Once in a while when my siblings and I get together, we might have a conversation along the lines of what was your favorite of Mom’s meals or maybe what did you ask for if Mom was going to cook you your birthday dinner.
I think most of the time, my siblings’ answers might depend on the day. I know that would be true for me. When I asked this question for purposes of my blog back in 2013, I said it was Mom’s oven-roasted pork spareribs. While it’s true that I loved that particular meal — served with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes — there were actually many of Mom’s meals I liked. Her meat loaf, for example, is a bit different from any recipe I’ve seen, and it’s my very favorite meat loaf.
While my choice might vary depending on my taste buds that day, if you ask my brother David what his favorite recipe was, he will unfailingly say it was her Beef Stroganoff. That’s a recipe that isn’t located in the recipe box that I somehow acquired upon her death…..
…..so when I decide to make it, I have to scramble to find the recipe. The last time I made Mom’s Beef Stroganoff, I asked Bec if she had the recipe, and she did. She didn’t have an actual card in Mom’s handwriting, but she had copied it, using Mom’s exact words. I decided to make it again yesterday, and I was happy to see that I had kept the recipe from the last time Bec had given it to me.
I once asked Bec where Mom got her recipes. After all, she was quite young when her mother died, so it wasn’t likely that they cooked together. Bec told me that she thought that Mom got a lot of her recipes the same way that many 1950s cooks did: from the back of soup cans or vegetable cans or packets of gravy mix and the like. After all, back in the 1950s, home cooks celebrated the fact that processed foods made their cooking lives easier rather than reeling in horror at the notion of using a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup in a recipe.
Bec’s theory was proven true when we were going through Mom’s recipe box over Thanksgiving vacation and I came across her recipe for dressing. It didn’t come from the back of a can, but it came from an insert that was part of the Butterball turkey she had apparently purchased. The insert was tucked away in the recipe box. By the way, the recipe includes Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup. Eeeeeek.
Mom’s Beef Stroganoff recipe is different from most other recipes I’ve seen. It includes tomato juice, and instead of sour cream, it calls for a can of evaporated milk and some lemon juice. Just for fun, I googled “beef stroganoff tomato juice evaporated milk”, not expecting to find anything. But since you can apparently find ANYTHING on the internet, I found the exact recipe on a web site called Recipe Link. That website linked to something referred to as Faith’s Collection, and indicates the source as “Recipe booklet: One wonderful dish makes the meal by Pet Milk Co., 1960. This notation further supports Bec’s theory that Mom got a lot of her recipes from backs of cans. In this case, it was the back of a Pet Evaporated Milk can.
This woman – Faith – apparently has a strong interest in what she refers to as vintage recipe collections. The Beef Stroganoff recipe was part of a box that she purchased from someone on Ebay. The person who sold her the box of recipes had purchased them at an estate sale. She posted this photo of the box that she purchased……
I can’t tell you how cool I think it is that she collects vintage recipes. I would do the same thing, except that I have enough crap of my own to get rid of. Having said that, I will tell you that it makes me sad that almost no one writes out recipe cards any longer. What am I saying? They don’t even teach cursive in school anymore! I love the recipe cards I have from my Mom. But children, I will admit to you that I keep almost all of my recipes these days on Pinterest.