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Our Family Recipe Book

Without meaning to, I’ve become a recipe collector. I realized it last night when I pulled out our family recipe book to check the ingredients for shrimp and grits. As I flipped through the pages, I found recipes from various North Carolina regions spanning multiple generations.

Inside you’ll find Papaw’s sawmill gravy. He made it every time our family gathered together in Dutch Cove. I’ll never forget the day he pulled Brandon into the kitchen and taught him to make it. I’m reminded of those two standing over Papaw’s cast iron pan every time we have a meal of biscuits and gravy.

Dried bean recipes bring Grandma to mind. Greens or dried beans were always simmering in her kitchen when I visited. Even during scorching Wilmington summers, without air conditioning, her house was thick with the humidity steaming out of bubbling pots.

For the life of me, I can’t remember her keeping a recipe book like mine. Instead, she kept clippings from old newspapers, sheets of paper, and recipe cards tucked away in her Bible. Because of that, the Bible and beans will forever be entwined in my mind.

Snow cream is pure Mamaw. It makes me think of all the times she sent Papaw out in the cold to collect snow off the pump house roof.

I’ve got recipes from the Clark family too. Christmas breakfast is a big deal with Brandon’s family. Breakfast pie, cheesy hashbrown casserole, and cheese danish stir up images of crowding around the Christmas tree with my inlaws.

Then there’s the strawberry jam recipe I got from Aunt Karen the year I learned how to can. It tastes like endless North Carolina summers, multigenerational trips to u-pick farms, canning sessions, and Belle standing on a chair in nothing but a pullup to help Mamaw wash strawberries.

Glancing through our family recipe book, it becomes apparent that every recipe is more than a side dish or dessert. They are ties that bind. As a recipe collector, I didn’t just collect instructions. I compiled memories and love.

The little old book may not look like much, but it’s full of all the good stuff.

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