Sometimes, when you’re in search of one thing, another appears sending you in a completely different direction. On Mother’s Day, while looking for coffee filters, I came upon a small recipe box from my seventh-grade home economics class. The box was packed tightly with cards and dividers in alphabetical order: appetizers, biscuits, cakes, casseroles etc. There were a few recipe cards in my seventh-grade hand: strudel-filled coffee cake and potato salad. Most however, were cards written in my mother’s hand. She commandeered the box after the class was over knowing that my interest, at the time, was not in the kitchen.
I sat down on the couch with the box and extracted one section at a time, savoring each card. Some cards had a magazine recipe glued to it, some were cards signed, From Pat Mahoney’s Kitchen, a requested recipe from a social evening. Some cards looked like they’d never been out of the box, and you could barely read the Moist Chocolate Cake and Seven-minute Icing recipes for the water spots. Written on one folded slip of paper, in my grandmother’s hand, was a recipe for three-bean salad with the note, “Delicious salad. Mrs. Cahill brought me some, so I made a bowl full, it keeps for some time.”
Opening the box, opened the lid to my childhood. Mother made the best Lemon Meringue pie and something she called Tamale pie—comfort foods for sure. Other treasurers included my other grandmother’s recipe for Christmas pudding, Carrot salad, my dad’s favorite and my nightmare, and Lois Kinsley’s recipe for Bran Muffins, written in my grandmother’s hand on a folded piece of yellowed note paper.
Reading each card reminded me of what we ate, what I liked and what often ended up in my napkin under the table: Lima beans, liver and chicken pot pie. A couple of recipes mentioned canned peaches, applesauce and cherries that we harvested from my grandparents’ orchard in Calistoga and canned at the end of each summer. Sustenance comes in many forms. The memories and stories we share gift us with a delicious buffet. Mother’s Day dessert? Refreshments of Reminiscence. I found them tasty and nourishing.