I’ve been thinking about cooking all week. That’s because my husband and I both wound up sick with wicked colds when we got home from ACFW. He actually had it bad when we left but he still insisted on driving me there. He rested in our room between outings to museums (where the air-conditioning was nice). But when we got home, he still felt horrible and then I started with an annoying dry cough that turned into a monster living in my upper respiratory area.
So while I didn’t have an appetite, I did think of food. Comfort food. You know–Chicken soup and spicy chili, biscuits and cornbread. Pie. I wanted some pie. I wanted my mama’s fried chicken and field peas and turnips and fried okra. I needed a blankie!
There is nothing more miserable than a late summer cold. You don’t dare venture out in the heat and humidity and yet, you are chilled from the air-conditioning. I’m a big whiner when I get sick but I tried to be stoic since my husband seemed worse than me. But then I got on Facebook and those super-fast video recipes kept whizzing through my feed, making me wish someone would just come and cook for me. I finally made some black bean chicken soup concoction out of desperation, hoping it would cure both of us. It was good. Full of vegetables and thick broth and chunks of tender chicken. I found some frozen hush puppies and cooked those and we actually enjoyed the meal.
But that got me thinking about the good old days when you held a worn, handwritten recipe in your hand and thought about your mother and your grandmother making this same recipe. I have such recipes on a special shelf in our laundry room because my husband convinced me we didn’t have room for a full bookshelf in our kitchen.
I have pages and pages of recipes from Southern Living magazine but now I can find those online, of course. I parted with a lot of recipes when we moved but I held tight to others such as his mother’s handwritten recipe for a secret Brunswick Stew. If you know Georgia, you know good Brunswick Stew. I have a great recipe for Shrimp Creole and my own secret way of making gumbo because if you know Louisiana, you know to make good gumbo.
Last night, we were both recovering but still hadn’t regained our appetites so I made a mock Chinese noodle soup. It just so happened I had most of the ingredients on hand–Thank you, God! It was pretty good and I was proud that I’d gotten up out of my comfy chair to put it together.
When we got married my mother gave me a cookbook. I learned to cook from that cookbook and I still have it. This is that cookbook: (It’s spotted with cooking splatters and love of course.) I’ve had it for forty years.
One Christmas my husband decided I needed an updated version:
He thought I’d get rid of the first one. I did not. How do you give away that many memories. Of recipes gone terribly wrong, of birthday cakes that wobbled but tasted great, of burned dinners and your first attempt at Thanksgiving for the entire extended family? How do you forget dozens of sugar cookies cut in Christmas shapes and given away to friends and family? I kept the original which I still use and I refer to the new, updated model when I want to try something different. Recipes tell stories, after all. Just like the many books I have in my home that I want to read someday, I have saved countless recipes that I want to try. I’m sure I won’t get to try all of them. But oh, the joy of knowing they are there. Comfort food is the stuff of life. Even when you’re forced to throw together soup from scratch with ingredients that God provided. That’s what cooking is all about. Love. It’s about love. Even if you don’t always get things perfect.
What are some of your best cookbook memories? Do you have a favorite family recipe?
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