Call me old fashioned, but I love everything homemade, especially food. Nothing speaks home to me than a meal prepared by the hands and hearts of those gathering around the table. Maybe it’s because my mother always cooked from scratch and that’s all I’ve ever known. Or maybe that tie between a loved one and their signature dish keeps them seated at the table, even if in a memory. Recipes aren’t just a bunch of 4 x 6 cards alphabetized in a decorated box on the kitchen counter. Recipes are comfort, tradition, and legacy passed down the generations; a memory quilt that takes you back to events and family, a reminder of where you came from and those who have touched your life.
Growing up in a family of six kids, we didn’t have the fancy life of our friends. There were hand-me-downs, sharing bedrooms and being satisfied with meals cooked at home instead of going out to restaurants, with the bi-monthly Tuesday exception to the local Ponderosa when dad got paid. Quite honestly though, I always remember being happy surrounded by my four sisters and brother, especially at the dinner table together eating mother’s food.
Mother had a variety of signature dishes that made her famous in our eyes, and each of our six had their personal favorites. It’s funny to look in my sister’s refrigerators to see the same Imperial margarine that mother cooked with. I choose Land O Lakes Unsalted butter thank you very much. There are other ingredients we followed mother with and others we ventured on our own. But mother’s meals are still being served albeit at her children’s table now, our home cooked memories of mom because she passed on her recipes to us.
Pulling out the recipes I call my “favorites of mom”, I can still hit the play button and visually see mother in meal preparation. Mother made a mess as she rolled out her own noodles and dried them covered on the gas dryer overnight. I hated when it was my week to do dishes, cleaning up the flour that went airborne to every inch of the kitchen. But now my kitchen is just as messy after I make noodles of my own. I don’t have the patience to dry noodles overnight, but my chicken noodles dish is just as tasty as mothers, and now a favorite with my children and grandchildren.
Summer wouldn’t be complete without a batch of strawberry / rhubarb jam set aside for winter. So many summers slaving over strawberries with my sisters, seated at a hot table air-conditioned by box fans. Like yesterday I see mother at the stove pouring boiling jam into hot jars as we girls whined that each was doing more work than the other, a memory etched in my mind. I’d love to go back and take my grand-kids with me. But still I keep the memory alive with my own batch of jam for those hot morning biscuits at breakfast.
As a mother with grown children and now grandchildren of my own, my meals are still prepared from scratch and I am passing my recipes to the generations beyond me. You can’t come to Gaga’s house (my grandma name) without homemade chocolate chip cookies in the freezer to help yourself to when you visit. I also keep cookie dough balls in the freezer ready to bake for the unexpected guest you want to serve warm with a cup of coffee. I love when the grandchildren pull up a chair to stand on or sit beside me on the counter to help hold the mixer when we make their favorite cookie dough. They love stirring and of course licking the beaters after we’re done.
I can’t look at a container of sprinkles and not recall a childhood of Christmas cookie baking with mom and her storing those decorated gifts in the freezer. Those Tupperware containers bound with tape to keep us six kids from eating its contents before the holiday is a square on my memory quilt I remember like yesterday every time I store a batch of cookies in the freezer for my grand-kids. I’m so grateful for these small but amazing memories still alive two generations later.
Married once before, I treasure the southern recipes from the mother n law I still harbor as mom in my heart. Her biscuits and gravy are being attempted weekly with my children and grandchildren, and she is thought of every time we serve this memory from her kitchen years before. Grandma Cova’s kitchen was a treasure trove of recipes passed on through the generations after her and still celebrated.
In a family that treasures keeping homemade memories alive, my daughter n law Crystal blessed me immensely when she asked for a copy of my recipes one Christmas. I also love that my sisters are sharing the memory quilt with their nieces and nephews, expanding the squares for the next generation by teaching the younger ones their skills around the stove. This is a blessing of great magnitude and honors God in so many ways. TITUS 2:3-5 (AMP)
As I stated earlier, I am a mother with grown children and grandchildren, so it saddens me that the kitchen of my mother and second mother n law are now closed. Packing up both of their domains of heaven and seeing their cookbooks, pots and pans, measuring cups and spoons lying in a box never to make another meal breaks my heart. The years these two servants prepared with their hands and joy they served on our plates surely earned them both a crown of jewels.
Mother’s potato salad will always be a hit even though my sister prepares it now.
Angel food cake decorated with cooked frosting will always take me back to the years of birthdays mother celebrated me with.
Being blessed with a second mother n law, a Sunday after church doesn’t go by that I wish we could stop by for lunch. Barbara always had a stove full of rice and beans and all its fixins, waiting for anyone who stopped by her house. Barbara loved her kitchen, truly loved to cook and it brightened her face to see others loving her meals.
Saying good-by to Barbara took a long time for our family to adjust to. I remember the first holiday meal without my mother n law and the emotional silence as her red rice and Watergate salad was being passed around the table; it left not a dry eye in the room.
But Barbara’s recipes are still being duplicated, of course never coming close to her standard. My mother n law made the best sugar cookies and when she made them, she secretly hid a package of un-frosted ones just for me. I loved her for that and I try and keep her recipe alive in my kitchen by continuing to roll out that sugar dough in her honor.
Saying good-by to our patriarchs and matriarchs, we honored and paid tribute to them by serving the food we remember them by. At my step-dads funeral we served his three favorites, while two not necessarily falling into any food group: pop, candy and deviled eggs.
At my mother n law Barbara’s funeral, I displayed my heart for her with a tray of sugar cookies she was known by, served on my grandmother’s tray who displayed holiday cookies on for us at our Christmas Eve dinners with her.
With the busyness of life, many families forgo home cooked dinners and opt out for fast food due to convenience and exhaustion from their day. Ovens are lit less often and freezers aren’t hiding homemade treats for the grand-kids. While times change and force you to adjust with them, it is my hope and legacy I leave for my family that our memory quilt of recipes stay displayed for generations to come. That squares continue to be added reminding them of time spent together as family. That they continue to gather around the table without distraction, remembering the heart of the home is each other, enjoying the meals prepared for them by the mothers, grandmothers, grandchildren and beyond.
I pass onto you a square from our family memory quilt.
Oh that you would keep your family recipes alive by passing on a square of your own.