My beloved recipe book

First off, I don’t cook. I can make basic rice and pasta dishes and bake muffins and that is about it. Why? I have thought about that a lot during my life because I love food. I think part of it is because my mother was a housewife whose kitchen was the country she ruled. She hated anyone in her kitchen. She hated anyone even sitting chatting to her while she cooked. She hated it when people offered to help.

She was also a brilliant cook whose skills were famed far and wide. She used to send along with something edible every time I went to stay with someone, every time we visited anyone, every holiday and special day. People used to drool at the thought of her cookies and cakes. And her roasts were to die for. She did not use recipes but created her own dishes as she went.

When I was in my teens, she realized she was dying. She gave me her engagement ring because she wanted me to have it before she died. I still wear it every day. She also wrote down all her recipes for me in a book that our granny gave all the daughters in law one Christmas.

Over the years, I have asked friends and family to write their own favourite dishes in my recipe book. Most of them are in their own writing. Others have been written by me sitting at someone’s kitchen table having coffee and a chat after eating said delicious meal.

My recipe book is famous among friends and family who have borrowed it, photocopied it and cooked with it (hence the food stains on some of the pages). It has been with me wherever I have lived in the world. And for someone who does not cook, this is very very precious to me.

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A cheap old recipe book, given by my maternal grandmother to all the daughters in law one Christmas. It has sections for different dishes and is about 40 years old now.
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All the places I have lived for more than a few years. The last one is my present address so I have cropped it out of the photograph.
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My mother left school at 16 and never had any further education but she had the most beautiful handwriting. Seeing it on these pages makes me happy and sad at the same time.
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My dad died in September and my mom died in February the following year. She knew she was dying so she wrote all these down for me as she had all her recipes in her head. She died of brain cancer so the effort she had to put into remembering and writing was superhuman.
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Here are some written by my cousin Christine and my friend Pauline. I have put in brackets beside each one where I first ate it.
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Once when I was working in administration at the drama department of a university a few of us worked round the clock running a cafe during an arts festival. We made a fortune because of this recipe – microwave carrot cake!
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Some of my favorite biscuits, recipe written out by my cousin Kevin in the kitchen one day

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Another reason I have never really gotten into cooking is, I think, because I have always preferred to live alone and because I have had a demanding career with very long and very irregular hours. It has always been easy to come home and heat up something than spend ages cooking and washing up afterwards. I tend to buy salad and fresh cooked food from the supermarket on the way home, or have something in the freezer I can defrost late at night. Or I have muesli and yoghurt for supper!

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. What a lovely heirloom, Janet.mmy mother was a professional chef, so she was a. Ugh tamer to learn from. Too quick, too knowledgeable and because she taught junior chefs very impatient. I sometimes think that she thought I was a part-trained chef, rather than a rather shy 6 year old. Eventually, I went to my grandma to learn. Fortunately she was a good, traditional cook. She was a Devonian and could do great apple recipes that she had learnt from her own mother and Yiddish recipes from her mother-in-law.

    Clare

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