The Memorable Mother's Day Cookbook

by georgettejohn

When I was in elementary school it was common for teachers to assist students with creating gifts for the holidays. Sometimes the recipient received more than they bargained for.

The sole purpose of this essay is to warn mother’s that may read this: Mother’s Day Classroom Cookbooks might resurface as an ideal gift project someday. You are forewarned that it might be in your best interest to leave a few, truly homemade, recipes scattered around the kitchen in the weeks prior to the holiday!

I was in 2nd grade and sitting attentively at my desk. My classmates were doing the same. Our teacher was about to announce what project we were about to embark upon. The finished product would be ours to bring home and give as a gift on Mother’s Day. We were told we could make it for our mom or our grandmother. Someone raised a hand and asked if it could be made for an Aunt. The response was simple. It could be made for anyone that we wanted to honor on Mother’s Day but we needed to decide who that person was going to be prior to getting started.

Curiosity was peeked regarding what this creation was going to be.  After what seemed like forever and a day, the teacher told us.  The project would be a personalized cookbook! In excitement, everyone started to chatter until she reminded us that it wasn’t an appropriate time to be doing so.  She continued to explain the procedure that would be involved.   She held up wallpaper sample books and flipped through the pages, showing us the many designs we could choose from for the front and back cover of our book. We would be gluing these on to pieces of light cardboard.  She explained that the inside pages would be punched with holes and we would tie them together with whatever color yarn we wanted to use.  At 7 years old, all of this sounded very exciting!

Some of the children moaned a little when the teacher explained that the first step was to bring in a recipe that our mother, grandmother, or other special person baked often.  She assured us that we had plenty of time to ask someone to give it to us, write it down while observing  our person in action, or get it by snooping through the cookbook that person used.  Once we brought in the recipe, with neat handwriting and proper punctuation, we could get started on the fun parts of the project.  I wasn’t worried. I always wrote neatly and used periods when I was supposed to.  I knew I needed to get this part done and over with quickly because the teacher had to have all the recipes before the books could be tied together.  I also wanted to be able to pick out my “materials” while there was still a lot to choose from.  I knew yellow was my mother’s favorite color and there didn’t appear to be a lot of yellow yarn in the box.

Walking home from school I started to think.  What recipe would be best to use? My mother made so many good things and I wanted to choose the recipe that she would be most proud to share, as the teacher had said.  I determined I would use her homemade chocolate cake recipe.  It was, after all, my father’s favorite. I carefully wrote out the recipe, starting with the first important ingredient:1 Duncan Hines Box.

The following day I strut into school with my recipe in hand only to be told I needed to bring in a different recipe.  Obviously I didn’t understand the reason why because I spent the next few days bringing in recipes only to be told to try again.  Basically, I was bringing in instructions on how to make everything from cherry Jell-O to royal instant pudding. The homemade cookie recipe consisted of instructions on how to slice cookie dough off the roll to make perfectly shaped cookies and the length of time required to bake thoroughly.  I began to get discouraged until my teacher finally explained: A homemade recipe does not come out of a box and it usually uses a lot of ingredients.  I wondered if my mother was aware of that definition because most of the things that I had seen her bake seemed to come from a box but she told everyone they were homemade.

I remember the night before I brought in the final recipe, the accepted recipe. In essence, I had determined that desperate times called for desperate measures!  I spent a great deal of time looking through a cookbook. It was nearly a miracle as far as I was concerned. There it was! Jean’s Triple Fudge Double Nut Broiler Brownies recipe! My mother made brownies! Her name wasn’t Jean but maybe it was a misprint… I carefully wrote out the recipe, correcting the error.  My teacher smiled from ear to ear the following morning as she read the recipe for JoAnn’s Triple Fudge Double Nut Broiler Brownies!

My cookbook turned out beautiful and I could barely contain myself waiting for Mother’s Day! That morning I jumped up on the bed with my gift in hand. My mother opened the package and before opening the book she smiled.  She asked me if I had used her mincemeat cookie recipe.  I explained I hadn’t because I didn’t really like them.  She guessed I had submitted her custard rice pudding recipe. Nope I replied. I forgot about that too. She stated I must have used her raspberry pie recipe!  I didn’t respond because I was wondering how I could have forgotten about all of those things she made considering the mess she created when making them: Flour, sugar, rolling pin, everything all over the countertop!

To say my mom was surprised by her gift is putting it mildly.  The look on her face as she turned to the recipe that was contributed on her behalf was one I will never forget.  She just kept smiling and laughing. I thought she was so happy she was speechless!

Illustration of Mother and Daughter Reading
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In the following days my mother referred to her cookbook often.  She kept it by the phone for easy reference.  Mom’s recipe had stirred up a lot of attention! After all of the other mothers received their copies of the cookbook and had time to mull over the recipes, my mother became quite popular. She received quite a few calls from other mother’s searching for particulars about this very complicated recipe and the steps my mom took to achieve success when baking her specialty brownies!

Updated: 04/21/2013, georgettejohn
 
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