Mom’s tattered old notebook sat on the bookshelf like a ghost. Between its faded black covers are a lifetime of recipes. That was mom’s recipe book- where she diligently wrote down every recipe we ever loved. Between it’s pages is our family’s story told through food. In the kitchen you rarely saw mom without that book. She and it were a culinary duo that could whip up all of our family favourites.
Right on the inside cover- at the very beginning is the play-doh recipe she’d used when we were kids. The recipe came from the preschool accompanied with the expectation that each parent would take their turn supplementing the school’s meagre craft supplies with homemade salty dough. I still remember what it felt like to work with that salty, greasy warm dough- plunked straight from the pot onto the table for our little fingers to shape.
On page 183 (mom was very organized) is the wacky cake recipe she used whenever one of us had a birthday. We all got the same cake but mom would personalize it for each of us with raisins, chocolate chips and if we were really lucky, nickels wrapped in waxed paper- what a treat it was to stick your fork through the moist tangy cake and find something sweet to put in your piggy bank.
A little further on there are recipes for German berry cake, empanadas and herbed crepes, brought to mom from overseas by the exchange students my parents hosted. Mom was always willing to try something new and she made it her personal mission to nurture those students with food- serving foreign dishes as often as our normal home cooking to ease their inevitable homesickness.
Near the end of the book the recipes reflect mom’s life after we kids flew the nest; complicated homemade ketchup and fancy butternut squash and shrimp in coconut milk soup. These were the recipes she was really able to experiment with, without having to worry about bratty kids turning up their noses. These were the recipes she shared with friends when she and dad finally got their lives back. The potlucks at the church, the dinner club parties and feasts with friends…
And then she was gone and the book got shelved.
In September I wasn’t ready to look at the book. I didn’t want to think that she would never open it’s pages again. I wasn’t ready to believe that she was really gone. In December we all diligently avoided that book while we tried to have our first Christmas together without her- searching for recipes on the internet rather than thumbing through mom’s personal compilation of family favourites.
Today-I wanted a hug from my mom and so I cautiously pulled her dusty tome from the shelf and leafed through well-loved pages until I found her recipe for cinnamon loaf. Mom brought me some of this loaf the last time she visited my home and so it seemed fitting that this was the first recipe I made from her book. One of my favourite quick breads, this loaf is so rich and sugary it is like what a warm hug from your mom might taste like.
Calixa and her cousin were as much help as two 3 year olds can be and together we whipped up a cinnamon loaf worthy of kings and served it to the family. I like to think that mom was watching us work today, smiling at Cally and Jack’s enthusiasm and proud that her family is still enjoying the foods she loved to make for us. This one’s for you mom!
Makes two large loaves. Preheat oven to 350F
1/2 c. butter
2 c. sugar
2 c. plain yogurt or sour cream
In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients:
2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp salt
In a third bowl combine the topping:
1 c. coconut
1 Tbsp cinnamon
Mix together the creamed ingredients and the dry ingredients. Pour 1/4 of the batter into each greased loaf pan, then sprinkle 1/4 of the topping into each pan. Pour the remaining batter into each pan and then finish with the remaining topping. Your layers should be: batter, topping, batter, topping.
Put your loaves into the oven for 45 minutes. Then lower the heat to 300F and cook an additional 10-15 minutes- until a toothpick comes out clean. This loaf freezes really well and is best served warm with butter.