When my Grandma was 86, she told me she was thinking she would move in with me. Since my Grandpa had passed away six years prior, I repeatedly told her she was welcome to live with me if she ever decided she no longer wished to live alone. I was thrilled!
My younger brother has a fondness for antiques and told her that since she, herself was an antique, she could stay at his house. I secretly think he was hoping Grandma would move into his home so she could prepare family favorite meals exclusively for him.
Who could blame him? Grandma’s parents emigrated to the United States from the Basque Country in the north of Spain and made a home in a small Basque community in the eastern part of the state. She and her ten brothers and sisters contributed to operating a boarding house. She had been cooking since she was a child, and she was quite good.
Growing up, Grandma spoiled us with her cooking. Though she is Spanish, she made a mean Chinese dinner, complete with fried shrimp, chow mein, and her exceptional fried rice. No restaurant comes close to Grandma’s fried rice.
She surprised us on special occasions with cream puffs. We were so cruel. We used to take pictures of ourselves enjoying our delectable treats and send it to the cousins who were silly enough to miss a holiday at Grandma & Grandpa’s house.
She made fudge, peanut brittle, and a special cranberry punch for Christmas. Grandma’s food made holidays and “everydays” more special.
Now, I should remind you that she is Basque and was raised on traditional Basque cuisine, where no part of the animal is “wasted”. This means she also demonstrated culinary expertise in Basque foods I love, as well as some that are not necessarily my favorites, such as tongue, turtle soup, pickled pigs’ feet, and tripe (you can look it up for yourself).
If you were to ask around as to which one of Grandma’s dishes was their favorite, most people in the family would list Grandma’s clam dip in the top five (it would be nearly impossible to limit your selection to only one choice).
As with most of her specialties, when asked how to make it, Grandma would rattle off ingredients in non-specific quantities. Because she had prepared these dishes for eighty years, her mind preserved the details. She had no need to write her recipes on paper . . . and she was moving in with ME!
I was honored to have my Grandma living with me. I looked forward to learning how to make the Christmas fudge and peanut brittle (she had already shared the punch recipe with me years before). Additionally, I was eager to preserve some of the gifts that contributed to such rich traditions in our family.
I soaked up all I could in the year she lived with me and, believe me I took notes! After we moved Grandma to the adult foster care, I sorted through a box she brought with her when she moved into my house and came across a wooden box. It was full of recipes. Some were from her sisters or friends. Some were clipped from the newspaper or magazines. And some were in her handwriting. She DID write some recipes down.
Combing through the box, recipe by recipe, I unburied some treasures: sour dough starter, Aunt Bea’s peanut brittle, and bread pudding. I kept looking. Then I saw it. Clam dip. Written in her handwriting. I simply stared at the recipe in disbelief. The card was old. The writing was smooth, penned by a lady so youthful that at eighty-six she probably forgot she had ever written the recipe on paper.
I organized the recipes and placed the box on the closet shelf. This recipe deserved to be on display, not stowed in a box. I put the thought in the back of my mind, for several years, waiting for the right moment of inspiration.
Transforming Handwriting into Art
Grandma’s clam dip recipe! I got to work, scanning the recipe card and eliminating the background, leaving Grandma’s handwriting. Using my Cricut Explore, I cut Grandma’s words accompanied by some design elements and mounted the vinyl on my decorative chalkboard. I genuinely smiled when I removed the last bit of transfer paper, revealing Grandma’s recipe in her own handwriting on a piece of art to hang in my home. Using handwriting as art. Who would have thought it would turn out so well?
I showed it to my Mom. She rubbed her fingers over the dainty lettering. “Is this Grandma’s writing,” she asked. “How did you do this?” Mom proclaimed she needs to learn to use my Cricut machine. In the words of Amuma (Basque for Grandma), which have become the mantra of my family, I told my Mom, “Come anytime”!
Thanks to Cassie for the creative inspiration! I’m now excited to preserve more family writings and am seeking techniques appropriate to the individuals. In my searching I came across a post describing 9 Creative Ways to Preserve Handwriting on a site called What’s Your Grief. It’s got my gears turning. What will I think of next?
How have you preserved family treasures? Leave me a comment below.
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