A segment on Wisconsin Public Radio last Friday has me thinking about cookbooks and recipes. After listening to people call in about what websites and blogs they get their recipes from, I had to call in with my two cents worth. I am a very nostalgic person, as anyone reading this column knows. It extends to my appreciation of cookbooks, recipes, and the ties they make to connect future generations with the past-around a table of food.
    I spoke of how I no longer keep my cookbooks nice and neat. It hit me a few years back that I would have a much easier time remembering if something was worth making again if I noted the tweaks needed. Now when I try a new recipe, I date it near the recipe and add a note to jog my memory. Under the recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake Bars in my Taste of Home Best of Cookies and Bars Cookbook it reads: ‘3-12-15, added a bit of raspberry pie filling, Peter LOVED!’ Often with main dishes I’ll note how to alter them so they can be a field meal. Taste of Home Ground Beef Cookbook has a Tasty Meat Pie recipe that has the note, ‘Add potato flakes to thicken and put in biscuits, great field meal.’ Of course there are the fails as well, Oatmeal Muffins-‘Not as good as they sound, dry and blah.’ ‘Putzy, more work than worth’, honesty is the best in my cookbook scribbles.
    I leave these notes not only for now to help me quick search out a winning meal, but for the future. I appreciate handwritten recipes as links to kitchens of the past. I fear that in our online world the generations that follow won’t have those pieces of magic that make our mouths water and conjure up a memory by reading them. I’ve delved into my mom’s recipe box. It is a cataloged assortment of newspaper clippings, handwritten recipes on cards, and recipe cards cut from magazines. I’ve opened one of Grandma Ike’s cookbooks and been ecstatic to discover that she too wrote in the margins, and stuffed her cookbooks with recipes from newspapers.
    I favor the Taste of Home cookbooks, particularly the ones from about 15-20 years ago. I also have a vast collection of church and community cookbooks. Some have come to me new, and some bear the badges of honor from being cooked from daily in their past lives. Edges are worn on pages that were fumbled for many times, there are grease spots from accidental splatters, and every so often a note or a star for a good recipe. I add my own scratches and stains; hoping that sometime in the future, someone appreciates these as much as I do.
    I have a few homemade cookbooks that are used almost daily. I have a small photo album filled with recipes, no organization whatsoever beyond me marking the recipes I frequent with a paper clip. This is a handy method of storing recipe cards because it keeps them clean. I have a binder with bright magazine pictures, a drawing of helping Dad with a D.A. surgery my 6-year-old artistic self, and all kinds of wonderful family-favorite recipes that my mom compiled for my 17th birthday.
    I also have my notebook of very important recipes and details. I keep telling myself that I will get another notebook to transfer it into and put it into proper order, but if we’re being honest, I’m too busy baking to get around to that. I have been keeping track of what I feed the men during chopping for the past seven years. Notes include the weather, how many men, and a hurried detail of the meals. It is a wonderful asset to speed up my meal planning; I can just look back and get ideas from years past. I note how many eggs I used, butter, burger, all sorts of goofy things. I write down recipes I have found online so I have a paper version of them that I don’t have to scroll through every time I have a hunger for them. I also use it to keep my diary of our Thanksgiving meal; who I fed, what they liked, and general notes about the day. This notebook has been a lifesaver in those moments when no ideas are popping into my head about what to feed hungry mouths.
    As I explained my notebook and writing in cookbooks system to the hosts of Food Friday last week, they called these things ‘treasures’ and said I should write my own cookbook. ‘Someday’ I told them. At the very least, I will need to decipher some of my personal abbreviations for things as I wrote them in haste, so that my children can read my notes.
    I’m sharing with you today one of my favorite quick, old-fashioned desserts. Fancy in presentation, and ease of preparation it comes from my binder, written in my mom’s perfect cursive handwriting. Surprise your family with this treat this spring.

Grandma Monroe’s Jelly Roll
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
5 Tbps. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the eggs and sugar. Add water and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and whisk into egg mixture until batter is smooth. Prepare jelly roll pan by lining with aluminum foil sprayed with Pam (I prepare the flour infused variety). Pour batter in, making sure it reaches all corners. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges are starting to turn golden brown. Prepare towel for cooling place a thin towel on the counter and sift powdered sugar over entire thing. Lift foil from pan and flip onto towel, gently peel foil away. Starting with a short side, making sure to keep the towel with you, roll tightly. Let sit and cool. When cooled, unroll carefully and spread your favorite jam/jelly to within an inch of edges. Reroll. Sprinkle with more powdered sugar. Refrigerate to help firm up. Slice with serrated knife. Enjoy.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (12), Dane (10), Henry (5) and Cora (toddler), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.