Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mom's Recipes

As long as I can remember, Mom had a small, white plastic basket above the fridge where she kept her recipes. She would jot down meal ideas from cookbooks she checked out from the library or found in magazines. She and her friends would swap easy dinners on recipe cards she illustrated with pen and ink drawings and calligraphy.

I'm saving all of them.

I didn't realize until I started sorting the recipes that this collection began before I was born. There is one recipe ("Graham Cracker Squares") written on the back of a classroom pass from the high school where Mom worked when she and Dad were first married. Some recipes are so faded, yellowed with age, or stained from food spills, they're almost unreadable. There are recipes in my handwriting and others in my sister's. It's a family history of meal planning and desserts.

I'm scanning everything so I can compile them digitally.

My parents were health-conscious and didn't buy a lot of processed food, especially in the early years of raising a family. This is reflected in the recipes Mom saved. I've found low-calorie recipes for salad dressing and side dishes. Most of the desserts include oatmeal and wheat germ.

The ironic thing is that Mom was not a great cook. It wasn't for lack of creativity or skill; she and Dad raised five kids on a single income. Mom home schooled all of us during the years Dad was a pastor. Meals had to be easy, quick to prepare, and inexpensive. We ate Chili and Rice Casserole weekly, at least. The few times I remember Mom experimenting with something new, somebody complained. I remember a lot of bean soups, unseasoned cod, overcooked broccoli, and cabbage dishes.

But the other thing I remember about meal time as a kid was Dad's praise of Mom's time, effort, ingenuity, and skill. He would thank her after every meal. Sometimes he'd say, "Let's all clap for Mommy!" and we would join in the applause. He'd quote Proverbs 31 at the dinner table, "We rise up and call you blessed!" and lead us in a standing ovation for Mom. She would blush every time and say, "Aw, thank you."

To my dad, it wasn't about the spectrum of flavors or gourmet selection (he doesn't even have a sense of smell). The important thing was Mom's investment in her family. And I have the hand-written evidence of all her love and meal planning.


  1. This post caught me at a weepy time where'd I give anything to get mom and her stuffed zucchini or meatless spaghetti sauce back again. Thanks for the great memories, Emily. When I tell mom every day that she's loved by her kids it's nice to know I can say it with sincerity and truth. She is loved by all of us....chili and rice and all. (You're going to inherit from me recipes for green smoothies, tofu salads, and carob macaroons).

  2. I'm getting teary reading that and thinking of your momma's legacy. I'm also remembering my treasured recipe, "Mzungu Pancakes a la Emily" that I have made over and over and over again...still from the little notebook in which you jotted down the ingredients. Recipes are a treasure!