I love to bake and cook. There’s something truly satisfying about perusing a cookbook, picking out the perfect recipe, putting it all together and having it turn out as planned. And who doesn’t love the compliments? Although my sisters, brother and I spent a lot more time outside helping our dad on the farm than we did in the kitchen, I baked in 4-H (along with multiple other projects) and liked helping my mom make cookies and cakes.
After I was married, I remember “modifying” a recipe because I didn’t have some of the ingredients on-hand. It was a long time ago, but I remember it vividly: I substituted sausage for hamburger, barbecue sauce for ketchup, and sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk. It was just awful. Somehow my husband ate a few bites without grimacing, but I couldn’t stomach it. He was relieved when I laughed and threw it away, giving him permission to throw his helping away too.
My skills improved through the years (I mainly follow recipes as written after that freelance experiment), and I was excited to get a cookbook from my mom for Christmas in 1982. It was a duplicate of one she’d used often. It’s especially cherished now that my mom is no longer here.
The recipes are time-tested and foolproof, as evidenced by the printed testimonials from farm women across the country above each recipe.
That iconic cookbook was published by Farm Journal, which is pretty ironic because I can assure you, in 1982 there was no way to know I’d eventually be working for that standard of journalistic excellence. It’s like coming full-circle.
Among my family’s favorites is this Savory Beef Stew recipe. My kids ask for it whenever they’re home, whether it’s July or October. It makes the house smell wonderful and because it bakes in the oven for several hours, the meat is tender and flavorful.
You can see how the page is spattered and dirty from years of use. Give it a try, and tell us about your favorite recipes and fond memories associated with food.