Signature recipes

Ever wonder why your mother's (or a friend's) coveted recipe is just never right when you make it yourself? This excerpt might help to explain it. 



My mother's recipe was easy, really. It called for:

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a quarter pound of butter
a quarter pound of sugar
three tablespoons of golden treacle
one teaspoon of almond extract
and half a pound of oats

I call it my mother's recipe, though she may have copied it from somewhere; she was always copying down a recipe. But this one was not cut from a magazine, or copied from the newspaper, as she did, by rubbing wax paper over newsprint to collect the words and then rubbing the wax paper on a page of the scrapbook, transferring all those little black newsprint letters. This recipe was in her handwriting: "Melt butter, sugar, and treacle, and add essence. Take off the fire, add oats. Mix well, pour into a greased baking dish, and bake in an oven with a moderate fire for half an hour. Let cool. Cut into squares."

"Add essence" By this she meant "add almond extract," but when she made oatcakes she did add essence, her own essence. When I made oatcakes, they didn't taste anything like my mother's, though I followed my mother's recipe to the letter. They tasted good enough, but they tasted of my essence, not my mother's. There are no two cooks that can make the same dish; you'll find that essence in one and not the other. Or the essence in each is just different. I don't know. But you'll know the essence of a good cook when you find it in a dish. You'll just know. It was there in my mother's cooking. My father knew it. He'd eat the oatcakes my mother made, but not the oatcakes I made.

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Posted on June 14, 2015 and filed under Poetry & Quotes.