This evening my husband and I will enjoy hosting a small group of couples in our home as part of a six-week marriage enrichment study. My schedule today includes preparing a dessert to go with the coffee and conversation of the evening. Thinking this through, I recalled a favorite recipe I received several years ago while living in New York. I retrieved the cookbook from the shelf and headed to the kitchen to make sure I had all the ingredients. I began to leaf through the pages of this church cookbook, one of my favorites among the many I own. A wave of nostalgia unexpectedly swept over me as I recalled not only the recipes, but the women represented by these recipes, women who influenced me as a young bride, a new pastor’s wife, and eventually a new mom.
The pages are somewhat yellowed, the edges worn. My favorite recipe pages are blotched with stains and marked up with notes. The cover is long gone, having fallen off some years ago from so much use, though the spiral binding is surprisingly still intact. The cookbook seems to naturally fall open to some of my favorites. Today it fell open to the Gourmet Potatoes recipe. Immediately my mind went back to Mrs. Lewis, who submitted this recipe, and her wonderful family, all of whom blessed us abundantly with their friendship and support. I have served Gourmet Potatoes to countless guests since then, including small quantities in my home as well as several large pans to serve our entire church family.
The page containing the recipe for Sunday School Rolls is dog-eared as well. These are called Sunday School Rolls because you mix the dough in a large bowl Saturday night, roll them out before you go to church Sunday morning, then pop them in the oven for 10 minutes when you get home from church – and you have the most delicious crescent rolls you will ever taste. I think of Mrs. Poole, a dear older lady in our church back then, whenever I serve these.
Today’s recipe, Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake, comes from Mrs. Carswell, another lady who has been an encouragement to me. This simple but superb recipe reminds me of her -simply gracious in her service to others and superb in her example as a wife, mother and friend. As I share this dessert in my home this evening, I hope in some way I am passing along more than just cake. I hope I am also passing along a legacy of friendship and gracious service modeled for me by so many women represented in this cookbook.
And therein, I believe, lies the real treasure in my church cookbook, or in those hand-written recipes from my mother and grandmother, or in the shared recipes from my bridal shower almost thirty years ago. Unlike Pinterest, the treasure is not so much in the recipe, as valuable as it may be. The treasure is in the people in my life-the moms, the grandmas, the influential women, the friends. The real recipes they gave me are recipes for a life well-lived. I hope,with every dinner roll or piece of cake I serve, I can pass on the true legacy of these gifts given to me in my church cookbook.