On New Year’s Day, I took my boys to my Granny and PawPaw’s house for our annual family ritual of eating black-eyed peas for good luck. My aunt brought some delicious spoonbread, and my kids raided the ever-present candy jar in the windowsill. When I took our dishes in the kitchen to put them in the sink, my eyes were drawn to the shelf above it, where I found a yellowed, brittle stack of cookbooks that looked ancient. I picked up the stack and sifted through it. It was a treasure trove of mid-twentieth-century housewife instruction: a copy of the “New American Cook Book” by Lily Wallace from 1941, stacks of the little recipe cards you used to pick up off the shelf in the supermarket in the 1970’s and 80’s to help you make something quick and cheap.
The crowing glory of my Granny’s cookbook collection was her very own, handwritten recipe book. It was in an old composition book with a missing cover, the pages faded, most of them with water or oil damage. This is the recipe book I could picture my grandmother scribbling in whenever she came across an appealing-sounding recipe in Woman’s Day or Better Homes and Gardens, the book she probably reached for when my mom and aunt and uncles were kids and headed home from school and she had to get dinner on the table after a day spent working at the department store.
I’ve typed all the recipes it contains – all the ones I could make out, anyway – into my Paprika recipe app so I can keep them. I’d like to pick some of them, maybe the ones my mom and her siblings remember my Granny making when they were little, and have them made into a nice cookbook or scrapbook with some family photos. For now, I’ll share a couple of them:
Quick Pocketbook Rolls
I remember having these rolls with our Thanksgiving dinner when I was a kid and we went to my Granny and PawPaw’s house for Thanksgiving. My Granny was always stirring a huge bowl of mashed potatoes, and my PawPaw was giddy with excitement at the prospect of using the electric knife. My aunt and cousins cook Thanksgiving dinner now, but I think we may have to add these rolls to the menu.
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. sugar
3 1/2 cups sifted flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
In saucepan, combine milk, sugar, 2 tbsp. butter and egg. Heat slowly until butter is barely melted. Remove from heat and stir in flour sifted with baking powder and salt. Turn out onto floured board and knead until smooth Then roll to 1/4 inch in thickness and cut in rounds with 3 inch cookie cutter. Brush with melted butter. Grease center with back of knife, fold over and press edges together. Put on greased cookie sheet. Bake in hot oven 20 minutes or until brown.
My mom tells me that when she was little, my Granny used to make the best fudge.
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup nuts
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
Mix shortening and chocolate together, then mix rest of ingredients and bake.