My dear Mom passed away in a lengthy process that seemed to take a decade or more. There was no particular illness to blame. Just years of smoking, neglecting her health, and deciding it was God’s will that, if left to its own devices, her body would eventually wear out. Truth be told, I think the poor woman was just tired. She had raised 8 kids in about as many different parts of the country. She was a true mother by trade – did all the cooking and cleaning, disciplining and care giving. I always referred to her age in “city miles.”
One of the few treasures I got from her was an old tin recipe box. I love going through and seeing her familiar handwriting. So unique as to be almost impossible to forge notes for school. (Almost.) I also see my middle school handwriting, which I recognize from the typewriter-style a’s and e’s I thought were so very cool. I had probably complained about being bored one time so Mom asked me to transcribe some of her recipes onto index cards so they would fit in the tin box.
Most of the recipes, however, were taken from newspapers and food packaging, and I don’t remember her ever making a single one of those dishes. I have the same habit of cutting out (or Pinning) recipes that I’ll never make. I found her recipe for Never Fail Meringues. Really? More like Never Made Meringues. At least not in my memory. Chicken Cutlets with Dilled Walnut and Mushroom Sauce? OK -What? I recall far more pedestrian meals like tuna noodle casserole, spaghetti, sloppy Joes, and everyone’s favorite – tacos.
One thing Mom always seemed to find the time to make were Christmas cookies, and I treasure the handwritten recipes for the 3 types of cookies she made almost every year. The most ambitious recipe is for her “Family Recipe Cookies.” Every year since Mom stopped baking, one of her daughters or even one of her grandchildren makes a batch and distributes them to the rest of the family. Virtually no one outside the family likes the cookies, which have been noted to be “good for teething babies.” The rules of this recipe, which takes 3 days to make and contains 15 eggs, 3.5 pounds of sugar and 4 pounds of flour, are that it cannot be halved (makes 26 dozen) and to “stir until the spoon breaks.”
I think Mom and I are alike in many ways. She used to cook the same meals over and over, which is exactly what I always wind up doing, despite better intentions. I think, like me, she foresaw a time in her life when she would have more time to be more adventurous in the kitchen, so she saved interesting recipes with the honest intention of one day making them. It’s a pity that she really never found that time. It seems she went right from raising children, to spoiling grandchildren, spent too few winters relaxing in a Florida condo, and then started her long march to Heaven. I hope she’s up there whipping up meringues and raising a little hell.