Monday, December 21, 2009

The Church of Betty Crocker

The Anointed One

My mother’s cookbook is stained
with butter, brown sugar, smears
of chocolate, dabs of unknown origin
Her fingers dipped in oil
anointed the pages with the holiness
of cooking
Pies and cakes, meatballs and turkey
long sacrificed on the altar of family
Pages torn by force of use
pages ripped from their moorings
in the storms of baking that swept
her kitchen
Priceless now, this dog-eared book
record of her life as chief cook
in the tribe of our not-chosen
but birth-born-to and loved
through the fragrance of herbs
hot meat, melting sugars
and crispy crusts of bread
cast upon the waters, returning
to me now, daughter, mother,
new high priestess in the church
of Betty Crocker.


So my daughter and I were baking cookies Sunday, and she said, "May I have this cookbook...."

"When I've kicked the bucket?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

"Didn't I give you one of your own on your 21st birthday?"

"Yes, but I like this one."

"This one" is a dog-eared, ripped and stained Betty Crocker cookbook dated 36 years ago on my 20th birthday, given to me by my mother. It's a family tradition, the gift of the binder version of Betty Crocker's cookbook.

Certain pages in my edition are worn more than others. Pie crust, for example, is smeared with fingertips oiled by lard or shortening. Cookies, the whole section, are pretty messy too. So are the turkey page, the spaghetti page, Swedish meatballs, breakfast casseroles, and the ever-important page about emergency substitutions for things like bakers chocolate and buttermilk.

The photo is of what my daughter and I call snowballs, which are from the page containing "Russian Teacakes." They're made with butter, vanilla, powdered sugar, and flour, then rolled into balls, then baked and rolled in powdered sugar while hot. Yum.

We made those on Sunday, along with chocolate-chip cookies (that page is ripped out of the binder, it's been used so often), brownies, and pastry fans, made with butter, flour, sour cream, and sugar.

I thought it was sweet of her to want my cookbook, my well-used, smudged cookbook, in memory of me and her cooking the Christmas cookies practically every year of her life. She didn't used to like old things; she thought they were "dirty." Now she wants my snowmen, my cookbook, God knows what else.

So I wrote the poem "The Anointed One" just for her, in honor of her request. I have my own mother's cookbook on the shelf.


Shadow said...

now that is exactly how a cookbook should look. above all, its proof that it's a good one. better yet though, are the memories of all those dishes, the people and times you spent with while enjoying them, those memories, however faint, of standing and waiting for that spoon to lick off the cookie dough...

Mary LA said...

Such a well-loved family heirloom!

Anonymous said...

Chris, this is a beautiful tribute to your Mother and her love for cooking. Reminds me very much of my own dear Mom. I treasure her hand written cook book where she wrote down favorite recipes, enjoyed by all of us. Thanks for the memories!

Brian Miller said...

oohhh...all so you have a secret hand shake too? lol. sorry, just finished the lost symbol...actually very cool when they have similar hobbies or something you can share or pass on. nice verse...happy for you and the new high priestess. smiles.

Madison said...

That's a beautiful post. I'm glad to hear your daughter is thinking ahead and treasuries the stuff that has been around a long time.

Dave King said...

Strange it is, that I am potty about preserving books in mint condition. I get stressed if I see books being abused, the bindings bent back, fingers being licked to turn the pages, left too near a radiator, or whatever; I have hardly ever been able to bring myself to annotate a book - just the odd exception in 70+ years... but when it comes to cook books I'm with your daughter: I like them dogeared an d stained, the more so the better.

Karen said...

This is wonderful and even more so because it describes the cookbooks I inherited from my mother-in-law. They have the same smears and stains. How wonderful that your young daughter already sees the value in such things - and how fortunate for you that she lives close enough to share such moments.

The cookies look yummy! I'm preparing to bake cookies this morning, as I have a "snow day" from work - no electricity at the office! A first!

sarah said...

what an awesome memory...what a great gift to have from your mother. The poem is amazing. Sarah

big Jenn said...

I love that poem. I have noticed that my own cookbooks look this way. Annie loved cookbooks and we spent much time going through recipes when she couldn't breath well. It was something we could just sit together and do. I've inherited all of her cookbooks. It's an interesting twist
I cherish them. jeNN

Lou said...

I got the original Betty Crocker cookbook from my mom also when I got married (32 years ago). However, mine has never been opened...ha,ha.

Sounds like a wonderful day with your daughter!

lakeviewer said...

Yes, I learned many things from the same cookbook, passed it on to my youngest.

This is what Christmas is all about, the sharing , the memories we have together!

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Steve E said...

In my family it was/is like that with old sheet music...I was going to throw it all away, but reading your post is giving me 2nd thoughts.

Love the "cookbook" post.

Syd said...

I have my mother's cookbooks also. And I have her handwritten recipes. All are worn and smudged just as you have written. They are special to me. I wonder at times who to pass these things along to. We have no children and such a small family. I hope that they will be wanted by someone who cares.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

Beautiful and familiar! I love this tribute! And the loving memory so closely entwined in the pages.

Dianne said...

You hit the nail on the head, my mom gave hers to my 2nd son, because he loved to cook at the age of 10.

You touch us all so deeply.

schererart said...

What a lovely post!

Brother Frankie said...

i would give anything for my moms cookbook. same one you got. it was lost due to my addiction many years ago..

ahhh the cost of being an addict...

thanks lou
brother frankie

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed reading this and very well relate to it....coz i collect many things from my mom.A note in her hand old album photo....a diary of prayers....list is on...:) and i know she feels nice too sharing them with me.