Recipes from her mother res­cued He­len from de­pres­sion

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - THE CUT - He­len’s grand­mother’s le­mon cake

par­ents died as I star ted hav­ing chil­dren and so I’ve pre­served my cul­ture and passed it on through recipes. If you have t hese writ ten in t he hand of a loved one they’re even more pre­cious.’

El is e is qu it e po s s e s s i ve of t he recipes. The fam­ily recipes for Texas chilli and ‘never-fail’ brown­ies (‘from my grandma’s neigh­bour’) are guarded. ‘But when friends get mar­ried I write out the brownie recipe and give it as a wed­ding gift,’ she says.

Recipes from her mother and grand- mot hers res­cued He­len Red­fer n, in Hunt­ing­don, from a pe­riod of de­pres­sion af­ter her son was born. ‘I ba­si­cally baked my way out of it us­ing their recipes. I felt I had some­thing to show for the day if I’d baked a cake. The recipes aren’t just in­struc­tions, though – there are also doo­dles, notes on ad­just­ments, even shop­ping lists.’

He­len has al­ready sta r ted putt ing to­gether a note­book for her 14-year-old son. ‘I wanted to do some­thing more mean­ing­ful than just putting recipes on a blog. And I wanted t here to be de­tail, t he ex t ras t hat are par t of t he col­lec­tions handed down to me. When my grandma dies I won’t just have her dishes, I’ll have her hand­writ­ing, some­thing that’s spe­cific to her. The recipes don’t have to be amaz­ing, they just have to be sig nif­i­cant. I re­cently made gin­ger bis­cuits with my son for the f irst time. My mum cut the recipe from a cerea l box; she made t hem, I make them and my son is mak­ing them. That means a lot.’

Recipe col­lect ions a re records of lives, of spe­cific times and peo­ple, even of as­pi­rat ions, en­riched by t he ex t ra sc r i bble s a nd st a i n s t hey ac qu ir e through use. I’ve just bought a note­book to fill for my son who’ll be leav­ing home in Septem­ber. ‘I won’t need that, Mum,’ he laughed when I told him. ‘I have your cook­books.’ But I can tai­lor th i s c ol le c t ion for hi m, put t i ng i n hi s f avou r ite di s he s – s uch a s my mum’s ch icken s oup – plu s ex tr a i nst r uct ions a nd t ips. He might not ‘need’ it, but I want to be sure he has it. And I hope it gets stained.

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