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My mom is a great cook. A few years ago, I thought it was high time to compile a cookbook of family recipes, which would of course include hers, as well as those handed down from her own family, and my father’s mother, not to mention family friends.

Below is the cover, with a photo of my mom skiing at age 28, and my drawing of her recipe box.

Bringing everything together became a labor of love, with my mother gathering and reviewing every recipe and double checking the instructions. The cookbook is divided into sections with family photographs and scans of some of the original handwritten recipes.

Here are some of the divider pages, with photos of us when we were young (I have an older brother and a younger sister) and my parents were in their thirties.

On the back of each divider page is a list of the recipes in that section. The photo below is of my grandparents in the 1930s. Looks like my grandmother was flapper!

Since my parents are German and most of their friends are European, we ended up with recipes from Germany (specifically Bavaria), Bosnia, Croatia and the Czech Republic. This meant heavy use of meat and enough desserts to fill a small truck. Also making an appearance are random additions, like stir fries, pasta and the spirit of Julia Child.

I thought it would be fun to illustrate and create a hand-written title for each recipe. The illustrations are drawn with black ink and colored pencils, then scanned and pulled into the page layout. The cookbook starts with special holiday menus.

Then it breaks into sections and individual recipes. Soups and salads…

Main courses…

Veggies…

And everyone’s favorite course, dessert! Look at that list of recipes! Everyone had a contribution for this section. Yes, that’s me reaching for my chocolate bunny on Easter morning in my fashionable robe.

After I scanned all of the art, I composed the book and printed out four copies, then had them bound at my copy shop. This became a Christmas gift for my mom, brother and sister.

A few questions for my mom:

Which recipes are your favorites? Holiday meals with either roast duck or roast goose.

Do you enjoy cooking? What do you like about it? Yes, but not every day. I like experimenting and being creative.

What do you like to eat the most? And the least? I like pasta, salad, fish, venison, crepes, spatzle, stir fries, paprika and curry chicken, and zwetschgen kuchen [an open tart made with pate brisee dough and Italian plums]. I don’t like raw shellfish, rich sauces or fatty red meat.

How did you learn to cook? Did you help your mother? No, I never helped my mother, since she made very simple dinners of pork roast or chicken, nothing fancy. I learned by buying cookbooks, and watching the Galloping Gourmet and Julia Child on tv. But mostly it was by traveling and eating new foods, being curious and recreating those meals with the help of cookbooks. Also, I found Julia Child’s cookbook at a rummage sale for $1, and starting trying her recipes.

Are there any foods that you ate as a child in Germany that are not available today in the U.S. but wish you could eat again? Yes! Real Weisswurst [a traditional Bavarian sausage made with finely minced veal and fresh pork bacon, flavored with parsley, lemon, mace, onions, ginger and cardamom], big Bretzen [giant soft pretzels from Munich], boleto mushroom soup and Leberkase [Leberkase means “liver cheese” although it contains neither. It’s a finely ground mix of corned beef, pork, bacon and onions that’s baked in a loaf until it has a crunchy brown crust].

What advice would you give someone who wants to learn how to cook well? Be curious! Take classes, buy cookbooks, and watch DVDs or cooking shows.

Thanks, Mom! Here’s a photo of us together on Mother’s Day this year. Whenever I’m cooking and not sure about something, I ask myself, WWMD? What Would Mom Do? It always helps.

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