If you possess a recipe box, full of recipes that are family favourites, special occasion specialties and maybe even a few coveted secret concoctions and elixir’s, then what you really have is a culinary magical spell box.
I gained this insight after I read Ann Wess’s recent post, A Granny Witch’s Cookbook from her website, Appalachian Ink. Ann is a gifted writer and her work will invoke all sorts of emotions and nostalgia. Below is a link to this post. Check it out.
My mother’s personal recipe collection started out in a lined scribbler. Recipes that she wanted to remember or try out at some later date were, at first, hand written on the lined pages. Then as time went on and perhaps as life got busier, she would just tuck in a recipe between the pages, torn from a favourite magazine or hastily written from some other generous cook who was willing to share her secrets.
Some years later, my mother acquired a beautiful, but simple wooden recipe box. In it she transferred over her most favourite recipes, hand written on to lined recipe cards and discarded the over stuffed and very worn note book. But again, as the years went by the practice of meticulously hand writing out a recipe on a fresh recipe card gave way to pages ripped out of magazines and scraps of paper. What was most important though, was that her personal culinary magic was safely stored in that hardwood box.
When I was in my twenties, my mother gifted me with my own recipe box. An olive green Rubbermaid model, filled with family favourite recipes from my childhood. Once again meticulously written in her distinct hand writing on lined recipe cards.
Like her, over time I too added magic to this box with my own special recipes, as well as torn out magazine pages and shared secrets from other cooks, hastily written on scraps of paper until the plastic recipe box gave out and I replaced it with my own beautiful but simple wooden recipe box exactly like hers.
There is no doubt in me that a women’s recipe collection is her magical culinary grimoire. Have you ever tried to duplicate a much loved recipe of another woman’s, and no matter how closely your follow the formula given to you, it just does not come out that same? Did she purposely withhold some vital ingredient to protect the rights to perfecting the dish as only she can?
Or is there something more subtle that you are missing. Perhaps it’s in the mixing, maybe a unique whisking technique or an exclusive egg cracking ritual. Try as you may you are never able to duplicate the recipe, and while it may still taste good, it can never compete against the original.
My sister in-law has managed, after much practise, to duplicate her mothers famous cabbage roll recipe. She has done this by never straying from an exact ingredients list, right down to the brand of rice her mother used and going as far as even using the same old roaster her mother use to cook them in.
She even once joked that if the roaster ever wore out, she would have to give up making cabbage rolls because they will never again be the same. It’s like the spell would be broken.
As for me, I hope that never happens in my lifetime.
Every cook has a least one special dish. Something they have perfected over time that they can be proud to serve, and as their signature recipe, they may have altered the original recipe ever so slightly to truly make it original. It may be as subtle as an extra 1/2 teaspoon of salt but in some small way, it is authentically yours.
There is one other factor in the success of a recipe, and that is intent. All magical spells need the right intent in order to be cast correctly. Whether it is honour of a family tradition, nostalgic memories of events that the dish only gets served at, or the love of the people you know look forward to consuming your special concoction. This is the true legacy of a women’s recipe collections. This is were the magic happens and this is why some recipes will never turn out exactly as momma used to make.
Many years ago I found a unknown woman’s recipe collection in a old dresser that I purchased at an auction. The style and trend of the recipes dated the book from the 50’s and 60’s. It was obvious that this was a well used book and was filled with stained pages from repeated use, and like mine and my mothers, it contained torn out magazine pages and hand written recipes on scraps of paper.
It saddened me that her family would never again taste her Blondie Squares or her American Pot Roast or even her Fruit Punch. Did they even know this book was lost to them? Did they care?
I kept it for a while but felt like I was a voyeur to a woman’s personal journal so eventually, I got rid of it. It just didn’t feel right having her book of culinary magic. This was her legacy. Her love and intent filled the pages and at the time I did not feel worthy of possessing her magic.
Some individual recipes create legacies all by themselves. My mother’s Jumbo Raisin Cookies recipe is legendary. I have never met a man who didn’t fall in love with this soft cake like confection. The original recipe came off of the side of a bag of Rogers brand granular sugar decades ago and was past down in the collection of family favourites in the olive green Rubbermaid recipe box that was gifted to me and written with my mothers love and, in her distinct hand writing.
My mother past away 9 years ago so this recipe card is precious to me. The years of repeated use has caused her magical handwriting to fade from the card. I have carefully done my best to trace over her writing with the hope of saving her magic, and I guess in the process, I am adding a bit of my own to the recipe as well.
I gift to you this very recipe so that you too may have all the men that you know swoon at your feet as you cast your own spell of culinary enchantment. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch but perhaps, at the very least, you may print out this recipe or hastily write it down on a scrap of paper and tuck it into your own culinary magical spell box where it will one day become part of your own legacy.
Jumbo Raisin Cookies
Boil in a saucepan for two minutes then cool.
- 2 cups sultana raisins
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Add cooled raisins and water.
- 4 cups flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 1 /2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
Mix well. Drop by generous spoonful on greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 5 dozen. Cookies freeze well but usually get eaten before they get to the freezer. Enjoy.
Do you have a family favourite recipe? What is your magical secret? Leave a comment and help continue the conversation.