Wednesday's Cookbook: Baking History

Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters
by Marilyn Brass and Sheila Brass
There are recipes that are handed down from generation to generation, the type of dishes that bring back strong memories of someone you love. We have a lot of those in my family sausage gravy makes me think of my grandma, ginger crinkles remind me of my great-grandmother, and chocolate pies make me think of my Chris-Mom (That's the name I made up for my other grandma. And it fits her).
For my mom, there are almost too many dishes to list. But her blintzes send me into orbit. When we were kids, we could barely wait until she had them off the baking sheet. I can't tell you how many times I burned my tongue on them. I never learned.
This cookbook, recently named a James Beard finalist, is the follow-up to the Brass Sisters book on heirloom cooking that was published in 2008 and it has a similar nostalgic flavor.
The Winthrop, Mass.-based sisters (named Marilyn and Sheila) have spent a lifetime collecting archival recipes. They have snapped up old recipe boxes at flea markets and yard sales, purchased old cooking pamphlets and guides full of recipes, and have poured over their own family journals to collect these amazing recipes.
Adding to the nostalgia of the food are photos of antique cooking implements and cookie cutters, as well as the covers of old recipe books from 1900 to 1940. A date is listed with each recipe so you can get a sense of the time period.
But this isn't an antiquated cookbook; directions and ingredients are completely up-to-date. In some cases, the expert Brass Sisters have slightly changed the recipes to adjust for more modern tastes.
The book is organized by type (like "Keeping the Cookie Jar Filled" or "Waking Up to Breakfast") and by occasion ("A Southern Lady Pours Tea" or "Bridge with the Girls").
I also like the interesting sidebars. For example, Sweet Touch gives suggestions for additional ingredients or toppings. Sweet Tips offer cool ideas like coating a spoon with cooking spray before measuring honey.
The heart of this book is that sense of family and of sharing. And in that spirit, the Brass Sisters also included pages in the back of the book so you can write down your own heirloom recipes, as well as a built-in envelope to store old notes and cards. So my next task is to convince my mom that I need the blintz recipe. Stay tuned...
(2011 - Black Dog & Leventhal - awesome name for a publisher)

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