Mom’s Treasures


Post by community member:

I got the call that everyone dreads; my mom had passed away. It was January 18, 1988, 2 AM. The next morning I immediately went to her house. I had to retrieve her treasures. I walked through the backdoor driven to find them and get home to my small daughters. Were her treasures stocks and bonds? Nope. Jewels of great value? Nope, again. My mom was a simple woman that lived in a 900 square foot home. There were no earthly treasures to be found here. But there was something that was of great value to me — my mom’s recipe boxes and cookbooks.

I remember walking to the kitchen counter where she kept her worn and stained recipes. I retrieved them and went home to mourn and be with my girls.

It’s now July 2010. Those boxes and cookbooks still hold a very special place in my heart. I refer to the recipes all the time to make one of my mom’s delicious creations. I’m not sure if I should really call them recipes. Here’s an example of her Baked Lima Bean recipe:

Ham cut up in hunks and fried
Bacon fried
1 quart tomatoes (they would have been home canned)
Brown Sugar

Do you notice what’s missing? Yep, no times, quantities, temperature or the main ingredient, the BEANS!!

I loved this darn recipe but have yet to recreate it so that it’s just like hers. I’ve come close but not quite. Maybe I’ll never get it. I think sometimes it just tasted so good cause Mom made them just for me. How do you list love as an ingredient? You all know what I’m talking about.

When I make something that was my Mom’s I tell my kids. It’s one of the ways they get to know a wonderful lady. I’m also making sure that the treasures they receive from me will be in a more usable format. I’ve started recipe files for all my kids. I print off the recipes and tell them who they came from. I make sure I include each child’s favorite and I add recipes as we discover new ones.

Like mom, I won’t be passing on stocks and bonds or jewels. I will be passing on history, good foods made with simple ingredients and lots of love.


  1. Dede ~ wvhomecanner says:

    Great post Kelly – and it’s the handwriting that also makes older recipes so precious, isn’t it? I have some of my former late mother-in-law’s recipes that are all fantastic recipes but it’s those in HER handwriting that I really love the most. Now that I have a granddaughter, will be saving these for her so she’ll have a more tangible connection to her great grandmother.

  2. Miss Nellie says:

    Great idea about the cookbook, I think I’ll start making one for each of my grandchildren and add in some of my mom’s handwritten ones in each.

  3. Rah says:

    Treasures indeed! One favorite in my collection of Grandmama’s recipes calls for “a lump of butter the size of a good hen’s egg” and “a china tea cup of flour.”

  4. Moopsee says:

    In 1999 I made a cookbook for the family with everyone’s favorite recipes of Mom’s. I called it Memories to Savour. It was a lot of work, but the biggest thing was my mom’s response: now the grandchildren will have something to remember me. I was very stunned. I had no idea of the impact it would have on HER. It is very precious. No handwritten ones unfortunately, but loved. Your post is a wonderful reminder of the connection between generations with something as “simple” as a recipe. Very well written — thank you!

  5. Pam says:

    I too have wonderful memories of my mother’s cooking. Mom passed away when I was 12, but I managed to salvage her recipe box. There were many good recipes there, but the one thing I remember was how mom could take a box of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and make it taste like a million bucks. It never failed that when we had spaghetti we also had fried potatoes. Don’t ask why, but spaghetti was our meat. Not very healthy, but that was cooking 40 years ago.

    There are many things I miss in life, but my mother is the thing I miss the most.

  6. Cheryl LeMay says:

    My older sisters always argued over who would get mom’s cookbook when she passed. I didn’t take it when she died because I thought they would. It turned out that neither of them did and it ended up in the auction with the other things.I dearly regret it. It also had some of my grandma’s recipes in it too. Good for you to rescue that.

  7. kellyb says:


    The handwriting is one of the things I like best. I think my mom’s handwriting is so neat, my is a mess. It’s like smells, brings so many memories back.

  8. kellyb says:


    Your comment made me smile. I have one of my grandmother’s “receipt” books. Butter the size of an egg, a teacup of flour, she wouldn’t have had china are all there. Most of the recipes have someone’s name attached to them. Beulah’s Applesauce Cake, Ester’s Raisin Cookies, etc. I don’t know who any of those people are except they must have been special and good cooks.

  9. kellyb says:


    What a wonderful tribute to your mother and a great gift to your children. My youngest recently asked that I put together her “gift” cookbook. That made me feel good.

  10. kellyb says:

    I miss my mom almost everyday and it’s been 23 years. We should treasure them while we have them.

  11. kellyb says:


    Sorry to hear of the loss of your recipes. Perhaps you can make up a collection of your favorites and have them available for those who would enjoy them.

  12. abhaya says:

    Yes, it is definately the handwriting that brings tears to my eyes every time I flip through moms old recipe box. The index cards are so soft and yellowed some have those stains too they’re easy to find amongst my newer additions.

    My own kids have started a manila envelope they call ‘the silent table’ It’s full of the recipes that have caused a hush to fall on the table when the food is so good everyone just can’t speak at first.

  13. NorthCountryGirl says:

    Oh, you bring back memories with your story. When my Mom died, I inherited her cookbooks and recipes. I used to look through them and run my fingers over my mother’s handwriting. She had such beautiful penmanship. I guess I felt that touching something she touched would somehow bring her memory back to me. I still have those recipes and every now and then, I take them out and look at them. Someday I’ll recreate all the wonderful things she made for us kids. Yes, your story stirred vivid memories. Thank you for bringing back the good times, if only through a memory.

  14. kellyb says:


    Can I come and try some of your silent dinner recipes? Please be sure to share them with us here. Just think, they may become part of someone’s treasures someday.

  15. kellyb says:


    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does that. Right before I took the pictures for this submission I traced the words on the recipe card with my finger. I thought if anyone saw me they’d think I was crazy. Thanks for understanding. We need to grab those memories anytime we can.

  16. geedaisy says:

    About 8 or 9 years ago I started a recipe collection for my kids. Several people suggested typing the recipes on the computer and printing them out, but I wanted them to be handwritten. Reading a computer printed recipe just doesn’t seem to touch the heart the way handwritten ones do.

    I collect old cookbooks and I love to find an old cookbook with handwritten recipes or recipes that were tucked in between the printed pages. If there’s a page that’s stained or had several adjustments made to the recipe I know that was a well loved recipe and it’s the first one I try. I wanted my kids and grandkids to have that same joy someday when I’m long gone and they’re looking through my cookbooks.

  17. grandmatotwochicks says:

    I loved the post Kelley! I also have cookbooks and hand written recipes from my Granny and Mom, and I get teary eyed from the hand writing. I have a sugar cookie recipe from my Granny that she would make for my Uncle during World War two, it says to add enough flour to make a stiff dough to roll out! I always try to make these cookies, they are good, but not the same as my Granny’s. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  18. bonita says:

    My mom had big dreams of sometime having the time to cook something new and different (as opposed to just getting dinner on the table). She was always tearing recipes out of magazines and newspapers. Every few months, she would assign me the task of organizing the huge box of clippings. They eventually came to be pasted onto 4 x 6 cards. I have those cards—all yellowed—many clippings no longer attached to the cards. There are a dozen or so cases, when I was learning to type, that she had me type recipes onto cards. Luckily each comes with the source name and date. There are a few hand-written cards in the file, some from my Aunt Julia and others from my dad. There are even a few recipes in a hand I do not recognize, in a language I cannot read—Lithuanian. I think these may have been from my uncle’s mother-in-law…or maybe my mom’s aunt. Yes, it would have been nice to have my mother’s handwritten recipes, but there is still a certain comfort in going through the printed recipe collection.

  19. kellyb says:


    I love the old cookbooks. I have quite a collection. I found one recently that had an entire section of handwritten recipes and slips of paper cut-out from magazines and newspapers. The ones with the stains are the first ones I try out as well.

  20. kellyb says:


    My grandmother’s sandtart cookie recipe is like that. No one has ever been able to recreate that recipe. Her recipe simply lists the ingredients and “to feel”. My mom did the same thing.

  21. kellyb says:


    What a treasure you have also. And to think that you helped your mom create the collection. How wonderful that you have recipes in a different language.

    Handwritten or printed, they all hold memories and are treasures that we love. Isn’t it a wonderful connection to the past?

  22. Sheryl - Runningtrails says:

    I still use a lot of my own mother’s recipes that are over 50 years old. Some of them make things that just can’t be matched!

  23. LK says:

    I was fortunate to get a lot of my grandma’s recipes when she died, handwritten and otherwise. I am planning to carefully re-bind some of her irreplaceable books with a comb binder that we have, and I need to put the other ones together in some sort of usable collection one day.

    My grandma not only had recipes similar to the lima bean mystery recipe above, but random daily thoughts, good and bad, spelling practice, writing practice, and funny poems and sayings that she enjoyed scattered randomly throughout. Sometimes there are addresses of people from days gone by and all sorts of odds and ends. It is very interesting. An heirloom that no one else can match, for sure.

    I plan on making my daughters a cookbook for when they leave home one day. I want to put tips and hints, substitutions, herb uses, family and generation-type recipes, how to plan a monthly menu complete with templates, some fun stuff, etc. all into one book. I think that I will include copies of some of my grandma’s poems and fun things. I will also include information about cleaning green, butchering and butchering day, and cooking and baking from scratch. Maybe even gardening hints and sayings because so many get lost over time. It will be a resource for them like no other.

    I liked geedaisy’s idea of handwriting them. That sounds like a lot of work for a bunch of kids. I might do that with one copy and copy the rest. We’ll see. Some things will be computer done like the menu plan stuff and some other internet-found things. The family heirloom recipes, I feel, deserve to be handwritten.

    I want to present them with the book either when they leave home, as there is no guarantee that they will get married right away, or I would do it then. I will complete them when my kids are a little older. Right now, I am collecting the best and the favorites.

  24. kellyb says:


    I loved hearing your story. What a precious treasure you have. I also think your idea of adding hints & tips, gardening ideas etc. is brilliant. So often I’ll get a phone call from DD asking a simple questions about cooking. She knows the answer she’s just making sure. Tips & hints would really come in handy. Maybe we can start a section on our favorite hints and tips. Think of everything we could learn.

  25. Nerosmom says:

    My mother has a recipe binder that has her hand written recipes and several from my grandmother and grandfather in it. My grandfather made the best pralines and, when he was retired, baked cookies nearly every day. We still drag out this tattered, food stained, collection of small pieces of paper, a.k.a. “love” every Christmas. My mom-Granma-has an annual cookie day with my children and niece and nephew to recreate these recipes for our Christmas get together. I know what you mean about the handwriting!!

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