Sunday, December 23, 2018

Recipe Detective Work

Recently, my mother-in-law gifted me with a metal-bound notebook Balanced Recipes by Pillsbury, copyright 1933 that was her mother's. In it, were a handful of handwritten recipes. I immediately checked with my husband, to make sure she knew that they were in there before she gave them to me; she did, and thought I would like to have them. I feel very fortunate to be so well-understood.

Most of the recipes appear to be in the same handwriting, which if you're looking at a collection, makes it easier to guess that they're from the same hand. (This is not always the case! My mother and grandmother's handwriting is so similar as to be indistinguishable. Even Mom can barely tell her own writing from her mother's.) But one of the things that stood out from this recipe was its age: the paper (card, actually) is considerably more yellow than the other slips, and the hand is much heavier, so it's very distinct. Written on a postcard, half the postcard is a recipe, and the other half is a treasure of family clues that tells me exactly who wrote the postcard.

The writer left me a lovely trail of breadcrumbs to follow. I knew already to whom it was addressed, Mrs. Don P., and it was in the possession of that woman's daughter-in-law, Wanda.

Here's a run-down of everything I have found in this postcard:
• "Dear Mildred" is Mrs. Mildred P., Don P.'s wife.
• "Mother" is Olive P., wife of Henry P.
• "Hattie" is Hattie P., the writer's sister, and Mildred's sister-in-law.
• The card mentions "Artificial Leg Co." "F is getting a fitting hope it's a good one." "F" is Floyd W. who lost a leg from cancer (this information came to me through genealogy notes that were collected years before I met my husband).
• "Hope Wanda & Baby are OK" Wanda is Mildred's daughter-in-law, and the baby in question is Wanda's daughter, and my mother-in-law! (I know this because of the date of the stamp cancellation.)
• "Warren" is almost certainly C. Warren P., who died not long after the postcard was written. He was the nephew of the writer.
• "Lu + F" is Lucy and Floyd W., my postcard writer and her husband, the sister-in-law of addressee.

I haven't been able to puzzle out "Stacy" yet (will have to ask family about that one), and will continue to sift through my notes for who he is (the card says "he's getting better" – since Stacy is an uncommon man's name, that should help me find him).

It's a chatty little note, for all its brevity. Lots of family members are mentioned, and it's all those clues that confirm who wrote the recipe. I have her in my genealogy program as "Lucy" not "Lu" – but if she has signed the card "Lu," maybe that's what everyone called her.

I hope this inspires you to look into your family's recipe collections and look at them with new eyes. I have a 67 year old recipe sitting on my desk, and a woman who has been gone from this earth for 35 years, long before I met my husband and married into her extended family, is telling me pieces of her family history. That's kind of magical. That's one of the things that fills me with wonder. I hope it does you, too.

Happy Holidays, everyone! Enjoy those fabulous food traditions, or make new ones if the old ones just won't work anymore. Traditions have to start somewhere, after all.

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