Every family has a photo album, or 12, sharing the past with the future generations. I have albums from my mom showing Post-World War II pictures and a few from my dad’s side as well, not to mention the ones they took as we grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. It is great to look at and remember the events that surrounded each picture. But did you know you may have an “album” in your house that you were not aware could hold the same memories. Maybe not of a particular event, but of a person. Someone you knew growing up.
Many of you remember a past column of mine regarding the hoarding of recipes and cookbooks. Many of these great cookbooks are from the “usual suspects” of cooks, long before the Food Network gave us their staple of great chefs. They were written by the cooks of the past – Betty Crocker (not sure she was real), Amy Vanderbilt, Julia Child, and the list goes on and on. Throw in Graham Kerr and Justin Wilson and you have the “who’s who” of chefs.
But the cookbooks I am referring to that hold the most memories from the past are not from these fine chefs. They are from the First United Methodist Church of Your Hometown, the Ladies Garden Club of Tim Buck Too, or the Hospital Auxiliary. Why, no good Southern Church worth it’s weight in communion wafers has not ever put out a cookbook to highlight the meals spread out for the dinner on the grounds! That is blasphemy at the highest order. Hometown cookbooks are as much a staple of cooking in America as mashed taters, green beans, and fried chicken.
My memories come out of the Winchester Kentucky Lioness Club Cookbook (circa 1980, I think). The cover is long gone. For those who are not familiar with the Lioness club, those were the wives of the Lions Club members. (No one had a significant other in those days, especially a member of a civic group). This was before ladies were considered worthy of joining civic clubs so they had to have a “Ladies Group” to help out in fundraising. Of course now all major civic groups have ladies who are members and they are great contributors to all clubs that they join. Don’t hold me responsible for the sins of the past!
This particular book has recipes throughout from the moms of kids I grew up with, from neighbors, from friends of my parents, and from ladies who were in my mom’s bridge club every other Thursday night. The list goes on forever of the people who contributed. This is our most used cookbook and it has many years of notes sprinkled throughout the book.
As I read each recipe or look for new ones to try, I see the names of my past – many of whom are no longer with us. The book was dedicated to a neighbor, Helen Bailey, one of my mom’s best friends. She died of cancer just a few short weeks before my mom was taken by the same disease. I do not think either knew that the other was sick. Cancer had a field day for a few years back at that time on our street.
Then there is Ginny Wood. Another dear friend of my mom. I grew up with one of her sons, David. She had two other children. David was in Cub Scouts and church with me. After returning from the Army, he was a changed man and eventually took his life on the same playground we had played on as kids at school. Sad times and I am not sure why!
Then there was Anne Wynn Kincaid. She lived across the street from us and gave my mom a run for her money as to who had the loudest voice when calling the kids home for dinner. She had the greatest hearing in the world, too. No matter how faint the reply was from Brian or Bruce, she heard it and said, “Come on home.” And they did!
There was Nancy Keffer. She lived at the end of our street and had a daughter Missy. Missy and I graduated together and Nancy Keffer hosted the after-prom party for us. She eventually migrated to Georgia a few years after we did and lives in Monroe. She helped us out as we completed our family room in our basement. I don’t see much of her but do think of her and others as I go through this book.
Then there was a recipe from Shirley Langley. I think she was a rogue submitter because I do not remember her husband Cap Langley ever being in the club. My memories with this family and their two daughters, Betty and Sally, would fill up an entire book of it’s own. And I ain’t talking about a cookbook. From the dog bite (damn Heidi), to the DUI accident as I sat in my car in front of their house (the neighbors had a Christmas party and one guest left a bit tipsy), and to our raiding of Cap’s Makers Mark collection….well you get the picture.
I cannot forget, of course, the recipes posted in the book by my sister-in-law Linda or my wife Jane. Although Jane cannot ever remember making Peanut Oak Clusters, there it is in black and white. Her recipe will live on for eternity, or as long as someone has the book. I think she was hacked.
The amount of names and memories attached go on and on in this book and I am sure in many cookbooks at your home. You don’t need a black and white photo or a Kodachrome picture from an album stuck in a cabinet to resurrect memories from the past. Some of the best memories are in your head and just need a little mind tug. Go to your cookbook shelf soon and you will see what I mean!