“I told Linda if she’d rather have Mother’s recipes, I’d give the lampshade to Debra,” my mom said as she surfaced from beneath a mountain of clothing and coat hangers. We were cleaning out her closets to donate the excess to her church’s annual yard sale.
“Recipes? What recipes?!” I could barely contain my excitement. My grandmother had been dead for 25 years and I never knew she had recipes. The meals she fixed from her garden and berry patch, though simple and delicious, didn’t require elaborate ingredient lists or cooking instructions. Some of her ingredients couldn’t even be found in stores. When we cleaned out her freezer after her death in 1986, we found paper wrapped packages of ‘possum…recently frozen.
“You never saw her recipe box?” my mom asked. She rummaged in the closet and brought out a rusty tin, the sort made to hold three by five index cards. It was orange and yellow and avocado green, more fitting for a Partridge Family TV set than my grandmother’s three room farm cottage. But still I held my breath as I took it from my mom. Having a reputation within my family for being the cook in the family, and as a professional eater (that sounds much nicer than admitting I live up to the old adage “Never trust a skinny cook”), I initially felt a twinge of jealousy for having been left out of the exchange with my older sisters. But that quickly dissolved as I became lost in the moment, feeling a little like Indiana Jones when he first picked up the Holy Grail.
Inside the box was a tangled stack of paper. Yellowed newspaper clippings, brittle pages torn from magazines, stiff cardboard roughly cut from grocery packages of flour and cornstarch, delicate wax paper separators, sticky plastic wrappers where time, heat and humidity had smudged the lettering, all printed with various recipes, some still published to this day. But what captivated me most were the the index cards, undeniably typed out on Mother’s old manual typewriter, and obviously loved and frequently used judging by the stains and additional notes handwritten in her scribbly cursive.
Mother, as we all called her, was a writer, and she loved her typewriter. She had several stories, poems and recipes published, most notably in Grit magazine, and Carolina Country (published back then as Carolina Farmer), a magazine still in publication by a local electric cooperative.
Seeing the recipes prompted my mom to remember she had an original copy of the 1968 Carolina Farmer in which Mother’s recipe for Cornbread Cake had been published. She quickly found the copy and handed it to me. Flipping through the pages, I was so thrilled and humbled to be able to touch my past. This was my grandmother’s author’s copy (she’s the Mrs. Della Squires mentioned in the write-up), and she’d received $2.00 as payment for her recipe.
I’m sharing this recipe with you today on FBR, and in the next few weeks and months will share other recipes from Mother’s recipe box as I rediscover the food of my youth, some of which no doubt will be familiar to you!
Get the handy print page and save this to your recipe box here:
Grandmother’s Cornbread Cake.
Liz Pike blogs at Horseshoe Gardens.
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