Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Cooking Up A Surprise

No one who cooks, cooks alone. 
Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen
 is surrounded by generations of cooks past,
 the advice and menus of cooks present,
 the wisdom of cookbook writers.
Laurie Colwin, writer

I've been "cooking" up a surprise for Susan and Brent. And I finally got to share the results at Susan's latest bridal shower.
I compiled two volumes of recipes from family and friends and presented the cookbooks as my shower gift. I had done something similar for Jill and Eric a dozen years ago. But even in that short time, many of us have shifted how we approach cooking. Instead of pulling down a community cookbook from our kitchen shelf at mealtime, we click on a link on Facebook or Instagram. 
So, before I began this months-long project, I asked Jill whether she thought it was still something I should do. And even though she's the "queen" of pulling up recipes on her phone or computer, she encouraged me to do it.
Jill's & Eric's cookbook - still in use after 12+ years!
Jill still uses the two-volume cookbook I compiled for them. And, interestingly enough, one of the recipes she contributed to Susan's and Brent's book was a breakfast recipe she received in her homemade cookbook for a Sausage and Grits Casserole. (See recipe at the end of this post. Jill actually served it to Randy and me when we stayed at her house before the shower. And, no, we didn't arrange that ahead of time!)

Susan's mom, Becky, also thought the project was worthwhile. She helped by sharing names and addresses of family members, her friends and important people in Susan's life. One of Susan's friends, Mallory, supplied names and addresses, as did one of Brent's friends, Ben, and his wife, Tori. 

I had to laugh when I opened the envelope with Becky's recipes. On the top was a recipe for Bar-B-Cups.

That was a recipe that also appeared on Brent's childhood table. (I still make them and so does Jill.) My mom started making them when the recipe was a winner in the Pillsbury Bakeoff back in the day. (A quick internet search revealed that, yes indeed, the recipe was entered in the 1968 Bake-Off!)

On the back of the card, Becky wrote: "I get the urge to make these every February 16 - no matter where you are!" Those were often Susan's childhood birthday menu request. 

Even the youngest members of the family got involved. Brooke and Kinley both contributed favorite recipes. 
I figure it will be fun to look back and see their handwriting from their 1st and 4th grade 

This would have been a project that Randy's mom, Marie, would have loved. And she's not left out. I had a Chocolate Oatmeal Chippers cookie recipe written in Marie's own hand in my own recipe box. I included it in the cookbook. And Becky had a recipe for Susan's Grandma Welch's Toffee Dip, also in her hand, which is nestled in the Appetizer pages. 
Randy's sister, Kathy, also used Marie's go-to shower gift as her gift - a pizza pan and other utensils and ingredients needed to make homemade pizza. Kathy used one of her cards to include the same recipe that Marie also always included with her gift.  

Several family members from Brent's side of the family attended. They all shared recipes, too.
To get the recipes, I wrote a note to friends and relatives from both sides of the family. I enclosed matching recipe cards and asked them to send two of their favorite recipes. After I sent the letters, I loved going to the mailbox and discovering recipe cards and notes tucked among the bills and newspapers. It was like getting Christmas cards and letters, but it lasted longer since I'd given people plenty of time to respond. Once I had the cards back, I compiled the recipes into two volumes.

Like I'd done with Jill's book, I had a Hutchinson shop engrave metal labels to affix to the cookbook spines, noting that Volume I had soups, salads, vegetables and main dishes and Volume II had baked goods, desserts, appetizers, beverages and holiday. 

I could have typed them all or sent the requests for recipes out by email, but I liked having each friend or family member write out the recipe card in their own hand. It seemed more personal that way. 

Remember that favorite recipe from Jill's own wedding cookbook that I mentioned earlier? She has served it to the family - including to Susan and Brent - at several holiday brunches. It was from Wanda Morrison, who has since passed away. But the recipe lives on in Susan's and Brent's cookbooks. And I guess that's the whole point, isn't it?  

Country Grits & Sausage Casserole
From Jill's and Eric's Wedding Cookbook
2 lbs. ground sausage
4 cups water
1 1/4 cups quick cooking grits, uncooked
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
4 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown sausage in a large skillet. Drain fat and set aside. Bring water to boil in a large saucepan; stir in grits. Return to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add cheese and next three ingredients, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in sausage and eggs to grits mixture.
Spoon mixture into a lightly-greased 13- by 9-inch pan. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until golden brown and thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serves 8-10.
Note: Casserole may be prepared the day before. Do not bake until morning. 
Jill's note: This is one of our favorite recipes we got in our wedding cookbook and wanted to pass it along! It was from Wanda Morrison.  

And here was a recipe from Randy. It just makes me laugh. And I hope it does the same for Susan and for Brent, who went on many a Ninnescah fishing expedition with his dad.

Fried Catfish
Randy Fritzemeier

After a successful day of fishing on the Ninnescah, bring fish home and filet them. Start cutting behind the ribs to the tail. Then flip piece of fish over and cut off skin. Clean off pieces of fish with fresh water and put in a bowl of water. Add salt and seasonings; let soak for an hour.

Heat pan of oil to frying temperature.

Shake water from fish. Roll fish in Louisiana Fish Fry Mix. Drop in frying oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Don't overload pan. Put in basket with paper towels in bottom to soak up excess oil.

Then eat.