Occasionally, when I pass by the bookcase where Emily keeps her cookbooks, I will stop and thumb through my mother’s cookbook. It is an old black notebook that contains a treasure-trove of many of the recipes she used in preparing meals from day to day and recipes she collected across the years. This is a priceless collection that I inherited after her death on July 1, 1996.
Most mothers have a personal cookbook that includes a collection of recipes they enjoy cooking and serving. I have had the opportunity to look through a number of these cookbooks, and I have noticed several things that many of them have in common.
Some pages in these cookbooks were smudged by a mother’s sticky fingers that were coated with ingredients from the recipe they were preparing, and these fingerprint impressions that were made as they touched the page to double-check a specific measurement only add another personal touch and meaning to the cookbook for the one who inherits it.
They sometimes jotted down personal notes in the margins of the pages about a particular recipe being the favorite of one of their friends, about who gave the recipe to them or changes that they made in the original recipe.
My mother’s cookbook includes clippings of recipes from newspapers and magazines or letters from friends. Some of these clippings are very old.
As we browse through these collections of recipes that our mothers enjoyed preparing — and we enjoyed eating — it awakens many memories and evokes grief. We may remember, as a child, standing by her side in the kitchen and helping her mix the ingredients and cook the food. I can still see my mother’s cookbook lying open on the kitchen counter beside her as she followed the instructions.
To momentarily escape the horror of war, many soldiers think back to meals their mothers prepared years ago. They remember their mothers setting one of her favorite dishes on the table, and they focus on home cooking to escape the horrors of war.
Looking through our mothers’ old cookbooks, smelling the odor of certain foods they enjoyed cooking and remembering special recipes they prepared during the holiday seasons takes us back to a kitchen of long ago and evokes grief.
Certain foods and recipes connect us to a loved one whom we have lost. The recipes written on the yellowing pages in my mother’s cookbook are “living recipes.” Although her cookbook is only a small notebook, when it is opened it takes me through a door into a world that cannot be described.
Don Harold Lawrence is coordinator of SUNRISE, which is sponsored by Shackelford Corporation. He may be contacted by mail at 145 Abernathy Drive, Adamsville, TN 38310-3001 or by telephone or fax at (731) 632-4483. His Web address is www.shackelfordfuneraldirectors.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.15.08