This is about the writing of a cookbook, but more than that its about the love between a Grandmother and her Grandaughter. The cookbook is from my wife's side of the family. Carrie is my Sister-in-Law and the story touched me deeply. I think its worth a read. Family still matters in the United States as you can see by the prose. I hope you like it.
The Heart of the Matter
Sometimes I think back to the late eighties - to those first days spent with my grandmother sipping tea in the elegantly beautiful sun room of my uncle's home. She had just moved there from her home of many years. She was so sad about her new situation, feeling like she didn't belong and missing “her” home. My soul purpose of spending time with her was to try to cheer her up. We would sip tea and eat cookies or a piece of cake or pie freshly baked by her. The conversations were mainly reminiscing about old times and good time we had as a “traditional” American family.
She was “grandmom” to me and quite a remarkable woman. It didn't take long for the focus of our conversations to turn to her favorite passions – cooking and baking. It was amazing that in an instant we both seemed to turn the purpose of our afternoons together into what became one of the most meaningful and important thing in both of our lives. During one of our chats we got on the subject of recipes. We talked about the ones which are tried and true, having been made hundreds of times over the years. Like the Hungarian Goulash or Mother's Pot Roast and who could forget her Pull Apart Cake or Jelly Buns, both made with grandmom's Basic Sweet Dough recipe?
What I learned from those conversations was a surprising fact – many of the recipes had never been written down. So – from that I got the idea to focus on making our afternoons together productive by coming up with a list of recipes we wished to preserve. Suddenly the focus was take off of her sadness and placed onto something we really enjoyed working on together. Within a period of about two weeks grandmom and I came to a conclusion pretty much at the same time - “Let's make a cookbook!”
As soon as the idea for the cookbook came so did many other original ideas such as designing the front cover of the cookbook around the family farmhouse. It seemed the perfect image for the cover of our cookbook. Almost immediately the idea of including wildflowers, grandmom's second love, was born. “Wildflowers in a cookbook?” we asked ourselves. “Yes, wildflowers in a cookbook!” It seemed perfect to us as wildflowers and garden flowers were such a big part of her life from childhood on.
Now when we'd get together in the afternoons to sip tea there was a true and shared excitement and anticipation. “Now what should we work on today?!” We decided to do the book in her handwriting so I made up a template for her to write within the margins of our chosen page size. During the course of each week she would write whatever she was inspired to write. Sometimes it would be ten, sometimes two. This entire process took about two years!
As a watercolor artist I began right away to create the images we wanted to include of wildflowers and the family crest on the divider pages of the cookbook. I was so inspired by my grandmother's spirit that doing these simple wildflower watercolors became such a joyful task and I loved every minute of it! During the process I came up with the ideas of asking my grandmother to write a story or reminiscence for each wildflower as well as the family crest and the homestead as depicted on the front cover.
When grandmom would write a story she would hand it to me and say, “It this ok?” Each and every story she wrote made me cry. I'm not sure if it was because of how much her sweet and optimistic character came through or because of the sentimentality of it all. One thing was for sure – I discovered that grandmom had a true flair for writing as in the story about Hepaticas . . . “In the spring on Sundays we always went for a walk in the woods to look for the first wildflowers. And one day there they would be, all of the little lavender-blue hepaticas peeping out from under the fallen leaves. Then we would know spring has come again. God's in his heaven, all is right with the world.”