Four Cookbooks and a Yellow Giftbag

Over this weekend, I inherited four cookbooks. Three came from my friend, V, who is also the mother of my much-loved son-in-law. V's force of nature Russian mother, Julia, also a friend I used to visit occasionally, moved into a retirement home some time ago. One of V's parts in sorting through her mother's belongings that couldn't move with her included a small library of cookbooks. She gave me the first refusal at several she thought I might like and sent photos of their covers so that I could select the ones I'd like, including a selection last week. Then, on Friday, she came for dinner with her son and our daughter in our downstairs apartment, which they're renting for a few months. She brought the three books I'd chosen in a repurposed cheery bright yellow gift bag: The Oy of Cooking, a treasury of a Jewish grandmother's recipes, complete with stories; Baking with Julia (no need to add the last name!) and a book of Amish cooking.

Yesterday my friend A came up from the city to pick up an order of baked goods. I included a couple of extra things I thought she'd like: a Merry Fruit Loaf and some popular Gingersnaps and a card with New Years' good wishes. In her hands, she also held a gift for me, a bag containing a cookbook that had belonged to her late mother, whom she'd loved dearly. She apologized in advance, saying that it might not be the best shape, but her mother's other books were all in Armenian. The book was likely given to her by one of their new Canadian neighbours' many moons ago. I treasured the book the moment it passed into my hands. When I opened it after A left, I was thrilled with the book for its own sake. It is a classic from the 1970s, edited by Norma MacMillan, whom I discovered edited many cookbooks, many for the British department store, Marks and Spencers. The recipes have two sets of measurements: British pounds and ounces and North American cups and spoons, and at the back, there are special instructions for Australian cooks! On Amazon, the book has 4 global ratings, all 5 stars. I quickly spotted three classic British recipes I want to try soon: Victoria Sandwich, Dundee Cake, and Flapjacks (made with Golden Syrup, which Paul loves.)

As I took V's books from the yellow gift bag, I noticed a name and phone number on the bag, so I sent a message to her with them. She thanked me and said that the note was in her late husband's handwriting and she just could not erase it, after which I told her that now it meant something to me, too. So yesterday afternoon, I carefully cut out that section of the bag and glued it into my journal, to which I will add this little story.


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