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And she shall shall be known by her recipes

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Mothers die but their food lives on.   My mother left a recipe box.

Would you eat something from this box?

Would you eat something from this box?


It was always a bit messy as there were four sets of buttery fingers in there. Many styles of handwriting as well, since aunts and neighbors traded recipes and we sisters were keen on rewriting things with our own “twist” Here is one that I rewrote for my mother probably because the grease involved  in making it absorbed the ink and plunked it right into the cookies.

Who is that woman?

Who is that woman?


Note that I felt compelled to draw  a very busty picture of my mother with a hairdo she never, ever had. Also  I show my fondness for personal asides, “I guess you can cream that too if you want to Mom.” Is that sarcastic or just weirdly adolescent?

If you knew my family,  you didn’t tell my mother what to do, nor did you ever call her “mom.”  She went to a therapist/family counselor at some point after my father died. She was stuck with a bunch of kids and  some CETA training ( many of the recipes are written old CETA punch cards).  The therapist told her that if she wanted us to respect us, she needed to get us to call her mother.  So we did, except when we called her “Lorraine.”


such a crazy twisted family!

such a crazy twisted family!

The Cullinane twist is sooooo funny. Instead of using a fork like 77 percent of the peanut butter cookie making population, we used the sugared bottom of a small glass. So special.

But peanut butter cookies are ubiquitous.  A special recipe which makes me think of my mother is this one which is so good, I don’t know if I can even eat them now since I am old enough to use sensitive toothpaste.

I love my mother because she made these, (and me)

I love my mother because she made these, (and me)

They taste like raw cookie dough and are probably horrible for you, but so are the best things in life.

My mother loved making pies.  She made delicious apple pie and a walnut (cheaper than pecan) pie. This recipe however was one of her faves and it was all I could do today not to run out and buy some green jello. We had a fully stocked pantry growing up, not like my kitchen today. Sure I always have flour, sugar, eggs and butter but I only have orange jello! That’s Northern Ireland’s color.

It's kind of an Irish thing

It’s kind of an Irish thing


This recipe came from The Boston Globe’s “Confidential Chat” which  was the Reddit of my mother’s day. Her commonplace book, a lined notebook of important quotes, recipes and helpful hints was full of  clippings from The Chat.  I confess that I recently made two recipes which I found in  Parade magazine. The apple pie doesn’t fall far from the the pie plate.


I ‘m not in a habit of making fun of my mother, but now that I’m her age, and by that I mean the age I remember her before she got ill and passed away, I begin to understand some things.  On this next card you can see that the preparation of blue fish  involves salt and pepper.

with a "twist"

with a “twist”

My mother thought it meant salt and green peppers, so we always had it that way.



Here is one that my mother made infrequently. She was sensitive about her cooking. She  once had a gentleman caller tell her she was “a regular cook” not meaning “wow you’re a regular  Galloping Gourmet!” but more like, “you suck.”   So once in awhile she tried things like this. We were impressed.




It’s a bunch of layers of flaky pastry with  apple sauce and  some delicious  pudding like stuff between the layers.  It took lots of work, kind of like raising a family, but prettier.


Here’s the last recipe for this mother’s day. It’s in my mother’s hand.



I haven’t made fudge the old fashioned way my mother used to in a long time.  I haven’t printed the last few lines on the other side which say to  “remove from heat at the soft-ball stage.”  I need time  and patience for this.  I can use marshmallows and chocolate chips as a short cut but this isn’t what my mother taught me.  Sure life is faster, but it’s faster just because I think my life is going to be short and I have so much to do.  I have to do less and appreciate each person and each day more fully, not in a rush or as a second thought.    That’s  another old fashioned recipe passed down from my mother.






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11 responses »

  1. Joan , I have the same food stained index card recipes from my Mom.Why she thought magic marker was a good idea for something to save I can’t figure out. They are all smudged. Fun thoughts as usual, thanks.

    • Some of these were on magic marker. I think they thought it was indestructible. I would never have had my job if it weren’t for my mother. I help people with the basics in the kitchen and let them learn from their, and my mistakes.

  2. Family recipes last forever, each generation adding their own twist to an old favourite.
    Sadly my family don’t have anything like this. I have a variety of cook books, but once I get the hang of a recipe, I throw it all together and just hope I haven’t forgotten anything! With cakes and pastries I cut back on the fat and sugar (to show willing in the calorie count, or rather diabetes control) but I don’t think anyone in the family would ask me for a recipe anyway.

    • i have been supervising a kitchen in a mental health recovery center for over 10 years so like you I change recipes by making them lower fat (except for the time we had no butter for chocolate chip cookies so we used mayonnaise!) My job will be ending soon due to cuts. I will miss it. Remember how things used to call for lard? 🙂

  3. This is precious. I do remember you calling your mom, Mother & Lorraine! Such respect. 🙂 I would eat anything made from that box. I thoroughly enjoyed cooking and eating at your house. You had rituals we never had; cloth napkins, sweeping the floor every night after dinner and I loved your pantry. Is the recipe for cream cheese cupcakes in the box?

    • I think they are called black bottom cupcakes and it is hard to read now due to fading, just chocolate cake with a dollop of cream cheese mixed with confectionary sugar and chocolate chips on top. I should still sweep the floor every night but I do it at least once a week 🙂

  4. lifesabanquet1

    Hi Debbie! I’m Heather and I was wondering if you would be willing to answer a question regarding your blog! If you could email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com that would be great!


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