Monday, April 20, 2009

back to basics: recipes from old cookbooks





Today I had a craving for my mother's fudge. She used to make it from the recipe in this book that her mother had from the time my mom was born. So, having both been raised with this fudge recipe it should be no surprise that it was one of those that I used to request her to make when we were together. I've had lots of different kinds of fudge made by numerous people, but nothing beats this fudge. Now I just have to get busy and make some. When I make it I'll double the recipe, most definitely.

I remember the last time my mother made fudge for me, that it was a strain for her to move the mixer through the candy (note that the recipe calls for the cook to "stir" but I highly recommend using a mixer), and that she hated asking me to finish it up for her. I knew it was our last fudge and I have a few pieces of it stored in a tin in our refrigerator to this day, wrapped in plastic and tied by her. I guess I'm sentimental about items that attest to human communion. Preserved food items being the only things from the past that sustained a life now gone -- as opposed to clothing, jewelry, papers, etc. -- seem spiritual in nature.

In that terribly difficult year when I lived in Portland, Oregon, struggling with strange jobs and acting strangely on jobs due to perpetual hangovers, one of the few lights I had in my life happened when I received fudge in the mail from my mother. I lived in one of Portland's older neighborhoods, the Hawthorne District as it was just becoming trendy, in a six-plex -- three apartments each bordering a beautiful but overgrown courtyard with a storage/laundry building at the far end. The apartments had mail slots not in the front door but in the front wall next to the front door. Once when my mother visited me she measured the dimensions of the mail slot and after that I received her little care packages of fudge in perfectly proportioned boxes. The mailman must have at some point wondered what those heavy (for the size), brick-shaped packages contained but his suspicions of my lifestyle were the least of my worries in those days.

Our family also frequently enjoyed Waldorf Salads when I was a kid. I don't know why my mother didn't serve them as pictured in this book......maybe the only recipe she ever truly looked at was the one for fudge. In any case, I think this hollowed apple bowl is charming. I love Waldorf Salad and haven't thought to make it for years, and I'm definitely going to try this.

I notice that several recipes in this book call for "dressing" and "Carnation dressing," and this one calls for "salad dressing." As I've never seen Carnation dressing in my life in a store I can only wonder what it was like. You can use what suits you. My mother always used Best Foods Mayonnaise (Hellman's on the east coast) alone in her Waldorf Salads and I've changed that only slightly with Best Foods Light Mayo.











Does anyone know what that contraption is behind and to the right of the mixing bowl in that woman's pantry?

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15 comments:

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

There's a strange tradition here now at weddings where people read quotes from 1920s etiquette books in order to make some humerous comment about how much things have changed.

What's nice here is that your post shows that old knowledge is still relevant and important - that you are able to do something that you used to do with your mother brings you closer to her and helps you to cherish her.

Thanks for sharing - i was touched by this post xx

RB said...

I've always been fascinated by old ads, newspapers and blogs...the aesthetic of this post is beautiful--really resonates.

I'll have to check out Jailbait! I love supporting other theater people. Thanks for the tip!

Erin Davis said...

I feel most connected to the women in my family through family recipes. I've also discovered that I can have great bonding time with my teenage boys by having them help me cook some traditional family recipes in the kitchen. I think sharing food appeals to our most intimate senses and indeed provides some profound opportunity for "human communion."
My grandmother recently passed away. She was not an easy woman to be close to, but she expressed her love to me through her peanut butter fudge and the vast array of hand made Christmas baked goods she used to prepare for her family of 8 kids and even more grandkids every year.
I wish I had her recipe, but I think it is gone with her.
Thanks so much for sharing this!

Kim said...

Is it a scale of some sort?

Food is such a sentimental thing for me as well. I remember the last time I made a Polish dish (nalesniki) with my Nana. Every time I make it now (which isn't often), I feel this communion with her spirit and our past.

Darlene said...

A friend commented that she noticed how happy celebrations always included food. I think it nourishes the soul as well as the body.

My mom's recipe for crumb cake (now, sadly lost by me) always brought her face to mind when I made it.

I am guessing that that contraption might have been a flour sieve or a strainer. Perhaps Kim got it right - a scale.

Hattie said...

I think it may be a scale. My father made excellent fudge and it was quite a treat, but I associate this so much with him that I have never tried it myself.

Lover of Life said...

I can't wait to try your fudge. I loved your post today on your wonderful mother. I also enjoyed your comment on my blog.

We have something in common - we also lived in Portland and my daughter lives in Hawthorne!

It was not such a good place for you, I take it? I love Portland, because like me, it's a little weird.

Lydia said...

@DFTP- The new/old etiquette tradition there is really peculiar! Wonder why that has taken hold....
Your soulful comments touched me as well.

@RB- What a beautiful comment - thanks!
I'll email you with a bit more info on Kel in Jailbait...

@Erin- I'm sorry you have lost your grandmother and touched that this post in any way helped you to celebrate her unique way of loving you.
Your relationship with your sons seems so very special.

@Kim- I must remember to look up the Polish dish you still make sometimes in memory of your Nana. It's so wonderful to hear about that.
Scale - 1 vote so far

@Darlene- Your first sentence just reminded me of a really hysterical play that we saw/participated in once in Portland: Tony and Tina's Wedding. The audience is actually the wedding audience, first in the church witnessing the ceremony, and then following to a hall down the street where tiny portions of food were literally thrown onto our plates at the buffet line. It was the fact that we all "broke bread" together that sealed the evening.
I hope you come across the crumb cake recipe where you would least expect to find it!
Flour sieve - 1 vote
Strainer - 1 vote

@Hattie- Hmmmm. I have yet to make my mom's fudge since her passing. First, I don't think mine will be as good and second, I'll miss her so it must be just the right time.

Scale - another vote, now 2 total

@Lover of Life- Wow! You're really going to try the fudge recipe? That just may be the right timing for me then, just knowing that someone else will make it too.
I left comments for you after your post titled Midlife Shuffle in which I mentioned our similarities -- they number more than the Portland residency. I can't imagine how you missed it, with your 700+ followers to keep track of since becoming a Blog of Note! ;)
My year in Portland would have been unbearable if it had not happened in Portland! I love the city, loved the Hawthorne District. But this was two years or so prior to my becoming sober, thus the "hitting bottom" days noted in addiction studies.

Lydia said...

Vote total

Scale - 2 votes

Flour sieve or strainer - 1 vote

Flour sifter -(that's what my husband thinks it is) - 1 vote.....and if a sifter is the same as a sieve? then that's 2 votes.

Thanks everybody!

Marie Reed said...

My dear... this has moved me to tears.... I can see you dear Mother struggling to finish her last batch of fudge... It is heartwarming that you still have it wrapped and tied by her.. What an intense and delicious memory you have shared! [Hugs)

Lydia said...

@Marie- Hugs returned! I'm heartened to know that this post touched your heart.

Jennifer said...

Your mother measured the mail slot just to send you this fudge! What a great detail in a post full of wonderful details. I also love the recipe itself, with the inexact measurement for butter.

My father-in-law (who just turned 83) prepared a Waldorf salad for the first Christmas I spent with my husband's family over ten years ago. My husband's mother had died the year before and the family was still trying to figure out holidays without her. He didn't throw out the containers of frosting that she liked to buy until he moved from the house several years later, which makes me think of those pieces of your mother's fudge you have.

And I vote for flour sifter. The cabinet looks like a Hoosier cabinet and I'm pretty sure they had built in sifters. My father and stepmother have one and I can check for you in a few days ...

Lydia said...

@Jennifer- Isn't that egg-size butter an interesting measurement? I love that too!

That is a tender story about your father-in-law keeping the frosting. His Waldorf salad at Christmas....so touching.

Flour sifter in a Hoosier cabinet, eh? That is SO cool that you'll be able to check out the one your father has. It'll be such fun having a field report! For the tally's sake, is a sifter the same as a sieve? That seems right to me but I'm just not sure.


* * * * *
@All- Now the tally adds one more vote for flour sifter and the question remains if the sifter is the same as a sieve. Stay tuned.......

naomi dagen bloom said...

Where do I begin? The images here are so evocative for me. And the Hoosier cabinet. Your post sent me on a Google trip to see more of them. Though they have no place in my family history, it was really, really important for me to own one.

Mine had the white enamel shelf, a pull-out cutting board but was there a flour-sifter, maybe on the left side. Inside one of the doors was a small metal shelf for spices. One day I'll have to see if any of my photos has a picture.

There was a moment in our move to New York when I thought to bring it with us.

Our daughter's house in Hawthorne has a mail slot in the wall by the front door. We have been watching the neighborhood shift over the past six years--some positive, some not-so-much. I love the tradition of leaving stuff out front for the street people to pick up. Or is it a new quirk and only my projection that this always happened?

Lydia said...

@Naomi- Now that I'm aware of Hoosier cabinets I hope to see one in person. I'll make a point of keeping eyes open around antique stores, not to buy but to connect. I hope yours is loved by one who now has it.

Hawthorne.....if I knew your daughter lived there I'd forgotten! Another new blogging friend who lives in Nevada has a daughter who lives in Hawthorne.
That tradition wasn't going on when I lived there. The only things left on the street for people to pick up were Fred Meyer shopping carts. We nearly all pushed our groceries home and then set the carts on the space between sidewalk and gutter. Fred Meyer store employed a man and his son who swept through the neighborhoods retrieving them on a flatbed truck! I wonder if that still happens....

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