The Recipes I Never Touch


I wrote this piece in 2006 while working on memoir pieces revolving around food. It bears posting again.

There are certain things that are sacred. You don’t want to mess with them. As my dad often said, “It may doodledash it.”  Above, Mom challenged herself and made a delicious entry for the Christmas Eve Japanese dinner.

 I love to do all types of cooking. I enjoy preparing comfort food for dinner, baking cookies to take to church for coffee hour, mixing up bread using the bread machine, and trying my hand at breakfast dishes.  I love to try new recipes, dust the flour off old ones, and collect them from the newspaper, the Food Network, Pinterest, and friends.  There are certain recipes I never touch. These are the ones that Mom perfected in her kitchen during my childhood. I have never mastered homemade bread. I have never really even tried. It always looked hard and seemed to take hours. Mom did it so well, so it was easy to rationalize it by saying,” I’ll just enjoy Mom’s.” Pie crusts fell in the same category. I tried, but the crust always fell apart, it tasted tough, or I just threw it away. I buy them made or use the mix in a box. Again, Mom made it look so easy and I never took on the challenge. ( above....Mom when we went out to lunch. That is quite a background behind her!)

 When it came to Christmas treat preparation Mom had a repertoire that I have kept sacred.  Each year the Mirro box came upstairs. It held the silver and copper cookie press that produced Spritz cookies. I remember that rich, yellow dough mimicked one of those Play Dough factories as it oozed out of the press, taking a star shape and making all kinds of figures. The little cookbook with the illustrations of the little green trees, the multicolored bars, and snowflake cookies always intrigued me. Mom didn’t mess much with the fancy cookies. She just slipped on the star and made the letters in our names and other figures. I found a Mirro press at an antique shop once. I thought I could manage the process of Spritz. I was failure. I sold it at a yard sale. Now I have a new Pampered Chef cookie press thanks to my sister Carol and the party she did at my house. It works great. I still don’t think it will ever match the original that comes up from the basement once a year.


One year Mom got a new recipe from her friend Evelyn. It was the incredible bar cookie made of seven ingredients-thus the name 7-Layer Cookies. When this cookie was going to be prepared, it was like the Tom and Jerry Day. Ingredients like Eagle Condensed Milk and Nestlé’s butterscotch chips showed up in the grocery bag. When the cookies were complete they were a rich, delicious masterpiece. Mom would cut them in to small bars and put them in a Tupperware holder to keep them fresh. This treat always went on trays that were given away to friends when they stopped by on Christmas. Her friend Evelyn just died and I know Mom is glad she still has her handwritten recipe in the box.

 I have never made Mom’s Popcorn Balls or fruitcake. I did attempt Nuts and Bolts one year to give as gifts, but it didn’t seem right. I think it was not having the big silver roasting pan that filled the oven with the Chex cereal, pretzel, Cheez-It mixture.

 There is comfort in traditions that remain the same. I know there will be a big Tupperware bowl full of Spritz when I go home this year. There will be popcorn balls in a big bag on the bed in Mom’s room. There will be Seven Layer Cookies in the narrow rectangular Tupperware. The Nuts and Bolts will either be in the glass jar on the table by the tree or in a decorative tin under the table.  The fruitcake and pumpkin bread will be wrapped in shiny foil and line a shelf in the refrigerator.  Mom’s handwritten labels will be clear on each loaf in blue Sharpie pen.

 Certain things remain sacred. That is fine with me.



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