Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lost Treasures

I had a mini-panic attack this afternoon.

You see, I am "famous" for my green bean casserole. I know what you are thinking, it's green bean casserole, how can you be famous for that?

Well, first off, I have the old school recipe, which calls for a "secret" ingredient: worcestershire sauce. Most recipes don't have anything but the soup, green beans, and fried onions and if they do add anything it's soy sauce, which adds the salty element, but not the same richness and depth of flavor. Some recipes leave out the milk and pepper, too. I once saw one recipe that called for water instead of the milk - gasp!

My recipe is a dog-eared copy that my mother gifted to me when I moved out into my own apartment. She made me a recipe book filled with my favorite recipes and to give it that extra "homey" feeling, she included the original cards, most of which were from her mom or grandma or even great-grandma, and made copies for herself. My grandma also decided to add to the collection and every time she writes me a letter, she includes a "new" recipe. So, it's grown pretty large over the years, with me also adding in some of my favorites.

In addition to my green bean casserole being an older recipe, I also made a "mistake" a few years back. I baked the casserole at home and then put it in a warmer to take it the hour-plus drive to my mother-in-law's. It kept cooking on the drive up (the warmer keeps things very insulated). When I saw the results when we arrived, I was upset, it looked less creamy than usual, and I was sure I had ruined it. Not so. Everyone was diving into that casserole with a vengeance that year. It was creamier, richer. . . just better. Technically, it was "overdone," but it worked.

So, the combination of the two has won me accolades. My casserole is requested at every single family dinner where a green bean casserole would be appropriate . . . and even a few where it might not really fit the menu, but still tastes great.

Today, I got out all of the ingredients for the casserole and reached into the cupboard for my recipe book. And it was missing. Missing.

I looked everywhere that a recipe book might be (and in my not-so-very-organized kitchen that could be a lot of places). As I continued to search, I kept reassuring myself, it would be in the very next place that I looked.

After a half hour of serious looking, I was starting to get worried. I could probably do the recipe by heart, but the thing is, there are a lot of good recipes in there that I don't want to lose. My dad's famous homemade hot fudge sauce that my friend once told me she would marry me for (and I don't think she was kidding), my great-grandma's Swedish white brownies (that have never failed to create a sensation at any event I have brought them to), my mom's apple dapple cake (an easy, beautiful cake that has people begging for the recipe every. single. time) . . . Most of these I do have memorized, but still. They are in my mom's or grandma's or great-grandma's or even great-great-grandma's handwriting! There are thirteen amazing Christmas Cookie recipes in that book! I don't have all of them memorized. And what about the original See's Fudge recipe?!?!? It's not Christmas without that one!

Then, I knew what had happened to the book. And I wanted to cry.

A few weeks ago, I cleaned out some closets and cupboards and I went through my cookbook collection. I remember putting the recipe book aside. But I also remember Will distracting me in the middle of my project and M coming in to finish it. I remember him asking about a few cookbooks, that I just glanced at and said, "Sure, toss 'em in the pile."

That pile went to Goodwill two weeks ago.

To me, a huge part of the holiday season is making so many of those recipes. I was crushed to think that I just threw away what is truly a piece of my family history and a labor of love from my mom and grandma to me.

I had tears in my eyes as I thought about never seeing the cramped handwriting, cramming ingredients and instructions on a pretty flowered recipe card (no plain index cards back in Grandma's day). My grandma also had recipe system with "good," "very good," and "excellent" written across the top. When I was a little girl, I asked her why there was no "bad" written across the top, and she said to me, "Honey, I don't keep the bad ones!"

There were recipes in that book that I haven't even tried yet. My grandma's latest letter included a recipe for her frozen strawberry fluff pie. I remember when we visited them when I was seven and gobbled down my first piece so quickly that it startled everyone when I was done and asking for a second piece before anyone had finished their first!

So, there I was, in tears, wondering what I was going to do. . . and what I was going to tell my mom. I would need to confess in order to get another copy of all of those recipes.

Will was clamoring to be let out of his playroom by this point, so I went and got him. He wanted to be read to. I told him to go get a book, so he did, and toddled over to me with. . . I swear, I couldn't make this up if I tried. . . my recipe book.

How it got into his book pile, I will never quite know. It's a Thanksgiving Miracle. That book will help create my holiday memories for years to come and I am thankful that it isn't lost.

I know that the holidays are not always an easy time. It can be stressful, overwhelming, and, if you are still waiting for your miracle baby, it can be incredibly sad. I remember so many holidays just trying to make it through. I do remember, however, finding even tiny moments of joy and hope, even in those desolate days. I hope those moments find you and bring you peace.

To all of you, my dear friends, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a blessed Holiday Season 2009.


Red said...

Oh, what a beautiful story! I am glad you found your recipes.

My Grandma has a chistmas cake recipe that has been passed down from my great, great grandmother. She has a 'cooking' copy and one is plastic wrap which is the exact one my great great grandmother wrote and used so many years ago. Last year was the first year I was 'allowed' in to the secret recipe and it will pas to me when my grandma can no longer stir the pudding herself. I just hope I keep the plastic wrap copy safe!

Rachel said...

Wait ... I was so hoping we'd get a recipe at the end of the post. Any chance you could choose one family recipe to divulge?

Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

So glad you found it! I totally gasped out loud when it seemed that it was gone forever.

But, just in case... scan the book! Scan it right now!

My grandma's fudge recipe is one that I can never lose, because it's the one on the back of the fluff jar. :) But I have lots from her, other relatives, and random places that I really ought to be scanning too.

Anonymous said...

Such a sweet story and I'm so glad that it ended with finding your book! Hope you had a marvelous Thanksgiving! ((hugs))

J said...

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

K @ ourboxofrain said...

I'm so glad you found the book!

And my advice (not that you asked :): copy the book and work off the copy -- put the original in a fire-safe box!!

Mazzy said...

This is an awesome post. I was so happy with the end, because my stomach sure dropped when your story turned south. Some things in life are truly irreplaceable.