Homemade recipe books have a special place in my cookbook collection. Older ones are handwritten or typed on mimeograph machines or spirit duplicators and put together by hand. The covers are manila-tag, or in more sophisticated efforts, wallpaper samples or oilcloth trimmed with pinking shears. They have been replaced by photocopied cookbooks and print-on-demand with glossy looks and trendy photographs. Nothing will replace the homemade recipe book in my heart.
“Mother’s Favourite Recipes” was created by my grade six class for Mother’s Day in 1959. I have dragged around my copy for over fifty years. I can remember doing the hand-lettered cover; we had no stencils available and every letter was drawn by hand and coloured in pencil crayon. There is no index and the twenty-three recipes reflect a diverse group of students rather than variety. It seems like “Mother” liked baking: Chocolate chiffon roll, Pineapple slice, Lady Baltimore cake, Orange kiss me cake, Sour cream cake, Poppy seed chiffon cake, Matrimonial cake, Gingerbread, Quick sour cream chocolate cake, Cherry slice, Dreamland cake, Strawberry chiffon cake, Jamaican meat pie (the only non-sweet recipe), Thumbprint cookies, Chocolate bars, Coconut dainties, Peanut butter cookies, Chocolate chip cookies, Dad’s cookies, Sour cream cookies, Doughnuts.
I remember all of my fellow students’ names and most of their birthdays (yet another bit of useless trivia that is clogging up my brain and preventing me from being able to find my car keys). I also recall the sharp economic, class and race distinctions that were present and never acknowledged. While all the recipes are handwritten, not all students got to write their own recipes. Some students’ writing was not good enough for the duplicating machine and students with “better” writing copied out other students’ recipes (making computer word-processing the great equalizer). The duplicating blanks were expensive and some students wrote using rulers. Individual facility with mimeograph stencils varied, as did the amount of ink in the duplicating machine. Some recipes have long blank streaks or illegible quantities and instructions because the machine was running out of ink. Some recipes are very long and I doubt if they represented that student’s culture or mother’s favourite recipe. The recipe I included was the shortest one I could find in my mother’s recipe box . My Aunt Sadie’s famous doughnut recipe was contributed by her son, however, so I know that one is genuine.