I never met my grandmother, Frances. She passed away when my mother was a teenager. But I'm getting to know her a bit through her cookbooks: 3 black, 3-ring binders containing recipes typed on a typewriter in the late 1960's. A yellowing tab on the side of each binder describes its contents:
- Booklets, drinks, canapes, menu ideas, candy, misc
- Rolls, biscuits, cakes, cookies, pies, and desserts
- Main dishes, casseroles, vegetables, salads, soups & salads
I was sitting looking through these on Christmas eve. Neither my brother or I knew what a canape was. A quick search online later, we had the newfound knowledge that canape means couch in French and Spanish; it's also a type of hors d'oeuvres typically made from stale white bread that is sauteed or fried, cut into shapes, and topped with something savory. Interesting.
The cookbooks are filled with amusing treasures. They were assembled around the time when many convenience foods were becoming vogue: Campbell's soup, Dream Whip, Betty Crocker cake mix, Best Foods mayonnaise, Bisquick, Jell-O. One section of the main dish binder is titled "aluminum foil dinners". There's a recipe for Igloo Meatloaf with Potato Frosting. Another for Crescent Roll Lasagna is cited as the 1968 Pillsbury bake-off winner. And then there are the SPAM recipes:
In case you can't read the fine print, the pic to the left shows an entire page of SPAM sandwiches - from top to bottom:
- Chopped SPAM and sweet pickles on sesame bun
- Grilled SPAM cheddar cheese on gluten bread
- SPAM and baked beans on wiener bun
- SPAM lettuce and tomato on whole wheat
- SPAM swiss cheese and sauerkraut on pumpernickel
The desserts cookbook has definitely seen the most use. Flipping through the cookie section brings me back to my childhood, as these are many of the treats my mom made when I was growing up: chocolate crackles, pumpkin cookies, Corn Flakes oatmeal cookies, snickerdoodles, and a Christmastime staple - jewel cookies. I made a batch of these earlier in the week. Here's how they go:
Grandma Frances' Jewel Cookies
Makes 24 cookies
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1 c. flour
1 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. currant jelly
Work butter until soft, then add brown sugar gradually and continue working until mixture is smooth. Separate egg yolk from white and beat yolk into sugar mixture thoroughly. Stir in flour.
Chill in refrigerator for about 30 minutes or until dough can be handled easily.
Shape 24 balls of dough. Dip each one into slightly beaten egg white. Roll balls in chopped walnuts. Place on cookie sheet. Bake in 350 degree oven 5 minutes. Press hole or cavity in top of each cookie. Bake 10 minutes longer.
Remove cookies from sheet and drop a bit of currant jelly into the hole of each cookie.
My posts of late have been more often centered around sweets than not. Those who have been following this blog for a bit know that is not the norm. This will be my last sweet post of the year, I promise! Next comes an exploration of the many cookbooks I added to my collection over the holiday. Stay tuned!