After I shared my recipe for Iowa Sugar Cookies,
this came up in the comments.
Donna T wrote:
“Thanks for sharing your recipes Jo! I have known several people who absolutely will not share their recipes! One person was my husband’s aunt. She was the best cook and baker. She has since passed away and all her recipes too!”
Oh my…I thought about this and I just couldn’t let this one sit. I have such fond memories as a child asking my aunt for a recipe. Here’s the story….
My dad’s side of the family got together every August and had a picnic at Pilot Knob state park in Iowa. It was a potluck affair. All my aunts would pull out the stops and bring their best portable food recipes. It was a great picnic banquet of delicious food. My Aunt Esther, my dad’s sister, was the wife of a banker and while my mom brought farm hearty fair like scalloped potatoes and ham, Aunt Esther always brought something that I hadn’t heard of.
You all are going to chuckle but ….one year she brought Taco Salad. Seriously, I thought is was the most amazing thing I had ever tasted. I was about 12 at the time and I had grown up in a “meat and potatoes” farm family house. We didn’t have salads and we didn’t have any “ethnic” food unless it was Scandinavian fare…foods like lutefisk.
When I say we were a “meat and potatoes” family, we really were. We didn’t often have a hotdish or casserole. So when I say she made exotic things, it’s very tongue and cheek…and when I say we were a “meat and potatoes” family, we really were.
Anyway, I wanted the recipe for this exotic Taco Salad so bad but I was a little nervous to ask so I asked my mom if she would ask my Aunt Esther for the recipe. Nope. She wouldn’t. She too liked the salad but if I wanted the recipe, that was on me. Mom was only doing this to encourage me to talk with my Aunt. (Not only were we a farm family, we were a little stoic too). Well I worked up the nerve and I asked Aunt Esther for the recipe.
She didn’t remember the recipe off hand but she promised me that she would mail the recipe to me.
Well a week or so later, the recipe came in the mail. I was thrilled. First off I got mail. Secondly, I now had the recipe. I asked mom if I could make it but she told me that I had to check if we had the ingredients. Of course, we didn’t. This recipe had exotic things that our farm family didn’t buy….
black olives, taco seasoning, shredded cheese…western dressing. Nope. They were all new things we didn’t buy. So the items went on the grocery list.
Writing this is so funny to me as now, all those ingredients are staples at our house. I’ve tried to explain to my kids that times really have changed in regards to grocery shopping. There are so many more items available and that are common nowadays.
Finally I had the ingredients, it was time to make my salad. This recipe called for kidney beans…and I will always remember that as being one of the distinguishing ingredients. I made that salad and I loved it…the next day as leftovers..not so much as with that recipe, the doritos were crunched and mixed into it all.
I was in awe of my Aunt Esther over her taco salad recipe.
Taco Salad is a memory that I have tied to her. My Aunt has been gone since 2003….17 years ago. I didn’t know her very well. We grew up in a kids are “seen and not heard” type environment around my dad’s family. I didn’t have much interaction with her, but I’ll be forever thankful that she brought taco salad to the picnic..and thankful my mom made me ask her for the recipe. It gave me a connection to her…that is something I treasure.
As for the taco salad….I don’t make taco salad. We have more of a walking taco salad. We don’t put kidney beans in it. We don’t mix dressing over the whole thing. We usually traditional American taco fixings and let everyone their own taco or salad however they prefer. Still, on a regular basis if someone says, “let’s have taco salad”, that I think of Aunt Esther.
I think recipes are a wonderful way to remember a person. My Aunt Esther had the most beautiful aged to white hair ever. She always was the little more proper one of the family. She was an nurse in WWII where she met her to be husband. She was always so put together…and one of the things I’ll always remember her for…introducing me to taco salad.
As for Donna’s comment that her husband’s aunt died and her recipes died with her, that’s just sad. She missed an opportunity to make a little girls day like my Aunt Esther made mine.
I always share recipes…It’s just a plain old nice thing to do.
I looked online to see if I could find a recipe close to my Aunt Esther’s. I think THIS is. The only thing, she used Doritos vs Fritos.