I come from a foodie family. When I say that, I don’t mean food snobs, I mean folks who really like to cook, bake, and eat!
My mother’s talent for baking is something supernatural. People rave about her desserts, especially her Chocolate Chip Cookies. If they only knew her recipe came from the back of the Nestle bag!
This is her secret. Just four simple rules:
- Never bake distracted.
- Never bake in a bad mood.
- Always bake with good ingredients.
- And always bake with good intentions.
Now, my father taught me a few things, too. Like how to make your own popcorn. And how to create an awesome meal from what’s left in the refrigerator. Good cooking often comes from inspiration and improvisation!
I don’t know a lot of fancy tricks, but I know how to make a mouth happy and a tummy full. Comfort foods, holiday traditions, tried and trues — I like to make memories, not masterpieces. Because the really great recipes have a story.
One of my favorite family recipes is Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad. The name is strange, I know, but it’s delicious, I swear.
When I look at the stained recipe card for this dessert, I remember watching my mother in the kitchen. I remember the pride I felt the first time I made it on my own. And I remember Thanksgivings at Great-Grandma Near’s house. We always had Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad.
A year ago, today, my Great-Grandma Near passed away. When we lose loved ones, their absence from our daily lives is painful. As time goes on, and we adjust to the change, what really hurts us is the forgetting. Our memories become unfocused, and suddenly we can’t recall exactly how they looked, or how they smelled, or how they laughed.
If we are lucky, we are blessed with a trinket, a trigger that takes us back. I have my keepsakes from Grandma Near: her magnolia pin and one of her handkerchiefs. And yet, what really brings her back to me is this recipe card.
Just a list of ingredients and directions. No sentimental comments. It’s not even in her handwriting. But there’s a piece of her there. And when I read it, I can remember the crocheted pillows on her couch, the quiet way she ran Thanksgiving from the kitchen, and the exact sound of her voice.
Because the really great recipes have a story.