced tea (it may be all the sugar that makes it so famous), and some other favorites like Gillian’s Tuna Salad. (When’s the last time your tuna salad got raves?)

Having my mother’s cookbook and making the recipes it contained makes think of the people who have shared these recipes. One of the dishes my mother used to make when I was young, Cherry Clafoutis, always brings me back and makes me feel special.

When Nana’s name (my father’s mother) comes up in conversation it’s hard to avoid the subject of her legendary chocolate drop cookies. As it turns out the version of the recipe that were written down didn’t yield the delicious treats that my father fondly remembered from his childhood. I’ve tried to re-create the recipe, but so far no luck. How I wished that I was able to learn the trick from my grandmother while she was able to teach me.

And then there are all of the recipes that friends have shared with me over the years. Every time I make cornbread pudding, I think of my dear friend Karolyn, who makes the most amazingly tasty treats. Her recipe has become one of our family favorites. Kim’s mother is an unbelievable chef– maybe because of her french heritage. She taught me how to make classic Madeleines. It is time for me to get my own Madeleine tin and stop borrowing hers!

So what’s in a cookbook? Every cookbook is a representation of a way of life; Recipes are an expression of how people celebrate, congregate, and console. Each cookbook is a collection of the recipes that matter to the creator. It’s what they want to share with the world. Reminders of loved ones, memories of good times, and holiday traditions that’s what’s in a cookbook.

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