Skip to main content

Old Recipes, New Memories

We traveled to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving this past week to celebrate with my family. This year we gathered at my oldest brother's home. It was the first time my mother did not host and therefore first time in many years that she did not have to do everything. Three generations of us gathered around two tables (and in one baby jumpy thing) to eat, talk, and catch up. The past two years have been a bit rocky for us all, and it was nice to simply be together. Dessert even brought in my father and his wife to round us out. Odds had it that a few were missing and missed, but we carried on.

Since my mother wasn't running about like mad trying to make pies, mashed potatoes, stuff the turkey, remember the pickles from the basement, find the inserts for the dining room table, and sort out appetizers she and I had time to sit down and talk. I asked about her past traditions (they always had goose or duck - never turkey), the garden at the farm (they had one by the marsh and one by the woods), and dishes her mother used to make.

The last one is where we really got down to it. She pulled out two old cookbooks that were my grandmothers. One was The Settlement Cookbook, 1951, compiled by Mrs. Simon Kander. The title page states that these are "tested recipes from The Milwaukee Public School Kitchens Girls Trades and Technical High School, Authoritative Dieticians and Experienced Housewives." This is apparently the thirtieth edition, enlarged and revised. The first came out in 1901.

My grandmother's handwriting is peppered throughout making notes on what she added, increased, or left out. Recipes she tried and liked got a nice x next to them, and the inside cover is littered with notes of full meals. I spent about an hour or so simply paging through and letting it all wash over me. I was immediately transported back to the kitchen at Cold Spring Farm, and tried to imagine what it was like with my grandmother there cooking and feeding the crews that came to work. My mother says the farm had a reputation for good food, and I believe it based on her notes.

The most surprising outcome of all of this is the discovery of a long-lost, much-beloved recipe that my other grandmother made each hunting season. The family believed this recipe to be lost after her death, and at least once a year an inquiry goes out to each household to see if anyone found it after all. I made them Thanksgiving morning and took them to the dinner. I forced my overstuffed family to try them and see if they were indeed the ones. I still feel weepy when I think of their faces and how excited they were to taste them again. Corny as it sounds I felt like both of my grandmothers - one I never knew and one who was like a best friend - were with us again. That was something to celebrate.

Chocolate Toffee Bars from The Settlement Cookbook, 1951.
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
2 bars milk chocolate (I think dark chocolate is what my grandmother really used.)
1/2 cup ground nut meats (Totally fine without these, as you can imagine.)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add flavoring, well-beaten egg and flour sifted with salt. Stir well. Spread on oblong shallow pan. (I used a cake pan but next time I'm going for a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.) Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with melted chocolate. Sprinkle with nuts. Cut at once into bars.

Comments

Jena said…
I just happened along your blog after searching google for "hoophouses in michigan". I am always excited to find other great farm related blogs from Michigan! It looks like you have some interesting posts, I'll be stopping back by for sure. I'm going to scan through and see if you have other posts relating to your hoophouse. We're looking into different building options to replace part of our barn that burned. Where did you purchase your hoophouse?
Hey Jena, Thanks for reading the blog! I'd be more than glad to share whatever I know about hoophouses. I feel like we're learning all the time, that's for sure.

We purchased materials at one of those big box stores we don't usually like to shop at if we can help it. Check out the links in the October 21st bit about hoophouse construction. Hopefully that helps! Let me know how it goes.

Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l

Goma Ai Shingiku - Sesame and Chrysanthemum Greens

Last week I had the pleasure of helping some friends work in their parents garden not too far away. Tucked behind the house, the garden sits on a former house lot. When it came up for sale about five years ago, my friend's father jumped at the chance. Open land in Tokyo can be hard to find and expensive, but for a retired professional looking for a little spot to till in the city it was an opportunity to good to pass up. Now, it is a garden to envy. As we came through the gate rose, lily, and peony blooms greeted us with great shouts of color while rows of vegetables stood tidily at attention on the sunny center stage. Small fruit trees along with one of the biggest sansho trees I've seen yet stood quietly here and there. Near waist-high sweet corn, bushy young potato plants, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and beans were preparing their summer fruits, while a handful of still quite luscious looking winter vegetables like komatsuna, mizuna, and kabu held one last ro