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So much more than just a recipe book


My Mum really made me laugh the other day. Probably nothing unusual in that statement, unless you happen to know that my Mum died over 22 years ago. It may sound odd, but It was actually an uplifting experience and there are various threads to the story which have happily revived some old memories.

I have recently taken ownership of one of her recipe books, she had written her name and the date she bought it on the inside front cover. That, in itself, is worth having and a reminder of the comfort I still get from seeing her handwriting. It made me wonder why I haven’t adopted this habit, until I remember that I live with a bookseller and the jury’s out on whether writing in a book is a more heinous crime than reading a hardback with the cover still in situ!

One of the other reasons I was keen to inherit it was because I already have a copy of the same book which was given to me by my Mum when I left home. Mine has literally fallen apart through overuse but I hadn’t been able to replace it as it has been out of print for years. So, finding her copy, unused for probably the best part of 25 years, has practical as well as emotional benefit.

So, where did the laughter come from in this story? Well, her copy and mine had been quietly sitting next to each other on a bookshelf for the past few weeks. Until that is, I came home from work one night and reached for the book as it has many of my ‘stock’ recipes in it. It wasn’t until I found the recipe I was looking for that I realised I’d taken Mum’s book from the shelf rather than my own.

Instead of the page floating to the floor, which is what normally happens as my copy is almost totally spineless, I noticed a handwritten comment next to the recipe’s title. And this is where I was reminded that my Mum was far from spineless, “Very good, [my Dad’s name] hated it!” Knowing my Mum, the comment was there to remind her that whenever she cooked the dish because she fancied it, she needed to be ready with an alternative reason, such as it was nutritional, because she knew it wouldn’t be well received by my Dad!

I think the reason it still makes me chuckle is that, in a something and nothing comment, it sums up so much of Mum’s approach to life. From the outside, it always seemed that my Dad made the decisions but, over the years, I’ve learnt that was far from the case. She just had a very non-confrontational approach to getting her own way. When I read the comment, it brought back the memory of occasions when the penny would finally drop following an issue being resolved, and she would fleetingly look at me with a wry smile on her face. Another of the unspoken lessons passed from mother to child!

All in all, I am left feeling comfort and warmth when I hold my new book. Yes, it’s at times like the upcoming Christmas period when my feelings of loss are still at their most acute. No, they don’t really get any less even after all this time. But experiences like this help me to realise I can keep her memory alive, find great comfort and even laughter in reading her comments, trace my finger over her handwriting, and pass all this down to her grandchildren.

It’s also helpfully crossed an action from my long-term domestic to-do list. I’m no longer going to transfer my recipes to the digital world … why would I possibly want to deprive my children of working out how their parents’ relationship ticked long after we’re gone? Although I suspect they may already be way be more astute than their mother on that front!

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