Why a family history cookbook?
The idea for this collection of recipes is the result of several incidents. The initial event that made me think, “hmmm,” was dinner at Kayla’s, Christmas 199?, when she proposed we make Shrimp Curry. She started pulling out the ingredients, and I remember looking at her as if she were crazy! Bacon? Beef broth? Yuck! She looked at me as if I had lost my mind, and whipped out the recipe… I realized then that because I’d modified the recipe 10 years ago for my vegetarian friend, Lucy, I’d forgotten the original ingredients…
When Lib was doing genealogical research for her application to the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, we talked about family history during my frequent stays with her. Given our love of food, and the outstanding dishes we all make, the idea of a family history cookbook was born. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, there was only one copy ever printed and it was never “finished,” really. For years, I promised I’d finish it, print it, and give everyone a copy… but I never got around to it. This year, I was asked by a neighbor to contribute to a blog he’d started about locavorism. As I read through the blog, I had a “V-8” moment: why not do the cookbook as a blog so that 1) people can add new (and old) recipes as they discover them and 2) people can comment on the recipes already here!
And so, I present to you the Family Recipes Cookbook Blog. The name is HORRIBLE I know, so please feel free to suggest an alternative!
What I’ve done is this: I’ve created entries for each of the recipes I collected during the first iteration of this cookbook. The list is by no means comprehensive in terms of recipes and contributors. The recipes are categorized by who the recipe is credited to and by the course for which it was designed to be served. Best of all, you can search by any ingredient.
In the original introduction to the cookbook, which I wrote ten years ago, I talked about the relationship between cooking and community, noting that “as the old-fashioned family unit continues to be separated by distance, events which bring them together become more ritualistic celebrations. As our lives become more frenzied, we seem to have less time to spend on leisurely pursuits like cooking. We no longer indulge in Sunday dinners, culinary clubs, and the nightly sit-down dinner. Certain recipes, such as the easy to prepare Shrimp Curry, or the spectacular Christmas Torte find their way into our personal cookbooks over others that we may prepare more often, but that no one in our family has the pleasure of being served. Given that not everyone has an aptitude for cooking, not everyone in the family has a section in this book. Finally, family recipes are born over time. Hence, older family members have more recipes here than younger ones. This is meant to be a growing anthology, intended to be updated over time.”
Much of that still rings true, but in our home, something has definitely changed. Ten years ago, I had no idea that “conventional” fruits and vegetables were toxic. I had no idea that factory farming required antibiotics to keep animals alive and that eating factory farmed meat was… well, if you don’t know, ask me about it. If you do, then I don’t need to go on. So, what has changed in our home is a quest for non-toxic food and trying to learn to eat seasonally to reduce our carbon footprint. I spent years not cooking, and now I cook every weekend and almost every night of the week. It’s cheaper, and I can enjoy food knowing where it came from and how it was treated before reaching my grocery cart. I’m a HUGE fan of the crock-pot these days, especially during the colder months. So, chances are, the recipes you’ll see me adding will tend to feature seasonally available fruits and vegetables and recipes one can make ahead or freeze for future dinners.
Which returns me to the next section of my original introduction to the cookbook, where I wrote: “What I find most interesting is how the recipes that these people are remembered for reflect their personality, and what they love to eat. You’ll notice, for example, that most of my recipes are desserts! And Lib’s are party dishes.” For those of us who are still cooking, I look forward to seeing how our cooking reflects our changing lives, or not!
The last thing I’ll say before signing off is about the definition of family. I’m unconventional, and proud of it. I believe that a family can be:
a man, his wife, and their children OR two men who may or may not be married, and the children they have adopted OR two people, their kids from previous marriages, and the neighbor’s kid who was abandoned by her own “family” they unofficially adopted one weekend seven years ago OR a single mother, her two kids, her ex-husband’s son from a previous marriage, and two sisters who came to work for the mother OR a man, his girlfriend, her best friend, and their furkids 😉
In other words, I’m a huge fan of the idea of family, and have never relied on blood tests and legal documentation for my definition of it. So, if you are wondering who some of the contributors to this blog are, they are, in some way, my family. And what I hope is that they will invite members of their families, and that this collection of recipes becomes a FaceBook-esque social experiment with interesting results! Or not.
So, enjoy, and I can’t wait for y’all to start adding recipes.
Merry Christmas 2009