This article is dedicated to my mother-in-law, Lucille Palmer. She must have been a good cook, for after 41 years of marriage I’m still hearing about it.
My husband's past is tied to food. I often said that a trip to visit my in-laws was like being diabetic (I should know, I am one).
A diabetic's life is not an easy one. Meals are tied to time and content. Once a meal is out of the way you are planning for the next. I find a diabetic spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about food. All of the above applies to my husband's family.
Diabetics usually think about food we can't eat. Here endeth the similarity, for they ate everything and lots of it.
My husband's family spent more time planning, timing and thinking about food than any group of people I've ever known. Once breakfast was finished and the dishes cleared, my father-in-law would be asking what was for lunch and dinner. It was, my husband explains, due to the fact they were farming people. Food was energy. Timed to get you out in the fields where you would burn up that energy, then back in for the next meal, and so on. Every meal was rewarded with dessert.
My husband has always spoken longingly of his mother's cooking, so when his father died and we cleaned out the family home he was so excited to happen on an envelope of her handwritten recipes. Heavily weighted toward dessert, I might add.
In going through the little handwritten cards I found three ingredients used over and over again. Sour cream, raisins, and rhubarb. There was sour cream raisin cake, pie, and cookies. Sour cream rhubarb cake, pie, and cookies. The sour cream raisin pie was the most exciting find for my husband. Sour cream raisin pie is his favorite.
Reading through the recipes was a miniature history lesson featuring 1950's decorated cards, cards attributing the authorship to her children, relatives, neighbors, and an occasional cut-out from one of the farming magazines. Ingredients of the time and of her garden. Ingredients such as Karo syrup, Crisco, and the irrepressible Jell-O. And from the garden zucchini, rhubarb, corn, and plums. Food memories for my husband.
There were recipes titled Linda Bundt's Bundt Cake, Betty Harvey's Frog Eye Salad (Serves 35), and Kathy's Ribbon Ice Box Dessert. Many of the cards are punctuated with Lucille's comments - Very Good, the Real McCoy, problem!
And tucked away in the middle of thousands of cards I found a surprise. A recipe in my own handwriting. A dish I had made for Lucille over forty years ago. Saved. To understand my surprise, you'd have to know I was a second wife, a difficult position to play in any game. After thirty years, she warmed to me. So, even if she never made my recipe. She saved it. And that means a great deal to me, even after all these years.
In her honor, I am scanning the cards and transcribing the recipes into a book for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. It will tell of her life and be punctuated with photographs. I think it would have pleased her.