Handwritten Treasure.

On our recent visit, Pat’s mom Kathy, offered I go through a chest where she kept her late mother’s cookbooks, to see if any appealed to me. Of course I leapt at the opportunity, but seeing how I’m trying very hard to not accumulate new cookbooks, there was nothing that deemed ‘necessary’. But then I saw this:

A gallon ziploc bag full of handwritten recipes as well as recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines over the years. I was more than a little excited and when I sat down to look through it, Kathy told me I could just have it. (!!!!)

Sifting through it later that evening, I started sorting the recipes.

There were recipes written down on recipe cards, many of them protected by little plastic sleeves. There were recipes written down on scraps of paper – on the back of receipts, on notebook paper, on sales tickets, and even one written on the inside of Grandma’s church money envelope.

There were recipes without names, recipes that consisted of just ingredients written down, no name and no instruction.  When I mentioned this to my husband, he responded “sounds like something you’d do”. It is, in fact, something I do.  (Note to self: start labeling recipes better!)

Sometimes there were dates and the occasion the dish was made for. There were shopping lists scribbled in corners, there were notes as to how Grandma made/served the dish. There were notes as to who was to bring what to occasions.

As I sifted through the recipes, I noticed that Grandma collected certain types of recipes. For instance, there was the same sourdough bread recipe written down three times (two on the exact same paper(!) – maybe meant to share?)

While I’m still sorting through them all, I can report that Grandma collected biscuit, lemon dessert, cocount cake, pound cake, caramel cake, chicken casserole as well as “Eagle Brand Milk” recipes.  I’m not at all sure which are the recipes Grandma used regularly, although I did make the handwritten “lemon pie” recipe for Easter, which, given the way the recipe was written (minimal on method),  I strongly suspected was her go-to.  One bite in, I knew it was the one when her grandson, who was not at all sure he would be able to taste and know, declared, “This is just like Grandma’s.”

There was also some of her pickle recipes, which I’m more than a little excited about.

I want to find a way to both preserve these recipes for Edie, while sharing them with the extended Kilgo family. As technology finds us moving away from writing everything down by hand, it seems especially important to preserve such a treasure trove, which is a little more than just recipes, it’s a glimpse into Grandma’s life.  I’d like to be able to determine which recipes were actually the ones Grandma used vs what she collected. It was suggested by one friend that I cook my way through them and see which ones my husband recognizes using his memory of taste. Of course, some of the recipes will need updating, as I don’t cook much with Oleo. It’s a little bit of a project that will keep me busy for a little bit – just another on the pile, right? It is one though, that is guaranteed to taste good, as Grandma was, in her grandson’s words, “a dang good cook”.  And I know he, for one, is pretty darn excited that he might get to once again sample some of those treats he ate growing up.

11 thoughts on “Handwritten Treasure.

  1. Aimee Kilgo says:

    Becky! This is amazing. Kathy shared this with me. What a treasure! (you know she loved sweets!) I wish we could have seen you all when you were in Fort Payne, but maybe next time 🙂

  2. Vanessa Edwards (@CookwCharacter) says:

    This is awesome! I just spent last summer typing the recipes my Grandmother gave me because she figured no one would want them, and was planning to get rid of them if I said no. Some of them were over 100 years old! I laminated the oldest and the ones with the most damage in heavy laminate on a small machine I got at Walmart – totally worth the $20. Its so important to keep track of these! I printed mine out and made handbound books of them for Grandma, mom, myself and my brother as Christmas gifts. Maybe an idea for you too?

    • Becky says:

      How cool! I just heard that the Library of Congress has discovered that laminating can be damaging! So I don’t know that I’ll be laminating, but I am looking into different ideas. Thanks for sharing!

    • Becky says:

      It’s my grandmother-in-law actually, my husband’s maternal grandmother. But yes, very exciting and I always love discovering that other cooks keep track of recipes in ways similar to me. (Like ingredients only written on scraps of paper)

  3. Margo, Thrift at Home says:

    this is so so so precious. I love the idea of those taste memories and how your husband taste-recognized the lemon pie when you made it (do you know the poem “Mint Snowball” by Naomi Shihab Nye? One of my favorites about food and family and longing).

    Also, this reminds me of the Mennonite Community Cookbook which was started entirely to preserve these handwritten recipe gems. I think we’ve discussed this before, right? It’s a good read, as cookbooks go, because there’s so much anthropology between the lines of the recipes.

  4. Whitney says:

    I love this! I recently inherited my grandmother’s recipe box which looks a lot like these you have. I think I’m going to have copies made of a few of them, then have them framed to hang in my kitchen!

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