I love cookbooks. One of my favorites is Aunt Bea’s Mayberry Cookbook that I got for Christmas probably twenty years ago. I have some stand-by recipes from that one, including Mr. McBeevee’s Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole that I make every year for Christmas morning. (And that is our big meal of the day! I know, awesome, right? I love our Christmases.) I also love a cookbook that a dear sweet lady from Perry gave me as a wedding gift eleven years ago. It is a small-town cookbook with awesome recipes, and I love that the ladies who wrote it tell you who in the family loved what recipe. I use the sour cream pound cake recipe in that one faithfully. (And I know that Miss Nelle always used 1 stick butter and 1/2 cup Crisco and Miss Mary used two sticks of margarine. This is the kind of thing they share throughout. Just precious.)
But I have to say that my all time favorite cookbook is one that has never been published.
It was when I was pregnant with my little guy almost seven years ago that I got a manila envelope in the mail from my youngest cousin. She is a very smart young woman. She knows how to cook delicious, healthy foods from scratch. She can knit like nobody’s business, has a yen for yarn, and a heart for those in need all over the world. And I love her more than I can put into words.
In the manila envelope was a four by six notebook. It was lovely on the outside and I thought, well, how sweet. I had no idea. When I turned the cover, I saw that this notebook was filled on EVERY page. With recipes. Great ones. But get this. All. Hand. Written. She sent it to congratulate us and to share her favorite recipes. We are alike in this respect–we both love to bake, but cooking not as much. One of my sisters says that my children are better off than hers, as she likes to cook and not bake. “You’re going to feed yours, that’s a given…..and you’re going to bake. Mine? They pretty much get fed. Baking not so much.”
So in this treasure of recipes, I have found some favorites that I have made over and over. One of them is for Ginger Crinkles. Guaranteed to put someone in labor. I am not kidding. After my little guy was born, I called my cousin and left her a message. “The baby is here,” I said, and I left my number at the hospital. We’re old school and hadn’t found out the gender, so of course she had to call back and say, “Well?” I told her “it’s a boy” and his name, we chatted over his measurements, and then I said, “And it’s all your fault and those Ginger Crinkles.” (I had made some on the Wednesday before he was born on Saturday–and I had been munching on them quite a bit.)
She laughed a little, and replied, “Yeah. Sorry about that.”
“What? I was just teasing you.”
She proceeded to tell me that ginger has properties that can speed up labor for a woman whose body is getting prepared. She’s smart like that. A wealth of knowledge that one. And believe me, I’ve taken advantage of that wealth. (She rescued us more than once while Mama was in the hospital. Wow. I’m not sure if I ever properly thanked her for that.)
So it turns out that the Ginger Crinkles, which I tend to make a lot in the fall, are extra special cookies. Good for you and extra, extra delicious. I promise you I will never buy another ginger snap. (And these cookies had similar results for both of my sisters when they were pregnant!)
Another favorite is the Cocoa Apple Cake. For years, a red velvet cake made by Mama (without all the red dye–come on, people–that stuff canNOT be good for you) was my traditional cake. But since I started making my own cake the past couple of years during Daddy’s fight with lymphoma, this has been my go-to cake. Yes, I know chocolate, apple, allspice, and cinnamon might not sound that good, but oh my, you cannot imagine what you are missing. It is amazing. I could seriously eat it all in one sitting, I think.
There are so many others that we have tried and enjoyed, especially all of the muffin recipes, but I think the one we have made the most often is her Banana Bread recipe. It has been called by one friend, “World Peace Banana Bread,” because, he says, if it were sent to warring countries, they would stop fighting. It is just that good. Tonight before we headed out on our walk (I made good on my promise from last night), I used up our bananas that were on their way out the door, and made a double batch of this bread. Oh. My. Land. It is so good, the one big pan is almost gone. And that’s just from three of us eating on it. I like to tell myself that with the fruit, the oatmeal, and the wheat germ, it has to be good for us, right?
I was thinking about the cookbook from my cousin as I prepared the banana bread once again this evening, and how many memories are tied into the different recipes (just like in Miss Nelle’s and Miss Mary’s cookbook). And as we went on our walk after, I reflected on those memories. I am so blessed, and I don’t take that lightly. Well not most of the time anyway.
Tonight I am thankful for treasured gifts. For my Mama who let me flour up the kitchen and bake whatever I wanted to try. My Mama would come over after I was grown, look at the floor in my kitchen, and say, “Oh you’ve been baking, have you?” Guilty. I make a mess when I bake. Always have. Good stuff can come from great messes, my friends.
I’m also thankful for the treasured gift of my sweet and spunky cousin who sent me this precious memory-filled, hand-written cookbook. She’s been on my mind and heart a lot lately. I cannot imagine how much time it took her to put this together for me. Or what time, energy, and patience the socks that she made for me during our dark times must have taken. (She even made sure the yarn was fair trade and environmentally friendly–have I mentioned how much I love her?) And what a treasure the shawl she knitted for me is, the one that I’ve used to wrap myself up in love and comfort as I’ve said goodbye to both of my parents. I am thankful for her generous spirit that has her giving so freely of her gifts and her knowledge. She is one who honks less and seeks more–she inspires me with the way she uses her gifts and talents to share with those in need, and how she empowers her children to do the same. Mostly I am thankful for her love. She loves with all her being, and I, among many, am blessed by that. Family. If you got a good one, hang on tight. And love on them as much as you can, even if it gets a little messy. Remember that good stuff I mentioned before? That. Family–they are one of life’s greatest gifts.