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The Great Mistake

December 12, 2006
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It was a friendly orange plastic recipe box, and it had *so* many recipes! Family ones, from my mother, who is now gone. My mother-in-law’s showcase dinners. Friend’s fondest childhood memories. They had names varied and nostalgic, like “Saucepan Brownies”, “Evelyn’s Seafood Gumbo”, “Shroodles”, and “Lillian’s Lemon and Raisin Cookies”, each with a story or a memory.

When I moved last, I left an apartment I had shared with my husband before his death, and moved on alone to a new life. In the jumble of packing and moving, and winnowing afterwards, somehow the orange recipe box was lost. I know what happened to it — it got mixed in with other items I donated to The Salvation Army, things I no longer needed and had moved anyway. It was several weeks before I realized my loss, and all I could do was cry. I still get teary thinking about it now, but somehow I cheer myself up by hoping that the box is making some family’s meals memorable and warm.

Not all is lost forever: I’ve gradually been able to find other copies of some of the recipes, that I had written out and passed on to friends. My brother knows some of my mother’s favorites, including a couple I didn’t have before, like her “Cornish Pasties.” They don’t taste quite like hers, though, and I keep thinking he’s left something out.

And then, there’s the cookies. They were a gift, along with a bottle of champagne, from our downstairs neighbor Lillian on our wedding day. She said she was so overjoyed that we decided to “do the right thing”, that she wanted us to celebrate. Lillian was the quintessential little old lady and a good neighbor; her lemon cookies take me back to those early days of my marriage. Lillian’s handwritten copy was one of those I lost in The Great Mistake. This is the recipe as I remember and use it.

 Lillian’s Lemon Raisin Cookies        Makes about 3 dozen

Cream together:
3/4  cup  white sugar
1  stick  margarine (or butter), at room temperature
1  egg, slightly beaten
1  teaspoon  lemon extract

Stir together in a large mixing bowl:
3/4  teaspoon  soda
1/4  teaspoon  salt
3/4  teaspoon  cream of tartar
1 3/4  cups  unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 to 1  cup  raisins (or use dried cranberries, or blueberries)

Mix the wet and dry ingredients well. Drop by teaspoonsful on greased cookie sheets and flatten slightly with a fork, spaced well as they will spread a bit.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 8 to 10 minutes or until browned at edges. (Do not overbake.) Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container, so they stay chewy. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.  Goes well with Champagne!  ;-)

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2006 4:12 am

    Goes well with Champagne!

    Well, what doesn’t?

    Your story reminds me of a very old recipe book I started making when I was about 17 years old. It was a simple black ring binder and for years I added favourite recipes I came across. And when I moved from Toronto to England it somehow went missing and I haven’t seen it since. :(

    Three things I’ve never been able to duplicate are my ex’s mother’s garlic dill pickles, the best wholewheat bread recipe I’ve ever found and perfect shortbread cookies made with golden brown sugar.

  2. December 12, 2006 7:10 pm

    I had to beg my friends to go through their recipes to see if they could find some of the ones that were lost.

    The seafood gumbo one is truly lost, though. I stood at Evelyn’s side when she made it at my house for the family. That one I never got around to sharing. When I ask M’s family for it, they all say that they’ve never made it themselves, as Evelyn’s was The One True Gumbo. And it certainly was!

  3. laverneandshirley permalink
    December 15, 2006 1:47 pm

    Food brings lots of memories doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing some of yours!
    –L

  4. December 15, 2006 10:40 pm

    I read an interesting article a while back, which talked about the strongest sense that triggers memory is smell. Smell is also a major factor in how food tastes.

    I think the smell of coffee in the early morning is just about the best smell there is, and I’ve thought that longer than I’ve liked the taste. :)

  5. SpaceCadette permalink
    April 25, 2008 7:04 am

    So many changes in a year…including losing a place to live and having to get rid of everything I had. BUT, in that painful process, I found the recipe boxes, and found myself crying over the grotty little treasures all over again! Best yet? My handwritten notes for Evelyn’s Seafood Gumbo were in there! JOY!

    Something good *can* come out of disaster, it seems!
    :-D

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