My father brought me a gift last week. He brought me 3 cast iron skillets that my grandmother has had since the 30’s. In order to use them in the manner to which they are accustomed… he also brought me a book. Not just any book. This book is like a family album and time-capsule. There are recipes tucked in between the pages written from my mother, my father, my grandmother, my grandfather. They are written on yellowed sheets of notepaper, index cards and later… post-its.
When she was married in 1942 (2 weeks after meeting my grandfather) my grandmother received a book many new brides were gifted: the Woman’s Home Companion Cookbook.
This book is well loved and used. There are check marks next to “Chicken Rolls” and “Dried Beef Balls” in the appetizer section. Check marks on the 10 pages of biscuit recipes (although by the time I was a kid my grandmother had done what millions of American women had; gone in for the ease and convenience of pre made biscuit dough).
There are stained pages and pages of ice cream recipes (and it’s all David’s fault that I own a new ice cream maker—so I’ll be digging into these ASAP). There are amazing cake recipes in there too. My grandfather was renowned for his pineapple upside dawn cake recipe—he didn’t go for the recipe in the book however—but his 12 page handwritten recipe was tucked inside the back cover much to my delight.
I love this book for so many reasons. Beyond the huge collection of recipes that I know my grandmother cooked there is the ‘sense’ of the book. It begins with a “Wartime Postscript.” It begins: As this edition goes to press out country is still at war. Rationing is in force and shortages of many foods have developed. In a fine spirit of patriotism American homemakers have adapted themselves to the changes. It goes on to acknowledge that the cook most likely won’t be able to make many recipes in the book until the war is over but it offers hope that once the war is over she will be able to dive into those with gusto, as well as have learned to improvise when need be. It’s comforting, hopeful and tells me a lot about my grandmother.
In honor of my grandparents I wanted to pick a particularly southern recipe to start with (it also happened to be derby day – so a mint julep was a natural choice). I also wanted to give a nod to my grandfather…. so I chose a pineapple version.
Pineapple Mint Julep
Fresh mint, 6 sprigs
Sugar, ¾ cup
Lemon juice, ¾ cup
Pineapple juice, unsweetened, 3 cups
Ginger ale, 3 cups
Wash mint leaves; bruise with spoon; cover with sugar. Add lemon juice; let stand about 15 minutes; add pineapple juice. Pour over ice in pitcher or tall glasses; add ginger ale. Garnish with sprigs of mint. Makes about 8 servings.
you may notice that the recipe doesn’t call for bourbon. I went right on ahead
and added a healthy dose. My grandpa would have been ok with that.