Magazines, websites, and cookbooks are full of new, easier, and fancier recipes these days. We’d have to eat way more than 3 meals a day to try all the tempting fare. At my house, plenty of old recipes have been forgotten and shuffled to the back of the recipe box.
As I thought about the foods of my past, I found that my best memories center around breakfast. This surprised me because I’m not a morning person. One breakfast tradition in my family is a recipe called Scrambles. Don’t confuse this with scrambled eggs; it is totally different. Mom told me that Scrambles was a depression-era meal that she ate as a child. A mixture of flour, milk, egg, and a pinch of salt – these items were cheap and available when you lived on a farm. Fry the batter in a skillet, then chop it into little pieces, and serve with whatever you have available – apple butter, grape jelly, syrup. It’s a breakfast that will stick-to-your-ribs. My brother and I grew up loving them and our kids eat them, too. (Sometimes for other-than-breakfast meals!)
We also grew up eating hot cocoa-toast. This is nothing more than buttered toast dunked in hot chocolate. This was the Saturday morning treat which we ate while we watched Mighty Mouse. Or Sky King, Fury or My Friend Flicka. On great days, we finished the meal with a glazed donut from Leonard’s Bakery. I haven’t had one in years, but I love glazed donuts dunked in my hot chocolate! One bite and I’m back sitting on the floor in front of the TV hearing, “Hi-O Silver. Away!”
Along with family traditions come out-of-the-ordinary recipes. I happen to love peanut butter and white syrup on my pancakes rather than butter and maple syrup. My dad ate his pancakes that way. When I went away to college, the morning we had pancakes, they had placed maple and white syrup on the tables. Jars of peanut butter were always on the table. I was thrilled to eat pancakes just like at home. Imagine my joy when another guy at the table ate his pancakes the same way! Imagine the faces of the other students who had never heard of such a thing.
My family also ate granulated sugar on our French Toast rather than syrup and I prefer it that way even now. As a third grader, I remember attending a weekend camp and being served French Toast. I looked for the sugar and watched as everyone poured syrup on their meal! No sugar was on the table. I longed to go home. But when I asked my counselor for sugar, her reaction has stayed with me to this day. “Sugar? You don’t eat sugar on French Toast! You use that syrup like everyone else and eat them the right way.” We could have used more tolerance way back when.
In grade school, I took my lunch in a lunch box with a Thermos. It was just a plain metal lunch box. It was either a bologna sandwich or (drumroll, please) a peanut butter and pickle sandwich. I love peanut butter and pickles. Any kind of pickle, but the bread and butter ones are the best. I’m not sure who started this combination. I don’t think anyone else in my family ate it. But, it’s part of my special memories. Couple it with ice tea like mom used to make and I’m sitting back at the metal table watching everyone else drink their milk from little cartons.
Funny how tasting something can trigger memories from long ago. Like the first bite of homemade ice cream that makes me remember sitting in the aluminum lawn chairs at Gramma and Grampa’s. Or dishing up Gramma’s Casserole from the green Pyrex bowl and tasting the crunchy cheese on top. If I could find some transparent apples, I would enjoy the old-fashioned taste of Dutch Apple Pie (as I remember it) and even make some cracker pie like Gramma used to make.
Several years ago I made a “From Gramma’s Kitchen” memory cookbook for my daughters, nieces, and nephews. Copies of recipes in the handwriting of their grandmother and great-grandmother, little notes about when we ate this recipe, and pictures of family dinners make it a scrapbook as well as a cookbook. It was simple but time-consuming, and well worth the effort to make sure our family traditions continue on!
Fall is here and I’m looking forward to biting into a still-green Yellow Delicious apple with juice running down my arm, and tasting the joy of sitting in the apple tree with a good book, a slight breeze, and a happy heart.