My mother, Grace Helen Smuin Laemmlen, was a Great cook. She liked taking cooking classes and learning about eating healthy wholesome foods. She was an intuitive cook and baker. She had a few favorite recipes, but for the most part, she just knew what ingredients belonged together. She was good at breads and soups and hearty foods. When Woks and stir-fry became popular in the 1970s, she took lots of Chinese cooking classes. She also took bread-making classes and she ground her own wheat and made the best breads and cinnamon rolls ever.
My Mom made large quantities of food for her hungry farm children and my Dad. She enjoyed entertaining and putting out a spread of food for others. I really start missing my Mom when the holidays come because cooking and baking was such a large part of our family tradition. After Thanksgiving, we’d begin filling large glass cookie jars–the big clear jars large quantities of food came in. We had about a dozen of them and each would hold several batches of cookies. I was always in charge of the cookie baking in our family. I loved pouring over the pictures in my Betty Crocker Cookie Cookbook. I’d make Spritz, Snowballs, Chocolate Crinkles, Thumbprint Cookies, painted sugar cookies (egg yolk paint), Molasses cookies, and bar cookies. We weren’t ready for Christmas until all the jars were filled and lined up on the counter. Below is the best recipe for Russian Teacakes (Snowball cookies) ever. I’ve never had one that tastes as good as these.
When Mom died, I inherited boxes of her cookbooks. She had quite a collection. I could easily tell which were her favorites. One was an old worn The Mennonite Cookbook. Another favorite was this Modern Family Cook Book. It was a pretty comprehensive handbook to taking care of and feeding a family.
As I look at those cookbooks now, I find an interesting history of my mother because she dated every recipe she made. And often she noted the occasion. My mom didn’t keep a journal all the years we were growing up. These recipes are one of the few records I have of those years. They are a fun and interesting account of snippets of our family life. Here are a few examples of some favorites in our family:
How interesting that in the recipe above, Mom noted that she was making these on 22 November, 1962, later noting that was the day JFK was shot. Tomorrow is that anniversary. And in the Peanut Butter Cookie recipe above, she notes making a batch to send to Paul on October 1st, 1975. He was a freshman at BYU.
So, I like the idea of dating recipes and I’ve done that much of my life too. Especially when I’m making something traditional, or something for a memorable occasion. For the record, below is my very favorite Spritz recipe. these are German butter cookies made in a cookie press. These are delicious! My Grandma Elsa made Spritz each Christmas (and Springlerlie and Lebkuchen). You can see in the dates on the back of my recipe card that Claire made her first batch of Spritz in 2003, keeping the family tradition alive. I hope these traditions continue for many years into the future! Happy Holiday Baking, Everyone!