Monday, October 25, 2010

Basement archeology.

In the last couple months, my in-laws have gradually been clearing out their basement. (When they get done, I suspect they will be drinking champagne.) Since the basement is full of not only their own stuff, but stuff belonging to their kids, it's been a long process of sorting and pitching and storing and cleaning.

Last Thursday when I was in Ohio, my father-in-law mentioned that he'd found a recipe box. Thanks to his mother, his wife, and to a lesser degree me, he knew he'd be a dead man without TRYING to track down the owner. So he wanted to know if it was familiar to me.

He brought it upstairs, and I didn't recognize it. But I know, myself, the value of family recipes. So I flipped it open and riffled through, and damn if it's not full of my own grandmother's handwriting.

Apparently it was mine.

I have no memory of so much as SEEING this recipe box before, ever, let alone putting it in my in-laws' basement. But who else would have? Even if the husbeast or his parents physically placed the box in the basement, I'm the one who would have handed it to any of them. Ditto, my in-laws hardly allow just anyone to wander through their house without their knowledge, storing stuff in their basement. (In fact, the only person who has access to MY family's stuff and THEIR house is, well, me.)

I've got a few theories. My mother and maternal grandmother both died of long illnesses within about five months of each other. (I have always thought my mother hung on to take care of her mother.) I was living in Hawaii at the time, and that year flew enough miles (all between Ohio and Honolulu) to circle the earth twice. I figure at some point I put the recipe box in the basement and was too stressed, jet-lagged, exhausted, and upset to remember it.

At any rate, I was pleased to find the recipes. For ten years, I've been looking for my grandmother's recipe for chocolate pie. It's not in my mother's recipe boxes (I do have those, and have moved them around with me for ten years). I assume the recipe is not among my mother's things because my mother had it memorized. She was always notorious for not writing things like that down.

The one drawback? Sometime or other, that recipe box was dropped. The interior is a disaster. I've been poking through it for a week, and still don't know if the recipe is in there. But I've had a fine time flipping through, remembering some foods and complaining to the spirit of my grandmother about how she never made others for me.

With luck, the pie recipe will yet turn up. I'll publish it, if it does.


Penny said...

What a great legacy, your Grandmother's recipes in her own handwriting.

Knot By Gran'ma said...

What a find!!! Hope you find your pie recipe too, but it must be kind of nice to just have something of hers in her handwriting. My grandmother's recipe book was snatched up by her children, and I'm doubtful I'll ever see it.

Roxie said...

What a find! Your FIL has earned his annual hand-knit socks!

I just finished reading "Victorian Cakes" which is a memoir of the early 20th century, with recipes. Utterly charming, and full of treasures " in great-grandmother's spidery handwriting" from a "receipt" book passed down through generations of the author's family. Most of the recipes use beaten egg whites to make the cakes light, and this is well before the electric mixer. "Beat the egg whites for half an hour, then begin to add the sugar, a spoonful at a time." I've tried whipping eggwhites by hand. I don't have the guns for it.

Janet said...

Nevermind how that box of recipes turned up, just be thankful that it did. What a treasure.
Hope your brother is resting comfortably. Anxious times.

Anna M said...

Seriously awesome find. Best archeology ever.

Anonymous said...

My mother didn't cook much. I did the cooking for our family from a very young age, and my grandmother didn't write things down. She did teach me to cook most of the family favorites, and I suppose I should document them before they are lost forever. She said she learned to cook from her mother-in-law and that HER mother was a #*&! poor cook. After being the main cook and bottle washer for FIFTY years I'm tired and ready for a minion to take over! ::whine::

Corlis said...

Cool Beans! If you ever get the time, scan them, take pictures of your version of the recipes, put them together and voila! Your very own heirloom cookbook.

Alwen said...

I had made a .txt file of the Christmas Eve seafood chowder recipe before my husband's busia died, but a couple years ago I found one in her handwriting in my recipe notebook.

So I appreciate the awesomeness.

Amy Lane said...

That's awesome. That must be like, I don't know, a family love-letter or something--legacies left to people who understand them are really sort of precious. I really hope you find that recipe for pie!!!

Emily said...

Oh, lucky lucky you. My grandmother once filled a couple of marble notebooks with her own handwritten recipes ("receipts") as a Christmas present for me & my sister. I lost mine, I have no idea how, so my sister Xeroxed hers for me. It's quite a glimpse of those times, besides being filled with my grandmother's presence. Precious.

NeedleTart said...

Drooling already!

KristieB said...

Last Christmas my sister, cousin, mother and Aunt got together and went through my grandmother's recipe books, boxes and assorted piles. She had been gone three years at that point so it was a bittersweet gathering. We ended up having so much fun and I am now the proud keeper of two of her recipe boxes. So glad you found your misplaced treasure box.

Barbara said...

What a treasure trove! I volunteer to taste test the chocolate pie(s). My grandmothers didn't measure either or write things down so I've been forced to find reasonable facsimiles of things like spaetzle and chicken with slickers. Fun but frustrating.

mamaosa said...

Después de la aparición de la receta de tu abuela deseo darte otra buena noticia:
He terminado de tejer el patrón de tu blog y, puedes verlo aquí:
Me ha quedado precioso y estaba perfectamente explicado.
¡Muchas gracias!

Leonie said...

What an awesome find! How truly wonderful that your FIL knew to check before disposing of it. A true treasure trove for you and the Goober!