When I was a junior in college, Mother decided to compile a book of recipes featuring family favorites. It took her nearly a year, typing it out on a typewriter at the kitchen table. She heartily welcomed suggestions from her devoted eaters, and when it was finished, she xeroxed four copies and assembled them into loose leaf notebooks. There are only four copies, one for each of her children.
I have a cookbook collection of more than 500 books, but the only one I ever reference is the one Mother wrote. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a taste of the past and nothing delivers that as divinely as something Mother once made. My copy, unfortunately, is rarely in the same location as I am and I have to contact a sibling for an occasional memory jog.
My Christmas in Russia in 2000 was a memorable one. I prepared a four course feast for my landlady and her family, featuring Mother’s Seafood Gumbo. Of course I didn’t have the family recipe book with me, and spent a small fortune telephoning my younger brother’s wife in Virginia to get the recipe. The required seafood wasn’t available, so I used smoked duck, and my dear guests seemed to enjoy this foreign taste from Cajun Country.
This Christmas, I decided to make a treat for the folks I work with, and choose a ginger cookie from Mother’s Recipe Book, which of course is not with me here in Illinois. My sister came to the rescue with the recipe and two days of baking yielded 120 perfect little cookies; bagged, tagged and beribboned.