Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Our family favourites recipe book - part 1...


It's been interesting this March, putting the focus on simplicity, and realising it can be found in many areas of life - in the practical, the emotional, and even the spiritual. 
In previous posts this month, I've written about a few areas of simplifying, some fairly obvious, others not quite so. In applying the decision to simplify as many aspects of life as I can, taking note of the day to day changes, and observing the fruit coming forth, a deep sense of confidence, joy and peace has begun to settle on my heart. Honest, it's quite simply, lovely. 

I have been promising to share our family recipe book for ages, and whilst sorting through more than thirty years of notes and files, I had to take lots of breaks as it became a larger project than I had first imagined. When I chose "simplicity" as the theme for March, it hadn't yet occurred to me that this was how I needed to put together a recipe book, but as the weeks have passed, it suddenly seemed common sense to choose the recipes we enjoy a lot, the ones I have never stopped making regularly, the simple family fare my children and husband ask for time and again, the meals and treats my girls request the recipe for so they can carry on the tradition of old family favourites with their own children. 

So, in simplifying my stack of old recipes for the girls, I was able to move forward with the plan to share them with you too. 

Another aspect of simplicity with this project, was to break it up into sections, and share them one at a time. Today you'll receive Part 1 - Sweeties...

Use the link below to download Part One in A4 or Letter files...

As this is part 1, I also decided to write about the inspiration I have for cooking, and it should be no surprise to you that it all began with Nana and Pop. 

You may not want to download this first recipe file, but perhaps you'd like to know a bit more about those precious grandparents who raised me, so I'll share that story here for you...

From the age of three I was blessed to be raised with an abundance of love and laughter in the tiny
home of my Nana, Phyllis May, and my Pop, Eric John.
Nana was born in 1911, a few years before the Great War. She married at eighteen and within four years
had three small children to raise, right in the midst of the Great Depression. Her younger sister died a
few years later so Nana took on the care of her sibling’s two children for a season as well.
By the time World War 2 began she was well equipped by previous experience to feed the family on
whatever was available. She had learned all the tricks of using up what was already on hand, mending,
repurposing anything and everything, re‐using (tea bags especially), bartering, growing some basics in
her tiny yard, preserving, doing without, substituting ingredients, and watching every penny.
I remember her telling me how during the Depression, she and her sister would save pink or red tissue
paper to re‐use as makeup. They’d dab a tiny piece with water and use it rub on their cheeks for rouge,
and on their lips for lipstick. Growing up with Nana, I never saw her leave the house without applying
an inexpensive red or vivid pink lipstick and clipping on a pair of earrings, and when she told me about
this experience from the war years, I understood why. They are small things by today’s standard, but
after doing without through a Depression and a war, it gave her much pleasure to ‘do herself up’ a little
throughout the remainder of her life.
My nan was a very basic cook, but everything she made was delicious and the taste of her food still
lingers in my memory. In fact, I find it fascinating that even today I can close my eyes and smell the
simple but yummy meals she lovingly prepared for Pop and I.
I remember with delight the breakfast conversations with her and Pop, when he’d praise her for the
simple meal and how blessed he was to have her as his wife, and how he’d encourage me to be just like
her. At the time I thought that task impossible, and later in life wished I’d paid more attention to ‘what’
she did, instead of only being awed by who she was – but Nana glowed with soft love, her vivid blue
eyes twinkled, and her loud house‐shaking laugh (which I inherited, along with her eyes) drew attention
wherever she went, especially mine. I simply adored my Nana and Pop, and never in life have I known
two people such as they, who were able to be content with so very little, and yet offer it all to a small
granddaughter like me.
We always ate leftovers for breakfast, never was a bowl of cereal seen on our humble table. If there
were no leftovers, Pop would roll up his sleeves and take over by peeling potatoes, chopping them into
chips, and frying them in a shallow pan with the fat from last Sunday’s roast. Served with slices of bread
and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, they were a real treat! Pop couldn’t cook anything else, and I doubt
Nana would have let him if he wanted to, but she knew there were no better chips to be had than those
cooked by her dear little husband.
Lunch was usually bread with whatever was available. In those days lamb was cheap so it was often
leftover roast lamb and her homemade pickles, but it might also be soup and dumplings during winter.
Nana grew a choko vine (chayote) over the back fence, and it was quite a prolific producer so she made
use of it in many ways – seasonal jars of pickle relish, pan fried in butter, crumbed and fried, or chopped
with apples and cinnamon to fill an apple pie. I was 23 when Nana passed away, and treasured the last
jars of choko pickle Pop gave me after the funeral. Every spoonful on a sandwich over the following
months was seasoned with my salty tears, and a crushing pain in my heart...right beside the memory of
her great loving hugs.
I was not a good cook when I first married and began a family, as Nana had not ‘taught’ me to cook, but
gradually, sitting quietly for a time and remembering all I could over many years, the simple recipes
came back and I’d tweak them until they tasted ‘almost’ the same…after all, how could I ever make
anything taste as wonderful as she did?
My children and grandchildren love what I make them, and so I suppose that’s the way of generations
as time goes by. The wonderful meals we remember as a child from our mother’s or grandmother’s
kitchens may be recipes we struggle to replicate today, yet our own children and grandchildren are
right now creating their own memories of our kitchens and our meals – and so the traditions go on.
I have come to believe that food is a lifelong memory, so let us not view it through the eyes of friend or
foe with regards to various diets or programs, but let us rejoice in the way it unites young and old
across a table, and how it lingers on in our minds many years after a cherished cook has folded her
apron one last time.

I'll sign off for today, but will be back at the end of the week. I'm re-reading all the gospels right now, and as with this time each year, I am once more brought to my knees by what our precious Saviour did to save us. There will never be words enough to express how His sacrifice changed my life...is still changing my life. 
If you have drifted from the Lord, and don't know quite how to rebuild a relationship with Him, read the gospels, dear one. Just quietly walk through them and follow the journey of Jesus once more...He will meet you in those pages, and change your life. He does that. I'm here today because He did that for me. 

Love and hugs

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Angela said...

Thanks for this lovely post. God bless you with Joy and Hope this Eastertide.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jennifer for such a lovely Tuesday post 😀❤️
Hugs, take care

Mrs. White said...

This is a beautiful post! It is so full of encouragement and inspiration. Thank you

Joan G said...

Thank you so much for the beautiful story and thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes with us. I am looking forward to trying them!

Lin said...

Lovely post Jennifer and thank you for all the recipes. xx

Lilian said...

So wonderful to read of your love for your grandparents and our Saviour, Jesus. You encourage us all.
Blessings to you and yours Jennifer. Love, Lilian

gail said...

Beautiful memories Jennifer.
Blessings Gail 💕

Mary B said...

Love your post and thank you for sharing your recipes with us. Writing about your nan made me think of my own mother who grew up during the depression. A lot of her frugalness carried over into her life and ours. As a child, I remember eating pickle sandwiches. They were delicious! Thanks for helping me to take a trip down memory lane.

Remembrances said...

Such wonderful memories we gather in our kitchens! It is a wonderful legacy to share your recipes with your children and grand children. Many years ago I contacted all members of my family asking them to send me their favorite recipe and I compiled them into a family cookbook for everyone. My favorite time was gathering my Grandma's recipes because she didn't really have any, so I followed her around the kitchen taking notes and measuring ingredients (she didn't measure, just did it by feel!) so I could add these family favorites to our cookbook. You are doing a wonderful thing for your family, Jennifer!

Phi. 4:13

Donna P. said...

As always, you have blessed us with your words. Thank you.
I have downloaded the recipes into the computer and will give many of them a try.
I have noticed in a few of your dessert recipes (ones you gave us a while back), they tend to be not as sweet by today's standards - sugar wise not fruit wise. ;-) That's probably for the best anyway. But, we did enjoy them and that says a lot about yesterday's ladies and their baking.

kiwimeskreations said...

Another beautiful post - thank you Jennifer. I look forward to seeing which recipes I can adapt for our family - we have gluten, dairy intolerances, and a need to minimise sugar in our 3 generational home...

Debby said...

Thank you Jenny! Your generosity is appreciated. I too live because of our Risen Lord!

Emily said...

Auntie Jennifer, I love hearing you reminisce about your Grandparents and how much you have learnt from them. We would all be very wise to pay attention to those who have gone before us, rather than trying to follow along with all of the latest fads and trends that come and go just as quickly. Those recipes look amazing. So many simple, yet delicious things to try. I love that they have real, everyday ingredients that we all have on hand. I am going to try to bake the Coconut cake tomorrow to take to my Dad on the weekend. I made a banana cake the other day and he said it reminded him of the texture of his mum's coconut cake which was always his favourite so he tried to adapt the recipe to replicate it. It wasn't quite right so I will give this one a try for him and see if he likes it! Hope you have a lovely long weekend and that you get to enjoy celebrating the beautiful gift of Salvation with your gorgeous family. Love to you all, Em xox

smithcindyk said...

Thank you for taking the time to share your memories and recipes. I love your writing style. I printed a couple of recipes to try now and will have to Google a few ingredients before I make them (thickened cream).

Allie said...

Oh you brought back a memory - my grandfather cooking potatoes and onions in his cast iron frying pan, then afterward going outside to pick fresh raspberries and bring in some roses for my grandma. My grandmother was a wonderful cook but she couldn't make potatoes and onions like my grandfather....nobody could!
Never could eat the fish we caught, though....LOL!

Carol in Texas said...

Jennifer, I loved reading about your Nana and Pop. What a blessing to be raised by two such loving, devoted and talented people. We are blessed to have a wonderful rector at our church, and he often says if someone asks him where to start in the Bible, he’ll say read the book of Mark. It is the shortest and can be read in a sitting and it tells the story in clear language. I look forward to each of your blog entries and I will really enjoy those in which you share your family recipes. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post Jennifer. Thank you for sharing your precious memories. I will email my husband the link and get him to print off the little booklet for me at work. I'm certain my family will love your sweet treats.

My Nana was a wonderful cook, like your grandparents she was not a woman of great wealth. She and Grandad migrated from England and lived in a small 3 bed/1 bath home fibro cottage with her family of 8. Her home may have been simple, but it was always pretty and spotless. She even ironed the sheets and underpants! She was a wonderful cook and could cook a beautiful meal from scratch with all the trimmings and dessert for a huge crowd in her little kitchen. Her Yorkshire puddings were light and perfect every time.

I think her cheerful demeanour about being content with "her lot in life" rubbed off on me, and she serves as a reminder to keep my chin up when things get tough.

I look forward to seeing your mains recipe book!
Blessings to you and yours, Emma xx

Anonymous said...

I remember my "bobci" Polish cooking her beet soup which she dearly loved. My mom had to work three jobs so I was with bobci most of the time. She taught me how to crochet and knit and we had the same love if colors, colors and colors. What a joy I had been given to receive her love.

Kay said...

Such a special post, thank you for sharing your story and recipes. X

Judith from Illinois said...

I always enjoy your writing and today, I especially loved the story of your grandparents. Your love and respect for them shines through out the piece. Thank you for sharing them with us

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the gift of memories and recipes, Jennifer. So beautiful!

kupton52 said...

Lovely post,Jenny...I've enjoyed reading your words about your Nan over the years. I, too, had a very loving relationship with my grandmother Emma and named my youngest daughter after her. I was unable to use either link for the recipes. I keep getting "unable to find site"....Blessings from West Virginia/USA. Love, hugs and prayers!

Angie in SoCal said...

A truly wonderful post, Jenny. Made me happily tear up as I read your memories. Can't wait to try the recipes.

Anonymous said...

Such a blessing are your words. Thank you for sharing, once again. 💛