Thursday, 6 April 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - April 6, 2017

The Cookbook

Good for body and soul,
Seasoned with love,
Sweet with memories.

It began as an idea in the very early summer of 2010. My son, living in private married quarters on a military base, asked for the recipe for a family favourite, beef paprikash. Easily done! But that gave me a bigger idea. How about a whole cookbook full of family recipes. And because I have two children, there would have to be two copies made.

I was pumped. The Christmas 2010 gift list was off to a great and unusually early start. Out I went to the big craft store to buy identical 8 x 8 albums and a package of assorted pastel coloured scrapbooking paper.

I then compiled a list of recipes, only about forty of them (X2 books)! Not much more happened over the summer, a summer that brought my mother's final illness and death.

For eight years, my sister and I spent all or part of most Fridays together taking care of Mom's needs in the nursing home and taking care of each other as we made our way through the wilderness of Alzheimer's Disease. After Mom died, neither my sister nor I was quite ready to give up our Fridays together. By mid-September, with my son serving in Afghanistan and my daughter working in Hong Kong, I had all the more reason to keep busy. Out came the cookbook project.

With my sister's expertise in scrapbooking techniques and her encouragement - I was never a fan of cut and paste - we now spent Fridays at her house. She continued her work on the family history albums while I wrote out recipes on cardstock, mounted them on coloured pages, then tackled the hardest part, 'decorating' the pages with stickers and borders.

The oldest recipe I wrote up for the book

Over the weeks, our lunch breaks got longer and then the visits themselves petered out. Our lives began to evolve in new ways, without Mom. The cookbook project fell into a bottom drawer, a jumble of pages, recipe cards, packages of stickers, and good intentions. Every once and a while, often when a grand celebration was nearing, I dug out the scrapbooking stuff, more out of guilt than sustainable motivation, and completed an afternoon's worth of pages, four on a good day! Then back in the drawer, it all went. Christmases, birthdays and anniversaries came and went without the finished work making an appearance.

In these last few months though the cookbook has become one of those nagging bits of unfinished business that begs for completion. So much so that, thoughts about it competed for space in my "write" mind, pushing the memoir to the side. Perhaps it was my mother, a master in the kitchen, reaching out to implore me to get cooking.

So many of our family favourites came from her kitchen and her mother's before her.

In the last three weeks, I spent a few afternoons writing out the remaining recipes, about fifteen of them (remember: X 2), on the white cards, then erased the pencil lines I'd so carefully marked on each so that I could write straight, and tucked it all away again in that bottom drawer. Last Friday morning I decided that a marathon scrapbooking session was in order. I was determined to finish the two copies of "Mom's Cookbook" to give to my children when we gathered on Sunday to celebrate the family birthdays (my daughter's, my husband's, and mine).

Overcoming a near disaster Saturday afternoon when the Exacto blade slipped, taking a slice out of my left index finger - no blood hit the pages, which had to be some kind of miracle - I finished the job at 10:30 Sunday morning. An hour later the gift-wrapped books and I were on our way to the city. Phew!

I don't know who was more thrilled - my son and daughter for finally receiving them, or me for finally being able to gift the books. I do know that my mother would be very pleased. She wrote out so many recipes for me when I had a young family.

I felt her hand on my shoulder several times as I wrote out her recipes, now in books for her grandchildren. It feels so very right to have handed on the tradition of good cooking to two more masters of the kitchen, during this of all weeks - her birthday week too (April 5, 1921).

Happy Birthday, Mom. 

©2017 April Hoeller


  1. These sounds lovely April, I'll have to have a chat with my mum about getting some of her recipes :)

  2. Great idea, Mike. Mum's know what we like.
    Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
    Much appreciated.

  3. Thank you for this delicious treat today April. There are so many things I want to say but will stick to just this: Your children are blessed.
    Also, you've given me an idea. I think I'll jot down my mum's recipes, too. I'll have to rely on the memory of my taste buds, though. But, I'm sure she'll guide me from somewhere in the universe, somehow:)
    Hugs and Happy Birthday to you, too:) xx

    1. Thank you, Arti. When you jot down those recipes, consider writing them out by hand. When I see my mother's writing, it brings her hand to my finger tips in a way no typeface can.
      Hugs back to you. xx

    2. I shall April. Thank you:)