Those of you who took a gander at my scintillating bureau-top saw a photo of my great-grandmother Lillian. Lillian's first child, the one daughter she had the privelege to know and love (for a couple years anyway) was my grandma, Lucy.
Lucy had her faults, I am sure. But she had many strengths. One of them was her generosity. She was generous with her time, spending hours playing with my sister and me when we visited. She was generous with money, slipping us tens from her insubstantial allowance so we could buy a trinket (that would soon end up lost or broken). And she was generous with her things, letting us drag out all her costume jewelry and every one of her pairs of shoes so we could play Store.
My grandma Lucy had a cookbook. It was called The Household Searchlight Recipe Book and was published in 1936. Somehow it has found its way to me.
The book is battered and stained. Full of recipes for things jellied. Prunes abound. Salads are not arugula and frisee, but are often made with gelatin and meat, then plopped on a bed of lettuce.
Throughout the 304-page tome, Lucy has made notes.
She was a jotter. Throughout her adult life, she wrote, in plain, small notepads, what she wore each day, what she cooked, her level of success with both. Her cookbooks were no different. She annotated tweaks she made to the recipes, what "Georgie", my grandpa, liked.
She was funny, self-deprecating, unafraid to call herself out.
Her oldest daughter, vanished from this life just a couple years after Lucy, scrawled across many pages with a fat, purple crayon. I imagine these doodles amused my grandma, rather than irritated her. She simply wrote: Marilyn, 17 months and etched an arrow to the first of the purple hieroglyphics.
Most of the recipes she claimed to have tried at some point in her marriage were fairly sensible. It seems, by her lack of annotations, that she avoided the Creamed Brains (ingredients: one brain, white sauce, paprika, salt and pepper), Egg coffee and Prune Onion Salad.
Her favorites were meatloaf and fudge.
The Household Searchlight Recipe Book is 72-years-old now. Just two years younger than Lucy was when she died in the late eighties. I miss her. I miss her generosity.
I even miss her cooking.