Recipes Shared

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.

P.S.
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.

25 thoughts on “Recipes Shared

  1. Janet R

    It is funny. We eat what our families cook. We, too, had a lot of meat and potatoes, but we added anything grown in the garden.

    Then you go to someone else’s house or a potluck and discover something delicious and different. Often I’ve added other recipes to our menu because of that. So I’m thankful for the people that share their recipes and for the internet that helps us find something close when they won’t share. I’d still rather have a tried and true recipe, though.

  2. The Eclectic Abuela

    Enjoyed your story! I will share my husband’s favorite:

    Spice Cookies (with surprising spices)

    1 cup butter
    1 cup brown sugar
    1 cup white sugar
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons sweet curry powder
    1/2 teaspoon cardamom
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    3 cups flour

    Cream butter and sugars. Mix in everything except the vanilla and flour. When thoroughly mixed, add vanilla. Stir in the flour until incorporated completely. Shape into walnut-sized balls and roll the balls in sugar. Place on a baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

    You can add chopped nuts or mini-chocolate chips, if you wish. The recipe makes between 2-3 dozen, depending upon the size you make the balls of dough.

  3. Wanda

    Your Aunt Esther’s taco salad sounds a lot like the one I have been making for years! And yes, I do use Fritos!

  4. DebMac

    My recipe story involves my dad’s older cousin. Irene was a very prim and proper school teacher who was widowed very young and didn’t have children. Since I was the “odd” one out (2 brothers, 2 much younger sisters), I always “got” to stay with Irene when we visited family in Nebraska. After a few visits, I found out what a lovely woman Irene was and she became very fond of me. Partly because I wasn’t a picky eater like my sisters but she never found out that I picked all the raisins out of her oatmeal cookies. And her homemade bread was divine. I asked her for the recipe and she sent me her recipe card as she “just never made bread anymore”. 30 years later, I still treasure it. Can’t make bread like hers even with her recipe.

  5. Susie McEwen

    I love to have a recipe written in that person’s handwriting. I have my grandmother’s book where she wrote her recipes. It’s stained with torn pages and sometimes hard to read but full of love. To inherit a person’s recipe box or book is the best.

  6. Gwen

    The way your family ate when you were growing up sounds just like our family. My parents were both children from Iowa farm families and so were we an Iowa farm family. When I got married after college and we moved to Pittsburgh for my husband to finish his education I was exposed to so many foods I was not familiar with. There is a large ethnic heritage here. It was a melting pot of people immigrating here to work in the steel miles when they were booming. The hardest thing for me to get used to is that when invited to someone’s home in the evening, wine or drinks are served with some kind of hor derve (how do you spell that). We always were greeted with coffee and dessert when I was growing up.

  7. Donna F

    My story is when my dad’s mom, who was a great baker, died I got her recipes. My aunt did take them for a short bit to copy a few but I am the keeper of them. Grandma made my dad a fruitcake every year for his birthday, Dec 20th, and Christmas from the time he went off to the Army for three years. From about 1950 until about 1995. I only tried once to make it for Dad after my Grandma died. I had no luck with it. The same with her raisin filled cookies. I always feel sad when I see someone’s recipe collection in a 2nd hand store. I believe there should be at least one person in a family to be the keeper of the family recipes. Time to get back to some sewing.

  8. Gayle Shumaker

    My oldest grandson is in the Air Force and was home on leave in the fall. He was grumbling about missing his favorite dishes that grandma made with the coming holidays. After talking with him I bought a journal and wrote like crazy recording my recipes. I gave him the journal just before he left. My daughter-in-law was excited to get my recipes when all she had to do was ask. My youngest son copied recipes when he was moving out on his own. Some of their very favorite recipes were my grandma’s.

  9. Sheri

    My Dad didn’t like ham and beans so my Mom didn’t make them. His sister, Aunt Pat, made them all the time. She would call me and tell me to stop by after work and gave me a glass canning jar of beans and homemade bread. I tried to learn to make her bread, but failed. It was one of those recipes with no real measurements just handfuls and pinches which I wasn’t able to master.

  10. Dot

    My brother-in-law’s aunt was a good cook who refused to share her recipes, but my sister managed to get her special pumpkin pie recipe anyway! At her house one Thanksgiving, Sis brought Aunt R a glass or two of wine, and kept her busy talking while she made the pie. And all the while, Sis was carefully memorizing each ingredient as it was added. So now I have that recipe, too, and it’s a good one!

  11. Cheryl in Dallas

    My Dad’s mother was a great cook. In fact, she ran a boarding house in the 1930s when she was divorced and raising three kids. We were not close to my Dad’s family and only visited with them every two or three years. As a teenager, I tasted my grandmother’s “Chocolate Meringue Cake,” and I thought I had died and gone to Cake Heaven. I asked my grandmother for the recipe, but she said “No. Everyone asks for that recipe, but then no one ever makes the cake. So I am not copying it any more.” Harsh, but in all fairness, this was in the 1960s before copiers came along, so every recipe had to be hand copied by the housewife who had the original recipe.

    Well, I told my mother’s sister (who lived in the same small town with my Dad’s mother) about this sad situation, and she said “I have that recipe. Your grandmother gave it to me years ago.” So I sat down and copied that cake recipe immediately.

    The cake is so good that now, 65 years later, I still bake it regularly. New neighbor? You will get a cake. Christmas time? I will make this cake for you. Now I call it “Granny Mo’s Cake” after the best cook in our family who got tired of sharing her recipes.

    Interestingly, I am the only person I know who makes this cake. Many, many people ask for the recipe after they eat it, and I gladly provide it — I keep a stack of photocopies on hand. BUT days later, most people tell me they would never make a cake that is so complicated. It makes me laugh each time it happens, and I feel a special bond with my grandmother who would not even share the recipe with me.

  12. Connie

    Our family reunion brought family from all over. One Aunt and Uncle came from far enough away, that they stopped and bought Kentucky fried chicken in the last big town before Keosauqua (Iowa). I remember her always apologizing. I personally LOVED it. We never got that at my house, so of course it was the meat that I chose, when we finally got to eat. And another Aunt made scotcheroos another food that we never had at home. I LOVED them. Still do and always think of her when I have one. The watermelon was kept on ice in a silver washtub under the tree outside with a rug thrown over it. The pop, which was a also never served at our house was in a wash tub with ice. and a rug over the top. (Mom would let me have an orange pop!) No recipes to share. Thanks for the memories!

  13. Susan the Farm Quilter

    One year for Christmas I bought 3 blank recipe books and wrote down all my kids favorite recipes…mine, my mother’s and my grandmother’s…so they would each have them all in one place. They have saved me a few times when I wanted to make a certain recipe, didn’t have it memorized and wasn’t home to look at my recipe cards!! It is a wonderful gift to give for a bridal shower as well…especially if you leave plenty of blank pages for them to fill in with their family favorites as well.

  14. Kathy Gist

    I love new things so I always ask for the recipe. Most people are flattered to have someone love their food and are more than happy to share but there are those few. Isn’t it funny, though, that even if you do have someone else’s recipe, you make it your own so no one really loses their original recipe even if they do share. I would love to have Cheryl’s Chocolate Meringue Cake. It does sound heavenly! Jo, I couldn’t get the link to work for the Taco Salad. I also make a Taco Salad but have never used kidney beans. Sounds wonderful!

  15. Felicia Hamlin

    Thank you for sharing your recipes, Jo, I tried the carrot cake and it was really good. One of these days, I will try the sugar cookies and the muffins.

  16. Heidi S

    We love taco salad! I set out the components and everyone makes their own creation.
    Funny thing though? Here in central Oklahoma, I can NOT find plain ol Doritos anymore. All WalMart and the local grocery carry are the flavored varieties.

  17. Donna T

    Jo thanks for your post on recipe sharing! Yes Aunt Fern missed a great opportunity when she wouldn’t pass on her recipes but I have had coworkers do the same! I am always thrilled to share recipes because that means they enjoyed it!

  18. Deborah Stokes

    Two things came to mind from everyone’s comments – here in Texas we use Ranch Style beans in our Taco Salad but first you dump them in a sieve and wash all the sauce off them and let them drain. Much milder taste, delicious! And hand written recipes from ancestors – take them someplace that can enlarge them and then trace them on cloth and embroidery them. “Someday” I’m going to do that with one of Moms and one from each grandmother.

  19. Judith Fairchild

    What a great idea Deborah.
    When I left home I had learned most of mom’s recipes in my head. I wanted to make pancakes and realized I didn’t have that recipe. Looked it up in my cookbook made it and oh yuck it wasn’t like mom’s at all. I went to visit her sometime later. She asked me what I wanted for breakfast (a rare occurrence) normally she just fixed a breakfast and we ate it. Anyway I asked for some of her style pancakes as I hadn’t had any like hers ever. She said oh I’ll have to mix the ingredients I’m out. I asked her if she had everything she needed. We got busy and when I asked her how much of this and that she said she just put in handfuls till the mix felt right. I talked her into measuring each ingredient in another bowl so I could measure the amounts. I got the recipe written and love it. If any one is interested I’ll share. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to share Jo

  20. Darlynn Venne

    Jo, I made the sugar cookies last week. They were good, but the tops did not crack like yours.
    I will try again someday. thanks for sharing

  21. Kim LeMere

    I love reading recipes in my box, so many friends and family members were willing to share with me and I treasure them all. I think if someone asks for your recipe it is a compliment and should be shared. Thank you for sharing all of yours with us.

  22. Jeri Niksich

    I literally made your Blueberry Muffin recipe today Jo. Hubby loved them as do the neighborhood and some are going with hubby Monday to the shop. You sure we’re right about now many it makes!

  23. Judy

    We were a meat and potatoes family just like yours. Most of my dads family lived pretty close so we had lots of potlucks where I was able to try different things. MostIly it was standard fare but you are right as time went on and there were more convenience foods there were new recipes to try. I had one aunt who always brought something we had never had before. I remember when she brought wiener wraps and I thought they were the most amazing thing. Sadly she passed away when I was about thirteen but my Uncle remarried after a few years and his second wife was also an amazing cook so once again new things to try. I do have some of the recipes from his second wife but the one recipe nobody ever got from her was her amazing baked beans. She shared it with someone who proceeded to bring it to the next family potluck so that one she would not give out after that because it was a recipe that she always brought. After she passed her kids could not find that particular recipe so no one knows what happened to it. I have since found my own recipe for baked beans that I love so I guess that is okay. You have made me think of some good family memories and good food that we shared.

  24. ColleenM

    LOL. Good stories all! Cheryl, I would love to have your chocolate cake recipe! I promise I will make it:)

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