My wife has thousands of cookbooks and hundreds of 3x5 cards recording recipes she’s collected.
When she uses one, she’ll add to it or leave something out deliberately, thus making it her own. In most cases, I don’t mind, but I tell her not to change her mama’s recipes. Sometimes, she’ll fine-tune it anyway, saying I don’t need that much mayo or that she prefers less onion.
My efforts to save my mama’s recipes for posterity were wasted. Unlike my wife and mother-in-law, Mama never kept precise recipes. She tasted whatever she was cooking to see if it needed anything. Oh, she’s told me the key ingredients, but she really can’t say how much of this or that she used to make it so mouth-watering. It just came out that way.
Before I started finding my way around the kitchen, grill or campfire, I learned Mama’s idea of a “mess of greens” was pretty much like a “mess of fish.” It represented no particular quantity except that it had to be enough for the number of folks likely to be at the table.
I learned even more by watching her fix something. It was easy enough to see how she fried chicken, but her cathead biscuits — good enough to make you swoon — were something I’ve never mastered.
She’s told me the main ingredients — self-rising flour, Crisco shortening and buttermilk. It was up to me to fill in the gaps. If I live to be as old as she is right now (82), I may get it right. If I do, I’ll write the recipe for my children’s children to follow.
Some years ago, my wife found a banana pudding recipe. She tweaked it quite a bit, specifying the cookies had to be Nilla Vanilla Wafers or Lorna Doone Shortbread Cookies. Then, she added heavy whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk to the instant vanilla pudding mix, bananas and other stuff. The other stuff remains a mystery.
Her banana pudding is the sought-for dessert item at church socials and family reunions. But don’t ask her for the recipe. She won’t even tell me. She says I’ve got her so I don’t need to know her recipes.
Email Murray at email@example.com.