Monday, February 21, 2011


There is a mighty arsenal of recipes in my family that have been collected over the years.  When I moved into my grandmother's house in September of 2009 I came across an old box of recipes that dated back to the 1920s.  It was then that I realized the extraordinary treasure before me that I wanted to share with my family and friends. 

Many of the men and women in my family are extraordinary cooks, but my aunt Katie always stands out in my mind as one who was adventurous in her taste testing, knowledgeable in ingredients and truly talented in the kitchen. We lost Katie to cancer in January of 2008. She was an exceptional cook who could simply taste a dish, a sauce or dressing and tell you the exact spice and ingredients which had been used.  I have vivid memories of Katie standing in front of the stove on Thanksgiving slowly stirring the gravy to ensure the flour didn't get lumpy and the gravy came to the perfect consistency. She would constantly try new recipes, find new things to bring to family gatherings and perfect old family favorites.  When she died we came across an accordion file of recipes she had gathered from a multitude of sources over the years.  It was an incredible collection and I knew I just had to share this with my entire family.   Before she died I asked Katie for her cornbread recipe.  I have kept this in my Bible since she passed as a cherished memory of my aunt we lost too soon.

After I compiled all of Katie's recipes into one cookbook I thought what a treasure it would be to not only have all of Katie's recipes but also the family recipes that Gramma had meticulously organized and protected over the years in one cookbook from which everyone could benefit.
On the cover of Katie's cookbook is a picture of a dogwood tree that was planted at Centennial Park in her memory by the Nashville Parks Department for whom she worked for nearly 35 years.  Every spring we go see the beautiful blossoms on her tree which remind me of Katie's beauty that will never die.

On the cover of Gramma's cookbook is a picture of Gramma and Pa on their wedding day, August 1, 1946.  To me this is the starting point of her collection that continues to this day, though many of the recipes date back before they were ever married.

As you have probably already figured out a huge part of growing up for me centered around food.  My mom says that there is something special that happens when people break bread together.  This is something I have certainly witnessed and is why I love getting together with friends and family at meal time.  When I moved home from Atlanta in 2007 some friends of mine and I decided to start having Girls Dinner every Tuesday night.  It was a great time to sit down with a glass of wine, or two, and catch up with one another. We would rotate where we did dinner and people would make dishes they grew up eating, new recipes they wanted to try or something they knew would be a crowd pleaser.  After about a years worth of these weekly meals together I compiled all the recipes that everyone had made, asked my gifted artistic friend, Amanda, to draw something for the cover and enlisted the help of my friend, Sarah, who is a graphic designer, to help me with the layout.  Here is what we created:

Collecting recipes has certainly grown into a hobby of mine. In my family we certainly have old favorites and solid stand-bys that we enjoy....I like finding out what those are for other families.  One can learn so much about families and their histories simply by taking a close look at the types of food they prepare. For example, I never realized it until I was in my twenties that there was a strong German undertone to much of the food my Gramma cooked which came from her mother-in-law who was full blooded German.  I always assumed that I was simply Scotch-Irish, never knowing I also had quite a bit of German blood running through my veins. 

It is a gift in my life to have these recipes but what I truly treasure are the stories and people behind each and every one of them.
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1 comment:

  1. Ruthie,
    I've really been enjoying your blog! Let's cook together sometime soon. I have a feeling I could learn a bit from you!

    --Amanda (Allen)