Country Kitchen: A Recipe Box Inspires a Novel

Country Kitchen: A Recipe Box Inspires a Novel

By Mary Emma Allen

Collecting family recipes provides a fascinating way to save our family heritage. Most of us think of assembling these recipes into cookbooks, perhaps including a bit of culinary and family history

Lily's Gift However, Kimberly Ripley, of Portsmouth, NH, utilized an intriguing method to preserve her family recipes . She wrote a novel, LILY'S GIFT.

In her book, Kimberly draws upon the recipes of her great grandmother and grandmother. The real recipe box with its culinary history inspired Kimberly's story about a young girl who loses her grandmother.

However, the unexpected gift of her grandmother's recipe box changed Lily's life and enabled her to cope with Grandmother's death. Included in the story are a number of recipes from that box Kimberly inherited. She weaves recipes, such as "Polka-Dots" and "Lucky Star Casserole," into the story action.

Kimberly includes additional recipes at the end of the book for us to try. These recipes, such as "Johnny Cake," "Old Fashioned Bread Pudding," "Ginger Bread", and "Gram's Macaroni and Cheese," also give insight into the food preparation of the Depression era.

Your Childhood Recipes

Take a look at the recipes of your childhood and even those you use day to day. They tell a story of your life and those of your ancestors.

Perhaps you have a recipe box that's been handed down. Perhaps it's a cardboard carton into which your mother or grandmother tossed their handwritten recipes on scraps of paper or those they clipped from magazines, as Mother and Nanny did in my family.

Or maybe it's a notebook into which a relative wrote recipes from past generations, relatives and friends. My aunt, who taught me some of my early cooking, did this. I'm so pleased that a friend gave me Auntie's recipe notebook.

Making Your Family Cookbook

In my husband's family, we've collected the recipes of past and present generations into a cookbook. My daughter and I are compiling the recipes of my family.

Sometimes these recipes come with stories about their origin. Did Grandmother cook over a wood stove? Was this a recipe that traveled across the he country with Great Grandmother in a covered wagon? Did Mother make this during World War II era when many ingredients were rationed and in short supply?

If you're writing your family history, whether in fiction of non-fiction form, you may want to weave your ancestral recipes and foodways into the story.

Here is the recipe for LUCKY STAR CASSEROLE from LILY'S GIFT:

8 slices bread

1 pound processed cheese (Velveeta works well)

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

dash pepper

2 1/2 cups cooked mixed vegetables

Mix together the flour, milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Cook, over medium heat until just boiling, stirring constantly. Make sandwiches of bread, cheese, and vegetables. Pour sauce in 13x9-inch baking pan, greased. Place sandwiches in sauce. Turn after one minute. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Recipe copyrighted by Kimberly Ripley. Used by permission.

Article (C) 2002 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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