Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Although I was named for her, I have only a few items that belonged to my paternal grandmother: a tiny snapshot of her in a tennis outfit (complete with long skirt and hat), some pieces of her good china and a very worn and stained little leather notebook that held her recipes.
I'm guessing the entries date from a relatively short period; she married in 1912, had three sons by 1918 and fell ill shortly thereafter. Although she lived another 12 years, she was, for most of those, too ill to cook. But when she was a young housewife, raising a family in a tiny Pennsylvania town near Reading, she apparently cooked and baked and preserved with enthusiasm.
When I was given this little book a few years ago I had to gently separate the first page from the inside cover and what I found flooded me with pleasure: Her handwriting on that particular page looked exactly like my father's. The ink is too faded to be fully legible in the photograph but says:
Mary Ellis Jones
"Every receipt in this book has been tried and proven to be good."
There's something about the emphasis of those quotation marks that just melts my heart.
The book has tiny alpahabetical tabs and, by far, the thickest section follows C. For my grandmother, C stood mostly for Cake: Chocolate Cake, Nut Cake, Marble Cake and Fruit Cake. Dandy Cake, Coconut Cake, Date Cake and Pound Cake. Cakes from Helen Epright and Maybelle Mowrey and Annie McCornwell and Lou Linter -- the last being the only cake recipe with the added note: "Very good."
It wasn't all cake, all the time, of course. Even the C portion also has recipes for clam chowder, chili sauce, homemade catsup and two ways to can corn: hot pack and cold pack.
I've yet to cook anything from this little book but I love reading the recipes.
Make Corn Beef
Soak beef in strong salt water overnight, in morning drain
In morning put in crock containing salt water strong enough to float
an egg, 1 cup brown sugar and a little salt peter. Let stand 10 days before
or, to celebrate early Spring:
use 2 qts. of water to 1 qt. of flowers
let stand 1 hour then add 2 oranges and 2 lemons for each gallon
let stand 48 hours
than add 3 lbs. sugar to each gallon and let work
(how I LOVE "let work")
There was a large grape arbor behind the house, and apparently the grapes were very sweet, because her jam recipe is merely:
1 pint grapes
1 pint vinegar
2 TB water
cook 20 minutes, put thru sieve
cook until thick
An odd-sounding dessert called a Marlow must have been *the* trendy dessert for a while as there are recipes for:
The Coffee Marlow recipe is typical of the genre:
1 cup strong coffee infusion
1/2 pint whipping cream
Melt marshmallows in coffee over hot water, stirring to produce smooth
mixture, add salt.
When cold and slightly thick, add stiffly beaten cream.
How I'd love to time-travel back to Spring City on a long-ago Valentine's Day --before Cancer took my beautiful young grandmother from the kitchen and the gathering of dandelions and the picking of grapes -- and watch my father and uncles as little boys sitting around the table waiting for dessert. I like to think it would have been cake--chocolate cake. Undoubtedly Lou Linter's Chocolate Cake, because it was, my grandmother noted, "Very good."