It’s planting season again and gardening, cooking, and canning are in my DNA.
I garden and can for pleasure but my ancestors gardened and canned out of necessity.
Here’s how my father-in-law described it. “Grandma and Grandpa didn’t have an easy life. They had a garden in Gunnison they used to work day and night. They needed to grow enough in that garden to live year round. Other than a little meat they purchased, they lived off the garden. I don’t remember them having pigs or chickens or animals of any kind. They grew all kinds of potatoes and fruit trees and everything they could grow they harvested themselves. They had a big storage shelter down in the ground with wood around it and dirt on the top and they stored all this food down there to last through the winter.”
Rather than feel sorry for my ancestors and their plight (which I do), I’m going to record and share the memories of these ancestors who lived off the land and the women who spent an unpaid lifetime in the kitchen helping to provide for their families.
I shared this recipe (from my great-aunt’s neighborhood cookbook) on Facebook last year. (I love the directions for which organs get packed together.)
Here are some of the comments from women:
“I can remember doing this as a kid on the farm. My mom always seemed to be pregnant when we slaughtered chickens, so she would dip them in boiling water and then throw up, and start scraping and throw up…”
“Eunice Cooper is badass. …I love how women’s personalities come through the instructions in cookbooks, often their only remaining writing. I’m loving Eunice.”
“That should be framed.”
“I love the little sketch at the bottom! That’s priceless.”
“Oh, how easy we have it now!”
This recipe begs the question, Who was Eunice Cooper? and Do her ancestors have this recipe?
Eunice was obviously fearless in the kitchen. If you’re packing the neck and back of a chicken for future use, you mean business.
We can preserve women’s voices and their contributions by adding their recipes to our family histories.
Maybe it’s time we start digitizing old cookbooks and uploading them to Internet Archive where everyone can search freely for a piece of history.
Do you have your mother’s or grandmother’s recipe box?
I seriously doubt I’ll be baking Grandma Mansfield’s Fruit Cake any time soon, but it warms my heart to read her recipe.
Mary’s Sweet Pickles
Naoma’s Lemon Dessert (with 1 square of nucco?)
Golda’s Ice Box Rolls
Karen’s Date Nut Pudding
Arnelda’s Tuna Casserole
Zella’s Divinity Candy
or the author unknown recipes like
Pork Chop Supper
Savory Burger Stew (with one 16 oz. can of Veg-All, drained?)
Father Late (which involves hamburger)
I typed up an oral history for my husband’s grandmother and sent a draft to her sister-in-law. She sent it back with a few edits and “Rella’s First-place State Fair Angel Food Cake” recipe she insisted I include.
Many women will give their daughters entire collections of recipes to help ease the transition of setting up a home of their own. It’s worth calling sisters, aunts, and nieces to learn if they have mom’s recipe box or a favorite childhood cookbook.
These things are so incidental and run-of-the-mill, they’re likely to be forgotten. But meals evoke strong memories and are a large part of many people’s lives.
If you don’t have access to old family recipes, try Pinterest or digitized book sites for “Historic Recipes” or “Vintage Cookbooks” and you’ll be surprised how quickly you turn up a family favorite.
I’m going to sit down with my mother-in-law and record her stories as we flip through old recipes. I’d love to know if she remembers what Veg-All was and why it needed to be drained.
If you’re on Pinterest, please follow my Historic Recipes | Vintage Cookbooks board and email me at [email protected] and mention you’d like to join this Pinterest board. Then I can add you as a contributor. I’d love to collect old recipes with you! And that goes for any of my other Pinterest boards.
Best in your research!