“I need your cranberry relish recipe please!!! It’s my favorite.”
This was the first text I read this morning from one of my daughters-in-law, 2000 miles away in Indiana. Followed not long after by this from the other one in San Francisco;
“Would you send me your pecan pie recipe?
Max would like to make it for our Thanksgiving.”
I was so pleased to have been asked for these recipes I have used for thirty Thanksgivings. Our family has grown from just my husband and myself, to three sons, two of whom are husbands with wives and babies of their own. It seems the foods we enjoyed together on those special days really did hold meaning for them.
I scrambled to sort through my mess of printed pages, old cookbooks and hand-written recipes in my kitchen cupboard in order to email them quickly to “my girls”. I have recipes hand-written from my great-grandmothers, grandmothers, my mom, my mother-in-law, my sisters and many from good friends.
I found the cranberry relish recipe in an old email since that one had been requested before. I entered the pecan pie recipe (the one I have used since we were first married) into a new word document since my scanner hasn’t been working for a while now.
When I had finished and sent it off to the girls and cc’ed my young married nieces in Michigan (Katie included), I googled “pecan pie”. I watched a video of efficient instructions on how to make a Southern classic pecan pie.
I never saw the woman baking the pie, only her hands showed up, forming the crust edges and turning the oven knob to 350 degrees.
So I decided to watch a whole person and googled
“Pecan Pie Paula Deen” and got this one;
This was about 4 minutes of video of Paula demonstrating how to make her Chocolate Pecan Pie with her signature charm and ebullient laughter. It looked like it would taste amazingly good!
My hand-written pie recipe suddenly seemed a bit archaic.
It made me stop and reflect a minute. If the thousands of recipes and videos on how to make cranberry relish and pecan pie are available to my girls in an instant, why had they asked me for mine?
I decided these girls had been raised right. They had experienced family traditions of generations of women working in the kitchen together to make the magic of Thanksgiving happen. They had memories playing in their minds of the aroma of onions, celery and sage sauteing in butter on the stove as the beginnings of the stuffing their grandma made every year.
I have memories of my own Grandma Cogie in her late 70’s, wearing her faded smock apron, peeling a mountain of potatoes as she sat at the kitchen table, expertly letting each chunk fall from the worn paring knife into a huge kettle of water with a little kerplunk. I remember the comforting aroma of the turkey roasting when my mother would baste it so it would be moist and golden brown.
My sisters and I would be given various tasks appropriate to our ages. Our favorite was making the chip dip with no recipe from the time I was around eleven years old. My mother would call out each ingredient from memory to me as she patiently stirred her signature gravy in the roaster pan on top of the stove. I got to use the hand mixer and be the first to taste the dip with Ruffles potato chips.
“Cream cheese” she’d call out.
“A little milk after that”.
“Horseradish. About a half a teaspoon.”
“Salt it until it tastes right.”
To this day, my sister’s and I still make this dip. It’s not anything spectacular but it reminds us of our first forays into contributing to our holiday food traditions.
And that brings me back to why we ask each other for recipes when there are thousands available to us online. I think we share our traditional family recipes because women need to connect with other women, especially women we’re related to.
That my new daughters-in-law would want to bring some of our family’s traditional foods into their own celebrations is touching to me. They are honoring our family, their husbands and me by even asking. That’s a great blessing to me and I’m thankful to God for them. I’ll miss having them around my table this year but take comfort in knowing we will all be thanking God for each other and carrying on our traditions on that day, even though we are miles apart.
Oh and I guess I’d better hand write my recipes from now on so my grandchildren and their children can see what my handwriting looked like (although it’s not nearly as pretty as my mother’s meticulous Catholic school cursive). I guess they won’t care as long as the pie turns out well. I’m confident my descendants will know a good thing when they taste it.