Sometimes the hardest place to start is the beginning. Part of the story begins a few weeks ago when my husband, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and I walked two blocks from our apartment to watch Julie and Julia. Part of the story beings about 10 years ago when my paternal grandmother died and I inherited some of her cookware and recipe book (or rather I decided they were something that I wanted to have as we were going through her belongings). But I guess the real beginning was many years ago when my Grandma Kruse started writing down these recipes.
Now you may be curious of how I chose the title of this blog. While I was trying to be witty and hope to spark some interest, the truth of the matter is; Grandma Kruse is dead, she was always a little 'odd' and before she died we were pretty sure she had some form of dementia, and she had a collection of recipes written down in a little black day planner from 1972. (And yes, technically there should be a space between Black and Book, but I was exactly 1 character too long with entering my blog name...so take it up with Blogger if it really upsets you.)
Don't get me wrong...I loved Grandma Kruse, and most of the time I really enjoyed her cooking. And I mean really enjoyed her cooking, which I am sure didn't help my weight problem growing up. But she was strange. She had strange habits (of which my cousin and I take immense pleasure in reminding each other when we are acting like her). And some of her strange habits were just too unbelievable and I plan to share some of them as I write this, partially for entertainment, but mostly as a remembrance of her.
One of her strange habits was to save every single scrap of paper that ever came into her possession. And I mean EVERY scrap. I suppose in some ways, she was ahead of her time as an environmentalist because paper shredders and recycling were not real common in rural Iowa in the 70's and 80's, but I am pretty sure she did it because she was cheap and didn't want to actually BUY notepads. So when we went to visit Grandma and Grandpa we saw everything written on the bounty of scavenged paper. Backs of torn off calendar pages, backs of opened envelopes, backs of junk mail letters, backs of flyers someone had handed to them while they were out, you get the picture.
Thus was the birth of this recipe book. The planner itself is for the year 1972 and was courtesy of Vigortone Products Co. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa USA. According to the cover of the planner, Vigortone pre-mixes are "used and recommended throughout the major feeding areas of America." (FYI www.vigortone.com) While I don't know if this was something given to my grandparents as a gift from an appreciative salesman or a piece of swag from a conference, but I am pretty darn positive that it was a free item. I'm not certain of the exact date she wrote them, or where the recipes are from. I am guessing 1973, the year after the planner expired and should have by all accounts been thrown out, but rescued from a fireiey death in the burn pile by Grandma and turned into a treasure trove of scrap paper conviently bound and complete with a protective covering. I am also guessing the recipes are from a radio show, as it looks like they are written down on different days and really are in no particular order. I seem to remember listening to a program called "The Open Line," on the AM radio on Saturday mornings in my Grandma's kitchen, but I really have no way of knowing the origin of them.
I have had this book in my possession for some time now and, admittedly, the format they are in right now is all but useless to me. When I first came across the book I was estatic! Here was the Holy Grail of delicious 'Grandma Treats', and it was all at the tip of my fingers. And then I really started to look at what I had...misspellings, difficult to read handwriting, recipes with no names and unclear delineations between where a chicken casserole ended and an orange wedge salad began. Plus, there was no organization what so ever. So chicken casserole was right next to orange wedge salad, followed by chewy chocolate chip cookies, then scalloped potatoes. And if you know me (and I'm betting that most of you that are reading this do know me) you know how much I like to have things organized. For those of you who don't, more exciting details to come on my OCD tenancies. So I kept it, because I knew someday I would enjoy looking at it, but not without a lot of time and decoding.
And if I still have your attention after all of that, you might be saying "where does the Julie/Julia reference come into play?" I don't want to go into a whole movie review, but lets just say I thought the film was pretty good and liked the relationship that developed between the character Julie and her cooking project. At first I decided that I, too, wanted to cook all of the recipes from a Julia Child book; it seemed like the cool thing to do. Plus, my name is Julie, so I had that extra cool bonus going for me, too. But I don't own any Julia Child cookbooks. And the idea of eating all of that deliciously fatty French food and throwing calorie content to the wind just did not sit well with my new health routine (again, more about that later).
Then, when I wandered over to my cookbook collection one day to search for a recipe for a sweet pie crust, I saw it. Wedged in between the respectable, published cookbooks that I had spent my hard earned currency for, was the little black book of Crazy Dead Grandma's recipes. I knew CDG made sweet pie crust pies, and thought, what the heck, why not take a glance through it and see if I could find something. But I pulled another cookbook off the shelf too, just in case I couldn't find anything or became frustrated with the recipe expedition. I found a recipe for Peach Pie and lo and behold there was a sweet pie crust recipe with it as well. Jackpot! I will post more details on the recipe itself later, but the vital thing to know was that there were problems with the recipe. It turned out okay, but not great, not exactly like I remembered it could be. And I realized that for most of the recipes I had, steps could have been left out because I am sure they were written down on the fly while listening to the radio. And in 40 years time, ingredients could have changed (or needed changing) and I am sure there are some of those, "this is obvious and I don't need to write it down," parts that will require all of the recipes to be tweaked before I can confidently flip to a page, pick any recipe, and make it correctly right then and there.
And that is the Creation Story for my blog. My project of testing, typing, and tidying CDG's recipes has begun. Your mission, if you choose, is to follow me on this journey, learn some tidbits about me and my family, and hopefully enjoy some of the recipes along the way. My plan is to make the recipes for the most part in the order they are written, and tweak as necessary, posting the steps along the way. When I am finished with all roughly 100 pages of chicken scratch I can cut and paste them into an organized fashion, print them, and keep them for my very future grandchildren to reminisce over and refer to me with endearing nicknames.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!