Well, I finally finished it.
Shortly after my Mom passed away, I gathered all of her recipe boxes (yes, boxes) and I started talking with family members about their favorite recipes. Mom was a wonderful cook - and a generous one - and our household was one in which it was the rare visit to not be offered a slice of homemade pound cake as you walked in the door, or given a glass of freshly brewed iced tea before you sat down - and almost everyone was asked if they wanted to stay for dinner - there was always enough to go around, and sometimes it felt like Mom waved a magic wand and an abundance of dishes appeared. She was one of those effortless cooks, at least the effort wasn't something she made a big deal of.
I started working on a book of her recipes two years ago through the photobook website Shutterfly. She passed away on 15 April 2008. I started tossing in family photographs, especially photographs of her last year - our Mother's Day dinner at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, Mom at the stove with my brother demonstrating the correct way to make gravy from turkey drippings, a photograph that I took during Christmas of 2007 of the last fruit cake she made. I included photographs of her and my Father's wedding, of her decorating Easter Eggs with my niece (her only grandchild) and of my Mom, my niece and I celebrating my niece's 16th birthday with a german chocolate cake my Mom made. The recipes range from jello salads that my Mom used to make when we were young, the Christmas cookies of our childhood and the cakes of our adulthood, my Mom's favorite chicken-broccoli casserole and my Dad's favorite Whoopie Pies. Each recipe represents a dozen or more family stories - memories tossed in with the ingredients, mixed thoroughly and baked until a cake tester comes out clean.
At the end of the book, I wrote about the compliment given my Mom by one of her sisters. She said that if everyone my Mom had made a cake for over her 74 years of living came to her funeral, that the funeral would be filled to overflowing (and it was). I can't tell you the number of times that my brother, father and I were told "Don't touch that!" as a hot pound cake, german chocolate cake or coconut cake came out of the oven. "It's for someone else." During the first Christmas after she was gone, I went to Virginia and all I did was bake cakes for all of the people that I knew Mom would want to have one - from early morning to late at night I obsessively baked cakes, trying to fill her absence by filling cake pans and plates. To this day, I feel closest to her when I am baking a cake for someone other than myself.
When I returned home today from the lab, there at the gate was a box filled with 15 copies of my Mom's Book of Family Recipes. It's 75 (front and back) pages and contains 50 family recipes. It's bound in brown leather - and the 'cover' photo is of my parent's dining room table, partially ready for Thanksgiving dinner in November of 2007. I like the simplicity of the table - only the china had been set, there were no glasses or flowers or food dishes placed on the table yet. Outside the window you can see the late Autumn brown leaves of the English oaks that surround the house. But soon after the china was placed on the table - flowers were added as a centerpiece, other family members arrived, and dishes magically and effortlessly appeared (even as cancer was metastasizing throughout Mom's body) - and dinner was served. It was lovely.
Store in an air-tight tin after preparing. Mom would make it at Christmas - and often prepare bags of it for Trick-or-Treaters at Halloween.