Discovering family history in the kitchen

By Jacki Wood, “That they might have joy” column

We start a new series in today’s paper, “Generations of Cooking: keeping cookbooks in the family.”

I wasn’t sure where the series would lead when Kay suggested it after Katrina brought in an old cookbook. But it has really turned into something fun.

It reminded me of my own family’s cookbooks and recipes. And the historical importance of them.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve started working more on my family history and genealogy. This series is helping me realize how important family recipes are in helping to preserve that history.

Many of my favorite memories and family stories surround food – at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, family reunions, birthday parties and other get-togethers.

New Mexico State University Extension’s Cydney Martin encourages others to collect family recipes and create an heirloom cookbook.

“It’s our history, our legacy to our children,” she said. “Nothing provokes memories better than the smell of something you ate in your childhood.”

Several years ago, a cousin of mine spearheaded the creation of an heirloom cookbook, “A Kitchen Keepsake – The Weese Family Cookbook.” We all shared recipes, family photos and some basic family history. She also included a few recipes from my great-grandmother, Zola Carey Weese.

It is now my go-to cookbook. And my kids use it, too. The food splatters and dog-eared pages are proof of how valuable it has become to us.

A family favorite shared in the cookbook are sugar cookies my mom made with my siblings and me when we were little, a tradition I carried on with my own kids.

There are also a couple of my great-grandma’s recipes, Dandelion Jelly and French Fried Dandelion Blossoms. They are ones I haven’t tried yet but this series has inspired me to discover why anyone would want to fry one of the most hated flowers and eat it.

It’s also inspired me to learn more, to record more stories and to try more family recipes.

Grandma Uthe’s Sugar Cookies
2 C. flour
1 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 C. butter
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. sour cream
Sift together flour, soda, salt and nutmeg. Cream butter and sugar together well. Blend in sour cream and then add dry ingredients. Blend well and chill dough. Roll out on floured surface, half at a time, to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350˚ for 8-10 minutes. Makes 6-7 dozen small cookies.

Dandelion Jelly
4 1/2 C. sugar
1 tsp. lemon or orange extract
1 pkg. pectin
1 qt. dandelions
In the morning, pick 1 quart dandelion blossoms without any of the stem attached. Boil blossoms in 1 quart of water for 3 minutes. Drain off 3 cups liquid. Add pectin, extract and sugar. Boil about 3 minutes and seal.

French Fried Dandelion Blossoms
dandelion blossoms
1 egg, beaten
cornmeal
salt water
flour
grease or lard
Clean and soak dandelion blossoms in salt water for 30 minutes. Dip in beaten egg and then in a mixture of flour and cornmeal. Brown in hot grease or lard.

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2 responses to “Discovering family history in the kitchen

  • chmjr2

    Hoe often my memories of the past center around the dinner table. I still in my head compare anyone’s fried chicken to my grandmother’s, and pie (any pie) to my Aunt Verna’s. Enjoyed your post today and it got me to thinking about some very pleasant memories.

  • Luanne @ TFK

    Recipes are a great written form of history to pass down from generation to generation. Love the dandelion ones!

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