Recipes From My Grandmother

My daughter’s name is Audrey Saison — both names are steeped in meaning for me and my husband, and both stem in part from my connection to my paternal grandparents, Kathy and Joe. Kathy passed away in 2010 and we lost Joe just 11 days before my daughter’s birth.

One of the reasons Lucas and I kept coming back to Audrey as a name is that it was my grandmother’s middle name. We didn’t want our girl to be named for anyone, but since we really (really really) loved it, it was a nice side benefit. Every time I say my daughter’s name, I think about how someday, I’ll be able to tell her about the generations before her, and tell my Audrey what a brave and interesting woman her great-grandmother was.

(I’ll wax poetic on Audrey’s middle name some day because it has an even deeper connection with my emotions…tied in part to the life lost, life born experience I felt when my grandfather died…but that will be another post.)

When Joe died, my parents were tasked with the role of cleaning out their apartment (my parents now live in the coastal Maine house where Kathy and Joe spent years before moving to an assisted living home). They found years worth of things — furniture, dishes, trinkets, clothes…items that were near and dear to my grandparents but don’t really have a place in our homes today.

So, my mother started sending us pictures and lists of things that we could choose to have, if we wanted. It’s kind of a heartbreaking thing, having to say yes and no to things that my grandparents thought were important enough to keep, but which I don’t have much sentimental attachment to.

Until I saw one thing on the list that I had to have. A giant stack of my grandmother’s hand-written recipes.

Now, I’m not much of a cook. But I want to be. Especially now, because I can picture her sitting down to list out the ingredients and instructions. There are smudges and food stains on these index cards that I know are a result of her picking them up and putting them down through the cooking and baking processes, making sure that everything made it into the bowls.

There are sweet (brownies!) and savory recipes; plans for families big and small.

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There are small cards and big cards and white cards and pink cards. They’re in alphabetical order (so that’s where I got my Type A personality!) and they smell faintly of aged paper and flour.

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I’ll never make everything off these recipes, but I’d love to have them some day for my daughter. I will show her the handwriting and tell her how Kathy and Joe always signed every card and letter with smiley faces. I will tell her about lobster dinners and lamb dinners and picking flowers for the table and arguing with my brother over who got to snuff out the candles when we were done eating. I’ll describe the little kitchen where we drank freshly squeezed orange juice and popped pre-dinner popcorn when we visited my grandparents. I’ll drink earl gray tea with her and share the tradition that my grandmother had with me — lots of milk and just a spot of tea.

Maybe my Audrey will see these cards and roll her eyes. “Mooooooom, I have to read these? Why didn’t she just use her iPad? And lamb is gross.”

That’s fine. Because someday, she’ll be glad I kept these.

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  1. says

    Beautiful post! So lucky to have that stack of recipe cards! I have a cookbook that was my grandmothers and I love that there are little strips of paper marking certain pages. I love wondering which recipe she wanted to make from the pages. :)

  2. Sarah W. says

    love this post.

    I suggest getting the index cards scanned and digitized – and maybe laminated.

    Those index cards are likely NOT acid-free meaning they WILL yellow and deteriorate BEFORE your daughter reaches cooking age.

    I would get them scanned, and then create a cookbook in blurb or another photo publishing site so you have a pic of the scanned index card and then the recipe written out.

    if it was me, i’d at least try to cook everything on those index cards and take a photo – because photos of the food with recipes in cookbooks rock :)

  3. says

    What a treasure! How I wish I had my grandma’s recipes. I cook rarely, but when I do I always use recipes that have passed to me through my mom. Of course they are all my grandma’s. It would have been wonderful to have them all in one place and in her written hand!!!

  4. says

    I typed all my mom’s recipes and put them in a little binder for her last year. She kept all of the handwritten ones from her grandmother, mom and aunts. I kept all of the handwritten ones from her. There’s just something special you can’t explain about those little cards.

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