I found this vintage wooden box at a local estate sale. Although I liked the box enough by itself, its contents were even more interesting to me:
It was a collection of handwritten recipe cards and yellowed recipe clippings. I’ve been asking for my Mom’s recipe collection since she passed away last year, but my Dad is not quite ready to part with it. There is something about her recipes–in her distinctive cramped hand, with her personal notes about the recipes (Delish! Use nonfat milk!)–that provides a glimpse of her personality. They tell a story about her–the way she loved to entertain, the way she was always watching her weight, the friends who shared their recipes and good times with her. In an article by Kate Murphy published recently in the New York Times, entitled “Between the Recipes, Scribbles Speak Volumes,” the author mused that cookbooks are “possibly the most annotated form of literature.” As she describes, “[w]hether practical, historical, sentimental or smudged with chocolate ganache, marginalia in cookbooks can tell the story of a life and be a lasting memorial to the scribbler.” I want my Mom’s recipes, not so much to make them, but to channel my Mom. A stranger’s will have to do for now.
My personal recipe collection is more OCD than my Mom’s or this woman’s. Years ago I started printing my recipes on the fancy papers that started showing up in stationery stores. It was fun to fit the papers to the recipes. There are no handwritten notes on my recipes, but my cookbook is pretty to flip through. Here’s a few examples:
As I was going through the recipes in the old box, I came across this one for Cherry-O Cream Cheese Pie:
My Mom used to make this pie all the time. This clipping must date back to the 1960s. Looking around the interwebs, I see that this recipe is still popular today.
Today happens to be George Washington‘s birthday. The Father of Our Country, he is consistently ranked among the top three presidents of the United States (no idea who the other two are). In 1968 Congress passed the “Monday Holiday Law” to “provide uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays.” By creating more 3-day weekends, Congress hoped to “bring substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the Nation.” So today, instead of celebrating Washington’s birthday on February 22, his actual birthday, we celebrate it as a federal holiday, unofficially known as President’s Day, on the third Monday in February. Interestingly, this guarantees that his birthday will never be celebrated on his actual birthday, because the third Monday in February can never fall any later than February 21. (In other words, the latest the first Monday could be is the 7th, which would mean that the third Monday would be the 21st.) I think George gets ripped off having to share his birthday on a random date with every other president — like having a birthday in December and getting combined birthday and Christmas presents. On the other hand, I think the idea of moving a birthday around can be good. For example, I might have liked to have moved my kids’ birthdays to the summer, when you don’t have to send cupcakes to school, and don’t really even have to have a party because no one is around.
Anyway, to many kids, George Washington is best remembered for chopping down a cherry tree. As the fabricated story goes, little George used his hatchet to chop down his father’s cherry tree. When his angry father asked who did it, George said, “I cannot tell a lie — I chopped down the cherry tree.” His father was supposedly so pleased that George told the truth, that he considered it payment for the tree. I don’t know about you, but lying always worked better for me.
Inspired by the decades-old clipping in the recipe box, memories of Mom, and in celebration of George Washington’s birthday, I made a Cherry-O Cream Cheese Pie. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s pretty darn tasty.
- 9-inch prepared graham cracker crumb crust*
- 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
- 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 lb. 6.oz. can prepared cherry pie filling
- Place cream cheese in a medium bowl and using an electric mixer, beat until fluffy. Gradually add sweetened condensed milk, mixing until well blended. Mix in lemon juice and vanilla. Pour into prepared crust. Chill 2 to 3 hours before covering top of pie with cherry pie filling.
- *To make your own graham cracker crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (approximately 12 whole graham crackers), 6 tablespoons melted butter, and ⅓ cup sugar. Press into a 9-inch pie plate using the back of a spoon, being sure to press it up the sides of the pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Cool completely before filling.