One of the many creative writing projects rolling around in my head — that memoir-cookery book thing I’ve talked about before — has come to the forefront again recently with the discovery of one cookbook from each of my grandmothers. (See, Dia? It does pay to unpack your boxes…)
Although both are published books, they are filled with margin notes and newspaper clippings and handwritten cards and notes from each of them. I have been savouring these books more, I think, than anything I will cook from them… and cook from them I will…. but seeing their handwriting, discovering a little of what made them tick in the kitchen, that’s the best part. And now I think they will have to become part of my project.
I don’t remember my maternal grandmother really; she died when I was 3 and a half. But my paternal grandmother was a constant presence and joy in my life until she died when I was 18. I find myself thinking of her often when I’m presented with a chance to either take the high road or blow a raspberry. She rarely approved of raspberries that weren’t made into a fool or into ice cream. She had a sweet tooth, did Grandma “Gert”, and one never went to her house without being given cookies or pie or ice cream or toast with cinnamon & brown sugar… or all of the above.
I do not have my grandmother’s sweet tooth but this nostalgia for treats always hits me about this time of year, when I pull out the cookie books and the entertaining books, looking for some new goodie to bring to holiday events and family dinners. I rarely make anything new for these things, however; I wallow in the familiar and the nostalgic for the next several weeks and that includes what I bake and cook, and what I choose to eat and drink.
My mother’s stuffing, with sausage and apples and brandy and cream, which isn’t stuffed anywhere but baked in a casserole; homemade cranberry chutney with orange and cinnamon; slightly lumpy mashed potatoes made with so much butter you need a cow in the backyard; shortbread cookies with tiny pieces of maraschino cherries tucked on top; hot cocoa with lots of peppermint schnapps and even more whipped cream….
If you grow up the way I did, surrounded by the food and drink of family meals and lots of parties, I think a little nostalgia for those times, those places, and certainly those people only makes sense — especially through the holidays!
Oh, dear. I can see a lot of dirty mixing bowls and baking trays in my future. The question is, will they hold memories of goodies past or promises of memories for the future?