I copied some recipes from my Grandma's cookbook when I was at my parents' house for Thanksgiving. It was the first family holiday since she died last February, and I was surprised at the little things I noticed...like wondering who will eat the turkey neck (since no one but Grandma would touch it).
Going through her cookbook was like a step back in time. Recipes that I didn't want lost to time were there, which I diligently copied and brought home. I would have liked to have made photocopies or scans, to capture the neat, well-spelled script that belied her eighth-grade education.
Most of the recipes are for desserts, the everyday meals of meat, potatoes, and veggies varying little. But desserts, that was where these farm wives could shine. Church picnics, family reunions, anniversaries, funerals...these occasions called for desserts, the grander the better.
It was a long time before I discovered that most people will not go to the trouble of making an angel food cake from scratch. It requires electric beaters (or a hand egg-beater for Grandma) and a glass or metal bowl scrubbed free of any indication of grease or oil. It also requires a ridiculous number of egg whites, which is why grandma made several cakes whenever the hens were laying in abundance. I can still see the finished cakes, one pan with little legs on the top, so that it could be inverted on our buliding blocks to cool without marring the top, another pan inverted onto a green glass soda bottle, the rest in regular rectangular pans - easier to freeze.
It's funny, the things we miss. The things that I miss were gone long before she died, replaced by a forgetful cantankerous woman that was difficult to like. Having my daughter was such a joy, for around children she returned to the woman I knew, ready to cuddle and rock. I spent many childhood evenings drifting off to sleep in her arms, listening to the click-tink of her artificial heart valve opening and shutting. It's funny, the things we miss.