When I was growing up, Mama always cooked from a recipe book, for the most part only when she was making something special for supper or some other occasion when we had company. Mama could really cook, and when I say that I mean that there just weren't very many other Mamas around our neighbourhood that got the same reviews Mama got. All my friends just begged to be invited to stay for supper. With the growing family that became less and less. There were more mouths to feed and friends didn't get to stay all that often. But you always knew when something special was coming because Mama had out the recipe book.
We grew up spoiled by all that wonderful cooking and we didn't beg to stay at our friend's places for supper, we begged to be allowed to go home. There are eight of us in the family and eventually we all got to grow up and have families of our own. All of us asked for Mama's recipes and Mama was quick to give them out. It didn't seem to matter much though as whenever we visited each other, the cooking lacked Mama's care and attention and just didn't taste like Mama's.
Once the grandkids came along everybody always looked forward to visiting Oma (Mama) for supper or the weekend was a real treat. Oma (Mama) still cooked up a storm and it was wonderful. The food seemed to melt in your mouth when Oma cooked it. It didn't matter what she cooked it was always better at Oma's place. My oldest sister even asked Mama for a loan of the recipe book so she could copy it onto her computer. Mama said that was okay as long as she didn't give out the recipes because they were the family's secret. So Sis dutifully copied every recipe, word for word. And tried to duplicate Mama's style reading out of the computer as if that would make a difference. Not a chance. Sis just couldn't cook like Mama cooked.
Well, soon the grandkids were off and getting married and, of course, Oma prepared the entire wedding feasts, she also made the wedding cakes. Everybody but everybody complimented her on her great cooking and baking; soon everybody was asking Mama for the recipes. Mama always told them it was a family secret. We now had four generations of the family on the go and lots of cooking. HA HA . But no matter what they tried it just wasn't like Mama's. It didn't seem to turn out quite the same.
Then before we realised it the time had come that no one ever looks forward to. Mama passed away at the ripe age of 93. Mama was very careful and always very particular about things. She was careful to leave everything divided equally between all the members of the family. I mean she actually had the boxes made up and labeled so that everybody got something. Included was a copy of the recipe book.
It was about five years after Mama passed that Sis (the oldest) decided to give it one more try to see if she could get Mama's flavour in the meal. Unfortunately she couldn't find the recipe book and had deleted it from the computer. She still had that box that Mama left her but hadn't opened it yet. So she begrudgingly started to look through the box with tears running down her face as she remembered all the special things about Mama. There were so many moments in the box. Some forgotten until now and so many more still as fresh as yesterday.
She found the copy of the recipe book but noticed that there were some more books in the bottom of the box. As she rooted them out a small book that was hand bound fell out from another book. She carefully picked it up and stared in disbelief, it had to be at least 100 years old. It was very neat and the writing was almost ancient, it looked like old-fashioned script. As she read she suddenly realised that this was a recipe book made up by our great-grandmother who had given it to Mama. In it were all those wonderful recipes that Mama always managed to make taste better than any of us could and small wonder at that.
The recipes we had were ALL missing two or three of the ingredients that were in great-grandmothers version of the recipe book. It really was a family secret after all. Mama had always cherished the real treasures in our family. The other siblings had opened the boxes but only the oldest got to carry on the family secret. Of course we all have a true copy of the recipes now that our oldest sister has printed them off the computer for us. Yeah right.
(Based on a story relayed to me
by my friend Peter Miller.
Dramatic license has been taken liberally.)