Faith in Black and White

The following blog post appeared two years ago but it was on my mind this weekend when I was given a treasure. When Jim and Shelly Gabel married 38 years ago last month, her mother threw a recipe shower. Shelly has a box stuffed with recipes from the shower and she had a recipe for tortillas that she shared with me. It bears Mary Arnold’s address, Mary is Shelly’s mother who passed away earlier in the year. She was famous for her cooking and her squash blossom necklaces and I was glad to know her for the brief time I did.

The cookbook pictured is from the Volga German communities around Ellis County, Kansas, where I went to college. Looking through it made me happy…and hungry.



My mom kept herself busy while in school at Baylor University deciphering the letters my grandmother sent her. Really bad handwriting apparently skips a generation.
Knowing this, I couldn’t help but smile while unpacking the other day when I ran across a scrapbook my mom made me. She titled it In Their Own Hand: My Grandmothers’ Recipes. I flipped through the pages and could hear my grandmothers’ voices, which is not to say that I could read June’s recipe for green rice (I think?…) in her scrawled hand. Green rice? Maybe. 20140630-231928-83968585.jpg

All of my most treasured recipes were gifted to me by women I clearly remember.
Grandma Margaret, Southern to the core, taught me to make cheese grits and cherry chocolate cake. She would nod toward the cake and drawl, “men love this cake.” It’s true. That recipe has served me well.
The recipe for flan in my avocado green metal recipe box that I refuse to upgrade is a keeper. It’s scribbled on three separate sticky note-sized papers by Zenah, a beautiful member of the el Lahham clan my sister married into. The food that marks special days there deserves it’s own blog post. Or twelve. 20140630-231945-83985391.jpg
In my mom’s hometown, a party wasn’t a party without Bea’s rolls. Bea was in high demand in the small Southern town in the 1960s. My grandmother would have called her colored, making the story even better. Sweet success for Bea.
Loretta Spitzer shared her recipe for pound cake when I lived in Pratt, Kansas. I guard Peg Schmidt’s recipe for cinnamon pickles closely. I smile at Lyndee Yoder’s Applesauce Muffin recipe written in different colors on a piece of notebook paper. And I treasure Sandy Thorpe’s recipe for green chile the way girls in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, make it.

The handwriting brings to mind each of the women sharing their treasured recipe. Some of the cards have notes made out to me on the back. Some are on sticky notes, others on designer recipe cards and each one makes me happy; a unique addition to a collection 20 years in the making.
Food brings us to the table to bow our heads and then laugh and talk over a good meal. Especially in an area as rural as mine, people gather around the table before tending to business, returning to the combine seat, or watching the elementary music program. It’s part of the fabric of rural America. Food and faith go hand in hand and both are some of the sweetest gifts one can give or receive.


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