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Ingredients for a Good Life

I imagine we all have a favorite cookbook or well-loved handwritten recipe from a dear one. Those recipes can serve as passageways to another time. The memory of making Christmas cookies with a grandmother or a special holiday dish that always graced the table. Those recipes and traditions link us powerfully to our memories and evoke the warmth of friendships and shared family times.

For me, my favorite cookbook is one my church family created years ago. We put the call out for favorite recipes, and they flooded in. It was a wonderful community project. Many of our older members had recipes from previous generations to share. They brought us recipes used for generations of church suppers. A favorite pie. The instructions for cooking large quantities of beans. A recipe shared between friends, one of whom must have said, “I MUST have your recipe.”

When I look at this copy of my beloved cookbook, I smile with the memories it brings to me. The front is coffee-stained and I wouldn’t have it any other way. A dear friend who passed several years ago, spilled her coffee on it so we weren’t able to sell it. The recipe I made today, No-Bake Cookies, was submitted by another friend. Just below it is a recipe from yet another friend who passed away. When I see her name I remember her smile and her ridiculous love of pigs. Then, there is the memory of working together to create the cookbook. It raised funds for some very important projects at the church.

I could spend hours just leafing through this cookbook and remembering so many shared experiences with the women whose names appear there. My mother’s name is there. How many suppers did she prepare for her own family over the years? And then, how many church suppers did she help with? And that’s a fine point to raise. These generations of hardworking women who took care of their own families and cooked a million meals for them, washed a mountain of laundry, then turned to their communities and did more of the same.

They baked miles of pies, sewed fancy work for fairs, served on committees, and taught Sunday school. They were humble women, but they cast long shadows down through the years. I miss them. But I find them always when I open that cookbook and see their names. I remember their voices chattering in the church kitchen as they washed those piles of dishes. They washed dishes until the dish they were looking for, the last one, was neatly placed on the shelf. Then the dishtowels and aprons were bundled up to go home with a volunteer for washing. The last one out turned out the lights and locked the door. They went back home to chores and children, their backs aching and feet throbbing, but with a sense of satisfaction beneath their exhaustion. They did their part.







And that is perhaps their greatest lesson. We each have a role to play in the world, whether humble or great. And in the fulfillment of that role, we leave behind fond memories and the echoes of our own smile for years to come. And can we leave behind a greater legacy than to have someone smile when they think of us? I can’t think of any greater.

P.S. The cookies were delicious.

No Bake Chocolate Cookies

From the kitchen of Edna Fadden


2 cups sugar

1/2 cup margarine

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup cocoa

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup peanut butter

3 cups quick oatmeal


Melt first 3 ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring. Put remaining ingredients in bowl and mix all together. Drop from spoon on waxed paper. Cool.

(Note from Caroline: I used old-fashioned oats, and substituted vegan margarine and coconut milk to make them vegan.)

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