Saturday, August 8, 2009

Estate Sale Cookies

A couple weeks ago Ben and I went to an estate sale that was being held in our neighborhood. The home was lovely, and there were many beautiful serving pieces, stemware, etc. that indicated the owner had practiced at least a little hospitality. Anyway, I always look at the cookbooks for sale at these things, and that's where I found IT. IT was a three-ring binder with tabbed dividers, red (they're always red), and duct-taped on the side (another common feature). IT was Mrs. ___'s personal collection of recipes, clipped from newspapers, magazines, and many hand-written on backs of envelopes, etc. Instantly, self-righteous indignation sprang up within me. "What!!!" "A mom's personal collection of treasured family recipes and NONE of her children want it?!!!" "IT's tossed aside to fall into the hands of strangers?!!?" In the words of Mrs. Loman, "Attention must be paid!" Determined to rescue it, I grabbed it up, "You're coming home with me." I comforted, "I'LL appreciate you...." I paid $1 for the book (even getting a "deal" kind of got me mad, "That's it? Her LIFE is worth $1?!")
Once home, I went through each scrap and torn out recipe carefully and respectfully. My heart was full of sentimentality when I came across a guest list. It was evidently for one of Mrs. ____'s parties. Listed there was a person in our neighborhood that I knew quite well. Ben suggested I call her and ask a little about Mrs. ____, so I did, and therein lay my very important lesson.
After explaining the situation, I asked my neighbor what she knew about Mrs. _____. First of all, Mrs. _____ is alive and well and just wanted to get rid of a few things so she could move into a smaller place now that she's elderly and her husband has been deceased for awhile. My friend remembered Mrs. _____ as a real "Auntie Mame" type lady. She described her as one of the most creative, exciting and vivacious women she knows. Mrs. _____ was known for her parties, which were legendary for fun and unpredictability. Then I posed the question, "And evidently Mrs. ___ enjoyed cooking?" My friend replied, "Oh heaven's no!! She was not interested in the least in cooking!" Stricken, I countered, "But she had a cookbook with all hand-written recipes!" My friend said, "Well, perhaps, but I guarantee they weren't in HER handwriting! I'm sure she asked people to write out their recipes, but she had no intention of making them herself!"
So there it was. Mrs. ______ was not a little "Aunt Bea" character that busied herself making homemade biscuits and fried chicken. No. She is a wonderful, glamorous, hospitable lady that drew people into her fabulous life through her creative, fun, outrageous lifestyle. Of course, her children would have no attachment to a worn recipe book of other people's recipes! Perhaps they enjoyed them now and then unknowingly, but that wasn't how they identified "mom". How wrong I was and how silly to fall for the sterotype that being a "good mom" assumes a "good cook". While cooking is surely fun for me, I don't want to forget the FABULOUS! Balance is everything!
Note: There was a cookie recipe in the bunch that I had to try. From the wording, I think they were Mrs. ___'s mother-in-law's recipe. It has the ingredients, but no instructions as most of these passed along recipes do. I made them today, however, and they are absolutely delicious and bake up beautifully!

Estate Sale Cookies
1 cup Crisco (you can buy the kind with no trans-fat now, but this is one time when butter would
not be better!)
1 tsp. salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans are suggested, that's what I used)
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. lemon juice
Cream the Crisco, salt, and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla and lemon juice and beat well. Add the flour and baking soda and stir on low speed until blended. Stir in the nuts. I used a small cookie scooper (1 Tbl. capacity) to portion out the dough and baked them for 12 min. at 350F. This recipe made about 5 doz. cookies of this size.



  1. How fun to learn the history behind the recipe binder.

  2. What a great lesson! I'm going to make the cookies and share them and the story of "the lesson". Thanks for both!

  3. Love your story about the cookbook. It is making me want to go and try a cookie recipe in my files that has been passed down from an "Aunt Bea" (that I have never made but have wanted to for several weeks since I received it) of course I want to try yours too but I may just come over and eat one . I feel certain that I am considered the perfect "Balance" of "good cook" and "good mom." Nobody has told me that yet but I feel certain they will all be "fighting" over my recipes someday (my daughter -in- laws if not my precious sons). jhg