Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Recipe for Three Generations

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Recipe for Three Generations

Article excerpt

I don't know what I thought family recipes were, but I've always assumed I didn't have any. My mother's mother was not known for her cooking. "She didn't know how to boil water when she got married," says my mom.

My father's mother was a cook, but her recipes haven't traveled easily through the generations. Her three sons, while enjoying the food, didn't learn how to make it. Later, when my grandmother died, my father brought home her recipes. But he discovered that they often listed only ingredients - no quantities, no directions. Now and then, he plays with them; he re-creates her suet pudding and molasses cookies each Christmas. But these aren't flavors from my childhood.

My mother used to tell me that her biggest worry about marriage was seeing all the dinners she would have to make stretching out into the future. She succeeded in putting homemade meals on the table each evening, ranging from Shake 'n Bake chicken to Crock-Pot explorations. My favorite meal was spaghetti and meat sauce that got its flavor from a packet - hardly the beginning of a family recipe tradition.

These days, my husband and I enjoy trying recipes from our growing collection of cookbooks and magazines that feature articles on "the best way to roast chicken" and "quick homemade beef soup." We've also branched into Thai and Peruvian food, a far cry from our Anglo-Saxon heritage. My 16-year-old daughter has picked up a baking habit as well. She searches for new chocolate confections on the Internet.

None of these are the kind of recipes passed down through generations. I've always imagined that a family recipe would have some ancestor's name attached - like Aunt Ruth's Famous Fudge or Grandma Sue's Corn Bread.

Then, one day as I pulled out the recipe for Lemon Loaf, our standby dessert, it hit me. I've had a family recipe tucked inside our card file for years.

It's not a fancy dessert - a moist lemon cake baked in a loaf pan, iced with sugar and lemon juice that pools in the pan's corners to form a sweet-sour crust. My mother started making it when I was a teenager. She often serves it as a finish to extended-family get- togethers, and she and I both make it for birthdays. …

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