19 June 2010

Bedstemor's Bottom Drawer

Things always have an odd way of reappearing when you need them...especially, those special little treasures from the past.  I had not realized that over the years since I first acquired them that I had somehow split my collection of family cookbooks and recipes into several locations.  The beginning of this blog journey seems to have dusted off some of my memory and made me realize how much more these little pieces of family history have to offer to the next generation of both cooks and bakers.

Back in her day women like our Danish mother went to cooking and sewing school to complete their education as young ladies.  Growing up on both sides of the shores of our heritage my sister Lisa and I were to receive instruction beyond what most girls of our generation might only find in their paltry economics class in junior high school. From an early age...and mean pre-school age, we learned to needlepoint, crochet, knit and sew.  This also was true to our first exposure to the wonders of the kitchen.

It seemed that all the Clausen women from our Bedstemor's side of the family were amazing cooks. Each seemingly were equally trained and adept at some part of traditional Danish cuisine.  Thus, we were not only shown by our mother how to cook.  But, we had three wonderful women of an earlier generation: Maria (also known as Missa, who was our grandmother 'bedstemor'), Karen and Johanna Cecilia (Biss) to expose us to their kitchens.  There was a sweet rivalry between these three sisters regarding who made the best sauce, baked goods or particular dishes.  The only thing the three did concede was that their sister-in-law Ingeborg who was married to their brother Knud was their superior. Otherwise, the three were constantly trying to out do themselves much to the gastronomic delight of everyone.

The heart of my Danish recipe collection come from them...and especially, the ones I discovered back in 1990 in our Bedstemor's bottom kitchen drawer.  It was a solemn occasion for me. I was visiting the family in Jylland only after a few months of our granmother's passing at age 86.  Age has a cruel way of limiting both the mind and body from one's former daily routines. In her last few years, this lady with whom I had discovered the many wonders of Danish cooking had simply through her lack of health abandoned a lifetime's passion for her kitchen.    It took the cleaning up of her kitchen for me to rediscover my cooking roots. My cousin Peter and I were doing a drawer by drawer inventory and cleaning when we happened upon this musty old bottom drawer.  In this oddly disheveled pile of stained and torn paper was our Bedstemor's lifetime collection of old cookbooks, handwritten recipes and odd clippings. Here was her personal journey through cooking and baking. There were multiple recipes from various friends and family members for the simplest of Danish dishes. I found more recipes for 'leverpostej' and 'klejner' than I thought could possibly exist.  Years upon years of mutual admiration of another's gastronomic talents written on pieces of paper as compliment to another's ability in the kitchen.  

Since that moment in our Bedstemor's kitchen, my collection has grown. From those acquaired after our mother Ulla's death in 1995 to those of my great aunt Karen (my namesake) which followed a couple years later, the recipes I now possess reflect the legacy of many women with whom my gastronomic heritage belongs. 

Who knows if I will ever be able to cook and bake my way through them...some are fading and seemingly are missing pages or instruction. But, I'll try as they did to make the best dish possible.  It seems the least I can do for them...and the recipes they left me.

See the library for the list of inherited cookbooks.

(shown here is my great aunt Karen's mother-in-law Sørine's little pocket cookbook dated Oct 14, 1930)...I hope to scan it and translate it before it fades away .


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