It is one of my most cherished possessions because she was the best cook ever. As a child, I’d stand by the sink and study the way she cleaned and diced celery, made famously delicious mashed potatoes (don’t be shy with the pepper) and stretched a boiled chicken into at least three delicious meals. She made a noodles and hamburger concoction she called ‘Eat More,’ a hearty ketchup-covered meat loaf and savory baked chicken that left us always asking for more. I would sit in the kitchen in the afternoon as she cooked, chattering away about school, friendships and life.
She was my dear mentor and friend, taking my brother and I in to live with her during the tough years after my parents divorce. She was always my #1 advocate and loved me dearly, and I adored her.
Comfort food was different back then. It was never fried, portions were reasonable… and it always included lots of vegetables. My Grampa was her #1 fan, but I came a close second.
Her recipe box is filled with well-loved classics, some cut from the newspaper, many written by her own hand in old-fashioned pen and ink: Cranberry Salad made with gelatin, cranberries, apple, celery and pecans… Hot Stuffed Tomatoes, filled with corn, green pepper and garlicky bread crumbs.. Asparagus au gratin–not a low calorie dish, but delicious! Tomato Soup Cake? That one looks a bit creative! She’s written the recipe source in the right hand corner on many cards–many from her sister Ruth, or mother in law Clara. In some of the older recipes, oven temps simply say, “Hot” or “Warm” oven.
You’re reminded how far we’ve come in only a couple of generations.
Let’s make her Chili Sauce today using some tomatoes I just harvested from the garden.
I love this sweet and savory recipe–You can see tomato spattered on the card from my Gramma’s kitchen. I remember one August day in 1972, smelling the spicy scent of tomato, vinegar, cloves and cinnamon that filled her house when she made this recipe to put on our hamburgers that evening. She wrote ‘Mamma’ at the top–this must have been one of my great-grandmother, Mary P. Larcom’s recipes. Here’s Great-Grandma Mary (people called her Minnie) in her 1920’s finest, outside the family home at 706 N. Van Buren St. in Bay City, MI.
I slice up tomatoes just harvested from the garden.
Add some orange peppers, onion, vinegar, sugar, salt, clove and cinnamon.
Now it’s simmering gently on the stove and my house is filled with the spicy scent of warm cloves and cinnamon, reminding me of that August day in my Gramma’s kitchen so many years ago.