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Mother's Recipe Box
Sarah Russell


Friday night baked beans with salt pork, molasses,
and just enough water to keep them covered,
simmering in the bean pot her mother used.

Refrigerator rolls, dusted with flour, punched down,
rolled out to rise again as doughnuts, cloverleaf rolls
for company, hamburger buns for picnics. The dough

kept a week in a big bowl covered with wax paper
that took up most of a shelf in the icebox, its recipe card
with Mother’s school teacher penmanship, splotched

from yeasty hands and buttered fingers. And oh my,
the Jello concoctions—celery, slivered carrots
and pineapple in jiggly lime or orange with a mayo

and sour cream topping. And the congealed
Christmas staple of cranberries from the grinder
with orange bits and that ubiquitous celery.

Some of the cards have friends’ names—Hilda’s cherry pie,
Wilma’s meatloaf. Some have culinary graphics in a corner—
wooden spoons, checked aprons, Italian chefs winking.

My daughter asked for the box awhile back. It blesses
her kitchen from a high shelf. I doubt she has ever used
the recipes, but she knows its legacy, its secrets.   

© by Sarah Russell.
Used with the author's permission.     

Sarah Russell lives in Denver, Colorado with a patient husband and a curly dog named Smudge. She’s the author of two poetry collections—I Lost Summer Somewhere and Today and Other Seasons, and blogs at When she isn’t writing, she gardens, knits, and cheers on her nine grandchildren.



Post New Comment:
What a beautifully resurrected period piece tale of a recipe collection lifestyle. I too possess a recipe cookbook with handwritten notes from a cherished grandmother who lives in those notes. Felt the love within the telling of your poem.
Posted 05/16/2024 12:25 PM
Kelly Scott:
I love the reflection of memories.
Posted 05/09/2024 11:16 AM
Wilda Morris:
Ah, yes! I have one of my mother's favorite cookbooks - one in which she hand-wrote suggested alterations, and recipes she was given or found in magazines and liked. Nothing like Mother's recipes!
Posted 04/27/2024 07:30 PM
Lori Levy:
Beautiful memories.
Posted 04/27/2024 02:50 PM
lovely poem
Posted 04/27/2024 01:34 PM
Sharon Waller Knutson:
I love this delightful, charming visual poem because it is homey and comforting. Makes me miss my mother. I can see, smell and taste the baked beans and molasses, the jello with carrots and pineapple my own mother made. We also had a tiny crowded ice box. Thank you for the wonderful memories.
Posted 04/27/2024 12:01 PM
Thanks for the comments! Cork, the icebox was so crowded because it was so, so small. We had a freezer compartment (without a door to hold the cold) IN the refrigerator section that could hold an ice cube tray and one mess of trout or perch my dad caught. That big old crockery bowl that held the dough would literally fill one whole shelf.
Posted 04/27/2024 11:21 AM
Why is the icebox always so crowded?
Posted 04/27/2024 10:16 AM
Why is the icebox always so crowded?
Posted 04/27/2024 10:15 AM
Larry Schug:
This poem describes the way things should be. All of it is so descriptive and I very much like the ending as well as the description of the recipe cards.
Posted 04/27/2024 07:06 AM

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