Recipe Box

1970s Recipe Box
1970s Recipe Box

This recipe box from Avon may be pure 70’s Americana, but the recipes inside reveal a story of my mother’s family. There are recipes, like my mother’s Pink Fluff, that bring me back immediately to my childhood in Michigan, and then there are those that take me on a much greater journey.

My favorite recipe is a simple chicken and dumpling soup—a rustic dish that my mother would make with her grandma, Agnes, and mother, Elsie, for Sunday dinner. My mother speaks fondly of her grandpa and grandma, Joseph and Agnes Bachan, who both immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia at the start of the 20th century. I never had the chance to meet my mother’s parents or grandparents, but through this soup and the stories it brings, I have a sense of knowing them. As I eat, I imagine Agnes as a child in Eastern Europe at her mother’s side, learning the steps to make this soup as her mother shares her own family stories.

Living in New York, I make this soup for myself when I need to feel warm, fuzzy, and connected to my tribe. But the original recipe calls for caraway seeds, which I don’t like, and I leave them out. I wonder how it would be to serve Agnes that concoction of Jello, cottage cheese, cherry pie filling, and pineapple that is Pink Fluff with her traditional soup? What would she make of such a dish? What would she omit?

That history, the far past and the more recent, live together in my mother’s little yellow recipe box. And as it is passed down, I feel comforted in knowing that the stories of Agnes, Elsie, Cindy (my mother), myself, and those yet to come, will endure.

Place(s): Czechoslovakia
Year: 1900

– Niki Cooper

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more