I come from a family of cooks and book lovers. Both my sons and my daughter-in-law are fine dining chefs, my father was a baker. I am a keen amateur - made that way because I understood, from an early age, the role good food plays in a family and in the family budget. So it will come as no surprise to you to know that even though I rarely follow recipes, cook books are important to me. I have quite a few of them, but no where near as many as I could have; with books, and everything else, I choose carefully and maintain a less is more approach. I like reading cook books because they inspire me to try new things, and they keep me enthusiastic about growing fresh food in the back yard and presenting that food on a plate.
I have been thinking a lot about dying recently. Don't worry, I'm not sick, I feel healthy and full of joy, but the human mind, being what it is, thinks what it does and I just go along for the ride. Lately the ride has taken us to death and who will be given my possessions when I die. I am not a wealthy woman but I have a few things that are precious to me and many things that are practical and helpful. I have one of my mother's cookbooks, it's a very old CWA cook book from the Barossa Valley. I was excited to see Maggie Beer refer to her identical copy on The Cook and The Chef a couple of years ago. A few weeks ago I was reading through mum's book and I thought it was a real pity that she didn't write some of her recipes in the book before she gave it to me. I love seeing any good recipe, hand written. I would have loved to have some of my mother's.
This is cook book given to me by my mother - she wrote my name in the top right corner, though it's barely legible now.
All through my life I've had the attitude that there is no use regretting things not done; if it is important enough to me, I should do what I can to change what I can. So I've started hand writing my recipes in my own cook books - with the expectation that after my death, these books will be warmly accepted and fondly held by my sons, my daughters-in-law, my grandchildren and their grandchildren. I would like them to add their own recipes alongside mine to build up a collection of cook books that will become family treasures and I hope my own book, Down to Earth, will sit alongside these cook books on those future book shelves.
In the photo above you can see my hand written recipe (double-clicking will enlarge it) for one of my favourite leftovers meals - Colcannon Hash with Leftover Corned Beef; a meal I grew up on no doubt because it trickled down through the years from my Irish ancestors. I hope this meal will be enjoyed by my family 100 years from now and that they pass it on again. I have chosen three books to write in so far. The Real Food Companion by Matthew Evens that is pictured above, The Thrift Kitchen by Suzanne Gibbs and Kate Gibbs and Feast by Nigella Lawson. They're all substantial books - in content and structure so I know they'll stand up to many long years of use, but I settled on those three because they're the hard cover books I use the most. The Real Food Companion and The Thrifty Kitchen will hold my day-to-day family favourite meals, Feast will hold our celebration foods and notes about significant milestone foods - a hazelnut torte for our wedding cake, the first solid foods Jamie and Alexander eat, the menu, including wedding cake, for Shane and Sarndra's wedding in our backyard, the first meal I cooked with Sunny, my grandma's gem scone recipe, and much more.
I intend to make notes in Nourishing Traditions, Wild Fermentation and my mum's CWA book too, but they all have soft covers and I doubt they'll stand the test of time as well as the others; still, they're part of my plan. I will also make reference to this blog post in the cook books and probably print it out and stick it in, so those who hold these books in the future can read about who, how and why these family records were created. I wonder what they'll think of them, if it will be a total surprise that we ate this food or if it will be familiar to them. I hope each branch of the family will add somethings of their own to the books to pass along. Food has the capacity to bring people together - even over the generations, and of all the things that will come and go over the years, food is the one thing I'm sure will still be part of every future life.
I would love you to share this with me and create a cook's archive for your family. It's simple to do; it just takes time and a book you have probably already have sitting on your shelf. Why not come along for the ride, I think we'll create something important for our families and a treasure that will last for a very long time. In one month, I intend writing about this again and will put out a call to everyone who joined in, to send a picture of one of their pages. I'm going to post everyone of them to celebrate home cooking and family treasures. Will you join me?