As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we have moved my grandma into an assisted living home which provides three home cooked meals a day for her. Much better than the microwave tv dinners she was making for herself when she was on her own. She used to be a great cook. She and my great grandmother were traditional homemakers and had prepared three sit down meals each day.
While our family sorted through her house, we came across her recipe box plus a large, well used notebook full of recipes. I quickly laid claim to it. And when we also ran across her mom’s recipe box, it felt like I had come across a treasure chest.
After reading Michael Pollen’s In Defense of Food, I’ve been very curious about what my great grandmother cooked for her family of four. Michael advised that when grocery shopping you should think of your grandmother or great-grandmother. If she wouldn’t have recognized the food item, don’t buy it. He argued that because our ancestors kept processed foods out of there diet, they ate healthier. I am here to tell you, after extensively reading through each recipe in this collection, that Michael Pollen did not have my family in mind when writing his book. I’m quite certain that my great-grandmother wouldn’t have recognized his example of GoGurt. But I’m also quite certain that once she had figured out what it was, she would have grabbed a handful of them.
I was surprised to find in those tin boxes that more than half of the cake recipes called for store bought cake mixes. The salads were full of jello and canned fruit. The entrees were mostly all casseroles that called for cream of some sort of soup and Pepperridge Farms dressing. Lots of frozen veggies baked with cream and more cream of mushroom soup. In fact, except for a couple of spinach salad recipes, all the ingredients in all of the recipes were either boxed, frozen or canned. Even the mushrooms were called for as canned.
These were church going Lutheran women from St. Louis, Missouri. Growing up Lutheran myself, I know that I come from a strong casserole heritage. Which is not all bad, who can resist a comforting casserole from time to time? And they were also busy housewives and I’m sure they appreciated the convenience of boxed and canned foods when they could find them.
It’s made me realize that we have come along way with our eating. I’m grateful to have had the experiences I’ve had that have lead me down this path to cleaner eating. I’m grateful for the good fortune to have the garden that we do and a husband who’s so passionate about tending to it. And I’m grateful that I had such caring grandmothers who worked so hard to prepare us such nice meals. And being that my great-grandma lived to the ripe old age of 98 and my grandma is still kicking at 89, I think it won’t hurt to try out a few of their favorite creamy-baked-casserole recipes once in a while.