Farm Progress

What’s Cooking in Illinois: What’s the value of a handwritten recipe, copied from an old Prairie Farmer? Generations of memories, and a forever keepsake.

Charlyn Fargo Ware

January 4, 2018

3 Min Read

I admit to loving cookbooks and shared recipes. For my wedding, my mom gave me a typed recipe book with all the family favorites. Most of them include the name of the family member or neighbor who was famous for the recipe — Texas Sheet Cake by Nan or Homemade Bread from Mary.

Just reading the recipes brings back good memories.

Jan Bosman of Woodstock, Ill., agrees. Her parents owned a 120-acre dairy farm in Rock County, Wis., where her father raised corn, soybeans, hay, chickens, pigs, and Holstein and Angus cattle. Like most farmwives, her mom cooked meals for the family and hired men — meat from the family freezer, homegrown fresh or canned vegetables, bread and butter, and often dessert.

“She always prepared enough for seconds,” Bosman remembers. “The food had to be on the table promptly so the workers could wash up, eat, smoke a cigarette or two and take a quick nap before returning to the fields. Dessert was really important to my dad.”

When Bosman’s mother died in 2005, Bosman inherited her rusted tin recipe box — an essential tool for old-time cooks. When she looked through all the handwritten recipes tucked inside, she found a few her mother had copied from the pages of Prairie Farmer magazine.

“My mother had this helpful trait of dating and citing the source for some of her recipes. Many came from friends, but others came from the pages of farm magazines that she and my father read after hours when they sat down after a hard day’s work,” Bosman says.

A few of the favorite copied recipes: Molasses Mincemeat Pie from a Nov. 2, 1968 Prairie Farmer (including ½ cup of unsulphured molasses) and Scotch Coconut Crème Pie from a Nov. 16, 1968 Prairie Farmer.

“Mother was a sensational cream pie maker, so I’m positive the final result was a masterpiece,” Bosman says.

Another treasure among the handwritten recipes on 3-by-5 cards was Special Cake from the December 1971 Prairie Famer. It’s reminiscent of the now-popular Dump Cake.

HANDWRITTEN: “I’m reminded of Mom when I see those carefully written recipes from nearly 50 years ago,” says Jan Bosman, Woodstock, Ill., who’s written a book to help people treasure their recipe memories.

“My mother didn’t expect either my sister or me to spend much time in the kitchen,” Bosman says. “We were more likely to help our father in the barn, work on our 4-H projects or tend to our schoolwork. But occasionally, she would let us frost a cake or whip some cream that had been skimmed from the top of a cooling in the barn.”

Handwritten recipe cards may be a lost art in these days of internet searches — but they’re a treasure for those who come across them.

“I’m reminded of Mom when I see those carefully written recipes from nearly 50 years ago,” says Bosman, who has authored “Memories of Family, Friends and Food,” a scrapbook you can fill with your own recipe memories. For more information, email her at [email protected].

Here’s to leaving recipe legacies to our kids.

Special Cake

2 cups crushed pineapple plus juice
1½ cups grated coconut
1 cup pecans
1 box yellow cake mix, two-layer size
2 sticks butter or margarine, sliced into ¼-inch squares

Pour crushed pineapple and juice into a greased 10-by-14-inch pan or two 8-inch pans. Cover with coconut and pecans. Spread dry cake mix over the mixture. Place squares of butter over top of entire cake. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes or until brown on top. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Makes 12 or 15 servings.

About the Author(s)

Charlyn Fargo Ware

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with Southern Illinois University Medical School in Springfield, Ill. Email recipe ideas to her at [email protected].

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