My mother’s recipe box sits on the windowsill in our North Carolina kitchen where my eye falls on it twenty, maybe thirty times a day. I will never move it.
Author Lee Smith in her Hillsborough home office on March 3, 2016. Smith has recently published her first non-fiction book, Dimestore, a memoir of her personal and writing lives. Hillsborough writer Lee Smith writes about her mother’s battered recipe box in an essay excerpted from her latest book, Dimestore. Author Lee Smith in her Hillsborough home office on March 3, 2016. Smith has recently published her first non-fiction book, Dimestore, a memoir of her personal and writing lives. Hillsborough writer Lee Smith writes about her mother’s battered recipe box in an essay excerpted from her latest book, Dimestore.
An anachronism in my own modern kitchen, the battered box contains my mother’s whole life story, in a way, with all its places and phases, all her hopes and the accommodations she made in the name of love, as I have done, as we all do.
I can read it like a novel – for in fact, our recipes tell us everything about us: where we live, what we value, how we spend our time. Mama’s recipe box is an odd green-gold in color. She “antiqued” it, then decoupaged it with domestic decals of the fifties: one depicts a rolling pin, a flour sifter, a vase of daisies, and a cheerful, curly-headed mom wearing a red bead necklace; another shows a skillet, a milk bottle, a syrup pitcher, three eggs, and a grinning dad in an apron. Check out two of the recipes below:
MAMA’S FAMOUS LOAF BREAD
From Lee Smith of Hillsborough.
2 (1/4-ounce) packages yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons Crisco
2 eggs, beaten
7 to 8 cups flour
Margarine or butter
Add yeast to water and stir to dissolve. Set aside.
Place milk, sugar, salt and Crisco in a saucepan and bring just below a boil and take off heat.
When milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add eggs and dissolved yeast. Place liquid in large bowl, add 7 cups flour and mix by hand. If it is too wet, add up to another 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Knead well until dough develops. Cover and set in a warm place and let double in size.
Punch down dough, divide in half and shape into loafs. Place in greased loaf pans and let rise until it again doubles in size.
Bake in an oven heated to 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until well browned. After loafs remove from pans, brush with melted butter and margarine. Cool completely.
Yield: 2 loaves.
MAMA’S PIMIENTO CHEESE
Recipe tester found Durkee Famous Sauce at Carlie C’s IGA grocery store in Garner. From Lee Smith of Hillsborough.
1 teaspoon yellow or Dijon mustard
1 (4-ounce) chopped pimientos, drained
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Durkee Famous Sandwich & Salad Sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound shredded cheddar cheese
Mix together all ingredients.
Yield: about 4 cups