Monday, May 16, 2011

From My Mother's Recipe Box...

Old Time Spice Cake
(30's era) In My Day but really dates back a lot more than that

2 cups brown or white sugar
cup lard
3 ¼ tsp T salt
½ tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grd. cloves
2 tsps baking soda mixed with cup water or cold coffee
4 cups flour sifted with 1 tsp baking pwd
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup raisins

Boil sugar, water, lard, raisins, salt, & spices 5 min. Let cool - then add flour & baking powder & soda mixture. Mix thoroughly – batter should be quite stiff – add chopped nuts – pour into greased & flowered rectangular or square pan – put nut halves on top – no frosting I guess. Bake in preheated 350° oven – 30 min to 35 min – or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
This was called Canada War Cake during WWar I. sic

Transcribed: 16 May 2011
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"Canada War Cake during WWar I", I think that is so neat! 

The card is 3x5 inches. The Recipe Box is metal, painted what we used to call “Army Green”, when I was a child. (Mail Boxes were Army Green in the 1950's, too. It was a big deal when they were all painted blue with red and white accents!) There are no little Dutch Girls & Boys with wooden shoes on the the box, no flowers, it doesn't even say “Recipes” on it – it's completely plain. Plain Army Green.

The inside is packed as tight as it can be, with more 3x5 cards, some recipes cut out of magazines and newspapers, and some recipes jotted down on scrap paper and the backs of cash register receipts. Nothing is dated, not the newspaper clippings, or the cash register receipts! Nearly all are written in my mother's hand – her beautiful script. Some have interesting little notes of attribution such as: “From Helen”, or “Joanie Footes”, or “From Bev's mother-in-law – Mother Smith”, and “Mother Footes” (her own mother-in-law. That was the tradition in my family, mother-in-laws were called by their married surname preceded by “Mother.” Not at all helpful to a genealogist!) Sometimes those attributions did help to date the card, however. Several were noted to be from one of her, or her sister's, or daughter's neighbors. I knew some of those women – and I knew when the sister or daughter lived in that neighborhood, or on the street, at least close enough to ascribe a decade to it, i.e.: “1960's”, or “1967 to '70, just before Danny was born.”

It's anything but fancy, that Recipe Box! Nothing is in any particular order, and many recipes are scrunched up or torn. I would guess that about a third are recipes for salads. Mom was very big on salads – and on “Aspics”, usually Tomato Aspics, which I couldn't stand, and would never eat much less cook! There are a lot of cake recipes like this spice cake, and my favorite: “Better Than Sex Chocolate Cake.”

I don't remember a time when that Recipe Box wasn't in my mother's kitchen. The “Army Green” makes me think the box was acquired during the WWII years, when my parents and three sisters (pre me) traveled all over the United States as my Dad did government war, construction projects: air bases, munitions plants, jeep, tank, and airplane assembly plants. Whatever and wherever they were told to go. Dad had built a small house-trailer that they pulled behind the late 1930's model car, and they traveled light. Crosby, Minnesota had been home in 1941, but they were in Kenosha, Wisconsin when the war ended. Mom was “in a delicate way” at the time, and naturally, "should not travel" further. (Actually, I believe that mom did want to travel back to the north woods and the iron ore mines – and that's why she was in “a delicate way!) And so, in January, 1946, I was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin – and they never did move back to Minnesota.

I have never been a dedicated cook. I'm a good cook, but the truth is I just don't like cooking all that much. And I never asked friends or neighbors, or relatives for recipes, and I have never had my own Recipe Box. I have always much preferred it when someone else did the cooking – or better yet, going out to eat! But after my mother's funeral, when my sisters and I had the task of cleaning out her apartment and dividing up her belongings – one of the first things I claimed was her Recipe Box. I don't know why, but I wanted it.

That was twenty-five years ago. And now, every once in a while, just because – I take the Recipe Box off the shelf, and pull out a few cards at random and read them. I don't cook them – I'm no longer able to walk or stand at a stove or counter – but I do enjoy reading them...

Luncheon Menu – good for Bridal Shower

Chicken casserole -
Cranberry mold -
relishes – carrots, pickles, olives.
Sherbet balls – sugar wafers
Punch bowl – mints & nuts
coffee too -
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