As a kid, I loved looking through my mother's cookbooks. Dog-eared and soiled, they were well used. Notes written in the margins, recipes clipped from magazines or jotted on the back of a greeting card, a hand-written menu for the next family gathering, an unfinished grocery list — her cookbooks were akin to a trinket box; today, for me, they are akin to a memory box.
The Internet is a mecca of food blogs and recipe offerings that no collection of cookbooks could possibly encompass. Instructional cooking videos are readily available on YouTube. Instead of clipping recipes, they can be saved in a computer file. It doesn't get any easier than that, folks!
Life is hectic and these conveniences are serious time savers. We no longer have to sacrifice shelf space for cookbooks or fuss with annoying piles of recipes clipped and saved for someday. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, family will never have to be called again to request the recipe they made that time that was so good. No longer is it necessary to visit grandma so she can show you how to make her flaky pie crust.
I love technology, but not to the point that we allow ourselves to disconnect with friends and family. Just as a certain piece of music can throw us back to a moment in life, so does that special recipe once had at a friend's bridal shower, a holiday gathering, a family reunion or that mom always made.
I have my mother's cookbooks. Holding the hand-written snippets let me feel close to her. Her writing was graceful, but gradually became shaky and more shaky; a lasting image of my mother's passing years. She has been gone for a long time, but I honestly feel her presence whenever I use a recipe she gave me or flute a pie crust in the way she taught me. These tangible cookbooks mean the world to me.
It is maple syrup season, so I'd like to share my mother's Maple Walnut Torte recipe. Prepare a boxed yellow cake mix. Melt a stick of butter and divide between the bottoms of two well greased 9" cake pans. Top with enough finely chopped walnuts to generously cover the bottoms and, so not to disturb the walnuts, carefully pour over enough real maple syrup to just cover the nuts then divide cake batter between pans and bake as directed. Cool 10 minutes; turn the cakes out to cool completely. Assemble layers (nut sides up) with sweetened whipped cream. frosting sides and outer edges of top, leaving nuts visible. Chill until served. She always garnished the torte with maraschino cherries.
Robin Anish is a former caterer who lives in Lenox, where she continues to cater to her enthusiasm for cooking. She can be contacted via The Berkshire Eagle at 75 South Church St., Pittsfield MA 01201.