I had an opportunity to cook with my mother over the Christmas holidays. We were in a kitchen alone for about 2 hours working on 3 different dishes: white bean soup, spinach and cheese strata, and the famous black bottom pie. The experience was a bit complicated by the fact that we were in a strange kitchen away from our homes, and we often had to scavenge and make do with makeshift kitchen utensils that were not optimal (e.g. I pounded chocolate wafer cookies into tiny bits in a ziplock bag with a potato masher on the concrete patio, rather than in a food processor as is the usual method). But I noticed two things about how my mother cooks: 1) she moves fast and is constantly moving, and 2) there is a way to do everything and her way is the only way. I found myself trying to sense what tool or utensil or bowl or measuring cup she was going to need next, find it, and hand it to her just so she could have it immediately so as to not interrupt the flow. It was quite a production.
This experience is I think what led me to this project. She has a slew of recipes, all of which are hand-written in one of many three ring binder cookbooks, compiled over the course of probably 60+ years, from family, friends, magazines, restaurants, and other cookbooks. I can think of maybe 20 in my head that are family favorites, but there are so many more. Going through the various cookbooks and recipe card boxes that she has given me, mainly since I was living on my own and then married, I have a stack of over 50 recipes from vinaigrette dressing to Russian tea to artichoke chicken to the famous Black Bottom Pie (which requires capital letters...you'll understand later).
So my goal is to first, type all of the recipes, including her tips and anecdotes often written on the cards; I will also need to surreptitiously gather recipes from her kitchen's cookbooks, and spirit them away for transcription without her knowledge (did I mention this is a surprise for her??). Then I'd like to test all of the recipes...God knows how long that will take...and possibly add my own touches and enhancements. I will then publish the cookbook, complete with photos and stories, and give it to my mother for Christmas 2010.
Along the way, I hope to discover how to perfect the recipes we've lived with in our family for over 50 years and, in the process, make my mother very proud.
Wish me luck!