Kathy’s Valentine Cookbook

February 14, 2012 · 7 comments

I don’t think it was necessarily intended to land as a Valentine’s Day gift on the day it was sent…

… but as an incredible gesture of love, it couldn’t have landed on a more perfect day.

Is there anything more wonderful than an unexpected brown paper package from home, sent with a familiar and cherished signature?
I was curious: what kind of book has a value of zero dollars? Surely anything worth sending at all would have some kind of value?

You have no idea.

It’s a plain white binder, painstakingly filled with all the family recipes that I grew up on and around. These recipes were originally written out longhand on index cards by my Great Gramma Lane, my Granny Lever, my mom, and many of her dear friends. There were newspaper clippings too, all tucked alongside the old red and white Betty Crocker cookbook and later organized into the little wooden recipe box my mom still uses.

Over the years, I have asked her to write out a few select favorites, not because I’ve been too lazy to write them out myself, but because as a kid I cherished the handwriting of those women, and I wanted to extend that line into my own kitchen via my mom’s handwriting.

I’ve never had a specific place to keep those treasures (until today, they have been mixed with other flotsam of memorabilia in the “I’ll get my gems and jewels organized one day” folder), but now I do.

On the inside of the binder, underneath one of my most favorite photos, ever, is a pocket for those cards. That’s where they’ll live now.

This is my mom and me in the kitchen of our summer cottage on Mississippi Lake in Ontario, Canada. I was nine, and this was the summer before we moved to Africa. Not only was she a natural beauty of spirit and face, she was a great cook, and a damn fine mother. Still is.
Plus, she could carry off a ruffled polyester nightie like no one I’d met before, or since.

I have had many wonderful eras of my life when I was welcomed and felt at home in “my” kitchen. This was one of those times, and so is now.

These recipes, which may look like they belong in a million other households are not just any old lists of ingredients and methodologies.

Those cheese balls, for instance, are a festive standard and MUST appear on Christmas Eve. The funny thing is, they aren’t really cheese balls at all, but are rather sneaky ways to serve olives to the unsuspecting (and hopefully un-allergic). The addictive melt-in-your-mouth sharp cheddar cheese bit is merely the outside pastry-like covering. This has, over the years, provided several memorable occasions of “Care for a cheese ball?” quickly followed by a “Whaaaa! There’s an OLIVE in here!” We haven’t forgotten a one of those and still laugh, although oddly enough, we always forget to change the name to “Olive Balls.”

The Mushroom Turnovers came to my mom via my friend Judi, who I think still serves them every at Christmas party she throws. Come to think of it, we also only ate the delicious and deceptively easy Sausage Meat Balls on Christmas Eve as well. This reveals something about the simplicity of family food in that era: we didn’t actually eat appetizers, except at Christmas. Even then, they were more a meal of tapas than appetizers, but I don’t think we knew what “tapas” were then. By the time the traditional French Canadian Tourtiere was served, everyone was so stuffed with food and the fond memories they evoked that we all ate as small a piece as we could to be polite, secretly knowing that tourtiere is actually better on the second day anyway, making Christmas Day lunch as wonderful as dinner.

I’m overwhelmed by how much effort and care went into this manually transcribed treasure. I got teary when I saw my dad’s handwriting on all the tabs and thought about how much work it must have been to type and format every recipe.

Rick got teary when he saw that the listing also included Mom’s table-banging recipe for Coquilles St. Jacques.

“Flossie” was my Granny, Florence, and her namesake “dillos” were the best chocolate peanut clusters on the planet.

Yes, Jane and Jennifer, I’ll share Gramma Lane’s pumpkin pie recipe. And Flossie’s dillos too, if you’re interested. (God bless cousins, near and far.)

Thanks so much, youse.

I now not only have a lifetime of wonderful cooking ahead of me. I also have generations of love around the table from behind me.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Janie February 16, 2012 at 3:10 pm



…and yes please to the offer of recipes!!!


Sue February 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Culinary Couture! Yum……
Reminds me of my mother, her index cards, and christmas rum balls. 😀


Kathy P. February 15, 2012 at 11:19 am



Debra February 15, 2012 at 9:27 am

♥♥ Like ♥♥


Sandi Fentiman February 15, 2012 at 9:25 am

Wonderful post. I’m pretty sure a few tears will drip at 6th Street. For your know, mushroom pieces can replace the olives if you have guests who are allergic to olives. Just drain them well like you do the olives. I’ve tried the mushrooms and they work.


Charlie February 15, 2012 at 8:35 am

oh my gosh, what a treasure.


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: