Recipes from her mother rescued Helen from depression
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.