If you could only take one thing when evacuated (OK, a carful of things), what would it be? This became a very real question for us TSC alums this past week as many of us were forced to evacuate ahead of the coming storm (thankfully, I ended up not having to leave). But after some consideration, I decided that my most important treasure was my mom’s original “The Family Home” cookbook from 1956.
As I took a hard look at all of my worldly possessions, old and new, I realized that if I lost all of them I really wouldn’t be that upset. It would almost be like a fresh start. My friends know that I’m terribly un-sentimental and how much I like (crave?) change. But as I looked around my kitchen and my carefully curated collection of pots, pans, utensils, gadgets, appliances, spices, and cookbooks, I actually felt a twang of sadness at the thought of losing those things.
That’s also the moment that I thought of Mom’s cookbook. I immediately went to the cabinet that keeps it safe, and gently lifted it down. The poor thing no longer has a cover, the spine is breaking, and the pages are threatening to fall out. But tucked inside those tattered pages are not only cherished family recipes, but also random hand written notes, clippings, coupons, spatters, and most importantly, memories from meals my mom cooked long ago.
As a child, that cookbook was my first introduction to cooking, and sparked my lifelong food obsession. I would spend hours poring over the recipes, and looking at the crazy 1950’s era pictures of the food horrors of that time (hello, aspic!). From an early age, Mom encouraged my love of cooking, and would let me attempt any recipe in that book. One of my earliest memories is making meringues because I loved those sweet crunchy cookies so much! The way I remember it, I made them all by myself without any help. I’m sure Mom was there too with a watchful eye, but she always let me believe that I could do anything on my own.
But the most beloved recipe in that book was the Lasagne. Mom made it often, a thrifty and filling way to feed three hungry kids on a budget. We all loved it so much that it became the recipe that we asked her to make for birthdays and special occasions. The Lasagne recipe was on page 281 in the cookbook. Sadly, now when I turn to that page it is no longer there. Mom must have pulled it out at some point so it was easier to reference. Oh the irony!
I’ve since found the recipe online, but it really doesn’t matter because that recipe is permanently etched in my memory. I might not make it exactly the way she did every time (Mom herself would change it up often, depending on ingredients and time available), but just the act of making it is what brings me comfort and reassurance during this stressful time. And I hope it brings comfort and love to your family when you make it too.
If Mom had time, she would make this hearty meat sauce first, which is what makes this lasagne (or any other pasta dish) so good! But if she was too busy, she would just use a jar of pasta sauce in a pinch. Your choice!
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 pound beef stew meat, cut into cubes
1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1/4 pound ground beef
1/4 cup red wine
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (preferably Italian San Marzano)
I like to add some green veggies to my recipe in an attempt to cut down on the cheese a bit.
1 box lasagna noodles, cooked (or the no boil kind is fine too)
16-ounces mozzarella cheese, grated (set aside 1/2 cup for the top layer)
1 12-ounce bag frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
16-ounces ricotta cheese
1 large zucchini, grated and squeezed dry
4 hard boiled eggs, roughly chopped
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped
What’s your favorite cherished family recipe or cookbook? Share with us in the comments!