My absolute favorites - with a cup of Southern Pecan coffee!
I like to consider myself a true Southerner, which means I like to collect things. Not just things, but special things that have meaning to me. What can I say? It runs in my family. Granny Pris collects flowers and old photographs, Grandpa collects recipe cards from his time as a chef, Nanny collects cookbooks and Papa collects tractors. My dad builds fishing rods and has a collection of fishing tackle that would put Bass Pro Shops to shame. My sweet mama collects teapots and tiny shoes. (Don’t get me wrong; their house doesn’t look like a museum, Heaven knows my mama can’t stand clutter).
It’s these sweet little special things that make their house a home. But, the ironic thing is that it’s really not about the things at all. It’s the love behind memories, experiences and people that have somehow inspired these collections.
Now that I’m in the process of building a home, my own collections are really starting to take shape. Antique milk glass is a borderline obsession, cookbooks (especially family ones) are sacred treasures, Southern Living magazines have a special place in my heart, handmade coffee cups make me happy and a southern kitchen can never have too many cast iron skillets. (Right? Okay, I didn't think so either!) Once again, it really isn’t about the material things I find to add to these collections. The things in and of themselves are not important. It’s the people I love and memories shared with them that are behind these things that make them special, regardless of how valuable or not the world may consider them. You may think one of them isn’t worth a penny, but I wouldn’t take 10 million pennies for any of them.
This month I’m excited to share what is and will always be my favorite collection: cookbooks!
My friends, I’ve got a cookbook for everything. Tried and true divinity that turns out perfect every time - Paula Deen has me covered. Cinnamon rolls 100 different ways - Ree Drummond is my girl. The best fruitcake - The Southern Living Cookbook from 1993 can’t be beat. All time best meatloaf (even if you don’t like meatloaf) - Betty Crocker’s Cookbook circa 1987. I have to admit, I love having all of these classics on standby, but they all pale in comparison to my absolute favorite: our family recipe book.
If your family is anything like ours, everyone has their speciality, but no one has anything written down! One person always brings the baked beans, another always brings the sweet potato casserole, another the macaroni and cheese… and we never bring someone else’s speciality recipe. That’s just trespassing on hallowed ground!
So, when my Nanny was faced with her second battle with cancer and her time in the kitchen was scarce, it wasn’t long before we noticed that we simply didn’t have recipes for many of our Sunday and holiday staples. That’s when we decided to compile all of our favorite family recipes and we included everyone’s specialities (for us to use on un-sacred occasions, of course). This was no easy feat. To further enhance the difficulty of our situation, most of our family’s precious cooks don’t actually use recipes, and apparently not one of them owns measuring spoons. Bless. It wasn’t an easy task to convince these self-taught chefs to measure out and record all their secrets, but the proof was in the pudding and the results were well worth the effort.
Y’all, it may not be published, it may not come from a celebrity author, and I’m the first to admit that this thing isn’t fancy, but it is so special. The most amazing baked beans you’ll ever taste are “Aunt Karen’s Baked Beans” on Page 7 of Side Dishes. Simply the best quick (and easy) dessert bar has to be “Aunt Shari’s Cream Cheese Squares” on page 11 of Desserts. The perfect cornbread dressing is “Nanny Re’s Dressing” on page 2 of Meats and Casseroles. I know, I know, you wish you had a copy!
Despite all of the wonderful goodness that is contained in this book, I can’t tell you how many other wonderful recipes have been buried right along with our precious loved ones. I’m willing to go out on a limb and bet you’ve got a favorite family dish, someone’s specialty, that only they know how to make. If this sounds familiar, I’d like to encourage you to take the time reach out to your favorite culinary inspirations and make a recipe book for your own family. You may get some resistance at first, but just promise everyone a copy when you’re finished. Bribing a Southern woman with the promise of a new cookbook is a shrewd way to get things done.
Once you get started, you never know what gems might surface. I did a little digging in my Nanny’s cabinet and found a recipe in my great-grandmother’s handwriting, and it was her famous 12-layer chocolate cake nonetheless! I can promise you, it will be framed and displayed proudly in my kitchen. What a treasure!
At the end of the day, a collection of things is just that - things. It’s the people behind those things that make them special. The world doesn’t get to place a value on my collections. The worth of each treasure is in the eye of the beholder and my eyes see things money could never buy, like a pink plastic binder with a note from my Nanny that says it all:
“There is one ingredient that is not included in print in any of my recipes. You cannot measure it, weigh it, box it or buy it. It is called love. Nothing has given me more pleasure over the years than cooking for my family. Love was included in every dish I prepared.”
10 Tips for Creating Your Own Family Recipe Book
*Also, special shout-out to my Aunt Kristi who was the one behind getting our book done! Thank you for all the love you poured into this special thing that I now I cherish! :)