My grandmother, pictured here in the white dress second from the right, was not necessarily an adventurous cook. Nor did she have what I might call an adventurous palette. (In all fairness, not a lot of Americans did back in the day.)
As a kid, I remember my grandmother had reached a point in her life where she outsourced the preparation of large meals, or any real cooking, usually to the sainted Lydia or Gertrude, for instance. I don’t remember her doing much that might pass as actual cooking in the kitchen. What I do recall is when Granny Edith was flying solo, feeding herself was a sort of a bachelor vittles situation — she would cobble together odd bits and pieces from the pantry and fridge and call it a meal!
Fast forward to last year, when my parents were moving. One of the treasures that emerged from the great downsizing was my grandmother’s recipe box filled with moldy-smelling, hand-typed 4×6 index cards, some with taped photographs from magazines. (The scotch tape is giving up the ghost at this point, so many of the ‘graphs are loose in the box and we still have to marry them up with their recipes, as we can.)
We all had a good time thumbing through the recipes, as in all things, you wonder in hindsight why some of these she felt the need to write up and retain.
To my mother this Christmas, the Zs and I are giving the gift of making the weirdest of these recipes all together — four generations of cooking! We will have three generations cooking together in body, and the fourth, my grandmother, will be here in spirit! We are going to tackle the following desserts as our first three projects:
- Prune Spice Cake. We will have to buy shortening, and it calls for the cake to be baked in a moderate oven, whatever the heck that means!
- Fruit Melange in Vin Rose. This is borderline disturbing! Gelatin, wine syrup, fruit, and sour cream. It has it all!!
- Zwieback Apple Cake, The Zs and I chose this because Tom actually knew what Zwieback was, while we had no earthly idea!
We plan to update the blog with the results of this ongoing project!
Regarding the purposely badly photoshopped four generations of cooking picture above, I wanted to share the wonderful historic photograph that inspired it. This pic happens to be my grandmother and three of my mother’s older sisters.