Each year as the holidays start to take hold, my mom sets aside “girl time” for my daughters and my niece. They spend the entire day making holiday cookies. Some for family. Some for friends. Some as gifts. Some is an understatement. Lots of cookies is more accurate.
Lots and lots of cookies to be more specific.
Madison and Kennedy are at an age where they can really participate and understand the value of this quality time with their grandma. Ahead of time, they discuss their favorite treats and make a plan for which to make. Each year they add a new one and remove one that no longer was a favorite.
Each of the girls shares their thoughts on what they liked and didn’t. Of course, there are a few family favorites that she’s been making since I was a kid. My mom always keeps those on the list to ensure the new generation can enjoy them as well. I’m glad she has involved Madison and Kennedy in this tradition. Not only are they learning some great skills, but the bonding is priceless. They are creating memories they’ll cherish for their lifetime and they’re learning some of my mom’s secret recipes in the process.
My mom is like that. Sharing her favorite recipes is important. While Christmas for some people involves a ham or maybe a turkey along with all the traditional sides, for our family it means homemade spaghetti, gnocchi, sauce, meatballs and braciole. They’re all recipes that I hold dear. Last year while canning spaghetti sauce, I shared a photo on Facebook and my relatives proceeded to ask for the recipe. It wasn’t mine to give. My mom, of course, immediately shared. For my cousins who had not learned the recipe from my grandmother, they were ever so grateful to my mom.
Me, on the other hand… I’m always cautious about sharing recipes. A few years ago Kennedy took responsibility for preparing my mom’s vegetable dip recipe for our family gatherings. Taking pride in the recipe and her creation, she often makes a batch just to enjoy for snacking and taking to school with veggies to eat at lunch. She’s let her friends try the dip and they’ve immediately asked for the recipe. My response has always been the same, “It’s Grandma Lanee’s recipe. You have to ask her before sharing it.”
This year while at our annual Christmas baking girls’ day, Kennedy asked my mom about sharing her “secret recipes” and my proceeded to put me in my place. She looked at us and in a voice filled with heartbreak said if there’s ever a recipe of hers that someone else wants, we are welcome to share. Then she reminded me of a story that I felt needed to be passed along for the rest of the world to consider. My dad came from a large family. He was the oldest of eight children. Each year, his grandmother made a pineapple dessert that everyone in the family lined up for. To them, it was state fair, blue ribbon quality. As my dad and his brothers married, the wives asked his grandmother for the recipe which she made from memory. She never shared it.
Not once. Not with anyone.
Nor did she write it down anywhere for anyone to have after. Sadly, the recipe went to the grave with her. Every year, my aunts try to recreate the recipe from what they knew was included, but have never been able to get it just right. My uncles still enjoy it and appreciate the love that goes into trying to recreate it, but they all admit that something is still missing. I’ve heard this story many times in my lifetime and have personally witnessed the sadness. Every year as my uncles eat the latest iteration of the legendary pineapple dessert, they discuss how unfortunate it was that grandmother was so unwilling to share her secret recipe.
But this time when my mom shared the story, she told me something I hadn’t heard before. The pineapple dessert incident wasn’t an island. This wasn’t the only time and not only recipe that was held too tightly. There were others and they all went to the grave with my great-grandmother. Kennedy and I both heard as her voice trembled and she fought back tears. Mom said she never wanted to be that person… The one who selfishly kept it all to herself. We were free to share any of her recipes without worrying about asking permission.
That was the turning point for me. It put it all into perspective. My mom had lived and witness the heartache far longer than I had.
Recipes are a tradition and if they aren’t shared then they will be lost. If you’re one of the people who thinks it’s important to keep all your recipes secret, please reconsider. Don’t take your secrets with you when you leave. Share them with the people that love you and you’ll be remembered every time they feast on what used to be your secret.
What is your favorite family recipe?