Moral Dilemma: Grandma’s Recipes

posted in: Family, Food 2
It's just so awful. Photo: Wikipedia
Unspeakably revolting comestible. Photo: Wikipedia

I got a gift from a relative today. It’s a spiral-bound book made from my paternal grandmother’s recipe collection. Venita died several years ago and had amassed many recipes over her homemaking years in Houston, TX. That the recipes have been compiled is very sweet and it was a kind gesture to send me a copy. There is a problem, however.

These recipes make me violently ill. I’ve been through this 200-page book twice and can’t find a thing I would even consider making in my kitchen. These are not mysterious and delicious knäckebröd recipes brought over from the old country; there are no inked-in notes from my grandmother’s grandmother, warning against too much salt or suggesting a helpful whisk technique. That would be a mazing. No, this is a compendium of recipes lifted straight from the pages of Better Homes & Gardens and similar magazines published between 1950-1979. Here’s what that means:

Apricot Cheese Salad that’s gonna be cheddar
Fruit Cocktail Moldcontains hard-boiled egg and pimento
Hot Turkey Saladincludes crushed potato chips, grated onion, and “squirt of Tabasco”
Crunchy Veg Casserole — with frozen cauliflower and 2 cans cream of mushroom soup

An astonishing number of these recipes call for olives. Green, black, stuffed — just when you think an appetizer is going to escape the olive treatment, ohp! There it is! Also included in the book are menus. These are records of all the foods served at various luncheons and gatherings my grandma attended. It’s incredibly sweet that she kept such records. It’s also deeply depressing. I’m sorry, but I cannot read these menus without a tear rolling down my face for a generation of women who would’ve loved to be working on the Human Genome Project but instead were making sure they got tips for Loretta’s ham loaf before they left the living room. Why, here’s a menu now:

Menu #15 — Bridge Luncheon at Sandra’s

1. Chicken Salad
2. Potato Salad — large leaves around inside of bowl. Tomato peeled and opened like a large flower in center on top of salad
3. Avocado gelled salad in mold
4. Layrered Jello — in square pan. Layer of clear Jello on top, then diet cream cheese (pink color), then layer of clear gelatin
5. Fruit salad
6. Egg salad in Knox gelatin — in loaf — very good
7. Salted nuts
8. Coffee and punch

That’s three instances of Jello. I know: I live in a country so wealthy I can afford to make fun of food; my disdain for my dearly-departed grandmother’s recipe collection is (almost) as gross as the celery-and-macadamia nut “ring mold” on page 59. I have shame. I also have a moral dilemma. Do I keep this book? I do not want it. I loved my grandmother. But I do not want this. What do you do with a gift that doesn’t fit, is supposed to be imbued with sentimental value, and can’t be re-gifted?

Wait a minute… Do any of you want it?! I’m serious! It would be really cool to send it to someone who is into ’50s and ’60s food! There have to be people out there who like it, even in an ironic way. I’d be so happy to send it to you if you’ll use it. Please email me. First-come, first-served. So to speak.

Quilt Market Is Coming! (Plus: 1 of 2 Announcements.)

This picture was taken at Market a couple years ago in one of the hundreds of gorgeous booths at the show. The pom-poms were edible! Just kidding.
This picture of me was taken at Market a couple years ago in one of the hundreds of gorgeous booths at the show. Those pom-poms were edible! Just kidding.

International Fall Quilt Market is next week!

Fall Quilt Market is the biggest trade show of the year for the 4 billion-dollar-a-year quilt industry I accidentally started working in five-and-a-half years ago. It’s a Quilts, Inc. production and it is intense. Here’s what people do at Quilt Market:

– Wear their Sunday best
– Write business
– Take meetings
– Schmooze
– Booze (Not at the level of a pharmaceutical sales rep convention, but there’s a little drankin’ and aren’t you surprised? Mm? Quilters drink liquor? Scandal?)
– Go to dinner
– Make deals
– Take names
– Chew bubblegum
– Break hearts

So really it’s just another day in the life of a quilter who took her/his hobby to the Next Level. Hey, speaking of Next Level, this Quilt Market is a big one for me. Maybe the biggest one yet. For years — years! — I’ve been circling a dream project and for months — months! — I’ve known that the dream project would launch next week but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. At this point, the pain of withholding the thing is almost physical.

Do you want to know what the big project is? Do you? Are you ready to freak out? Are you ready for totally amazing, fully incredible, head-slappingly gorgeous images to flood your cerebral cortex? It will all happen so soon! I’m the world’s worst secret-keeper; if I wasn’t in fear of mucking up the whole thing for me and the brilliant company I’m working with, I’d just out with it.

But maybe I could tell you something else. Maybe I could let a different cat out of the bag. Maybe I could finally tell you the other secret I’ve got. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Here goes: I’m pregnant. No, no, no. That’s not it. I’m not pregnant. Let’s see, what was it… Oh, right:

I’m moving back to Chicago next month.

Full story tomorrow.


posted in: Quilting, Work 0
Quilt Market is like this hedge maze, except with more booths, more people, and people at the doors who won't let you bring in your coffee so you have to smuggle it in your purse. Not that I've ever done that. (Photo: Stan Shebs.)
Quilt Market is like this hedge maze, except with more booths, more people, and guards at the doors who won’t let you bring in your coffee so you have to smuggle it in your purse. Not that I’ve ever done that. (Photo: Stan Shebs.)

For the next four days, I’ll be deep in the labryinth of International Quilt Market, Extreme Fall Edition.

Quilt Market is a crucial event for folks with serious business to do within the quilt industry. It occurs every year at the end or tail end of October; you could set your desk calendar to it and most industry people do: Market is where the biggest deals are done, where shop owners plan their strategies, where new careers are unveiled, and many meetings are taken in which one is advised to take notes.

From the time we were old enough to register the lives of our parents, Quilt Market was important in my life and the lives of my two sisters. Mom went to Market every year, and how we knew it was important was because Mom usually bought something new to wear to it and she didn’t do much shopping back then (still doesn’t, but back then it was because the family financial situation was mighty precarious.) We were also well aware Market was held in Houston, and this was strange in our young minds because our paternal grandparents also lived in Houston and we only had poor memories of those grandparents. We were dimly aware that Mom and our estranged dad had met in Houston and gotten married there. So Houston was an emotionally charged place for us (or maybe just me) and every year, Mom went there for work. Maybe it sounds irrational that her annual trip would cause us anxiety, but kids’ emotions are complex, especially when there’s been a painful schism in a family.

And now I go. This is perhaps my sixth Market? Something like that. I love it. I love the energy, the concentration of hundreds upon hundreds of talented people in one place. I love the effort that everyone puts forth to make this Market the best Market ever. The color in the place is dazzling. And at the heart of it all? Quilts. Well, money is also at the heart of it. But the quilts come first and the money follows, so quilts win. Isn’t that something? A Nebraskan quilter who had a name but is now only remembered as “Anonymous,” stitching along on a Log Cabin quilt in 1880 had no idea that what she was doing would yield all of this.

She’d be amazed. She’d be excited. She’d probably want to upgrade her sewing machine. At Market, she could do that. She could do a lot more than she could in 1880, that’s for sure. “Anonymous in 1880”? This Market’s for you. I will dash around in heels with my notebook and make deals and further the love of quilting in this country in the name of your anonymity. Together, we’ll help pull the next one up.**

*“Pull The Next One Up” is a brilliant poem by my friend Marc Smith, founder of the poetry slam. Google the poem and prepare for goosebumps. I love you, Marc.