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Our mother's recipes were a celebration of life.

Our lives, our families, our very history's are defined by the foods we eat.  Recipes
are passed on from mother to child and the knowledge of foodstuffs handed down
through generations, of delicious edible fares, bind our families and even our nation
together as one.

And with that I give you...........

Food and Genealogy
By Robin L. Wallace
The Fourth of July is coming, and I guess I  must be spoiled. When I was growing
up the time between the Fourth of July and Labor Day signaled the height of their
reunion season. My Grandmother Irwin was an inveterate attender of family
reunions, church picnics, or celebrations there were sponsored by the civic
organizations that she belonged to. And as you've read on other parts of this site,
while she was alive her husband's family reunion was always a big event to be
attended in something which I looked forward to well into my teens.

Unlike other people, my family situation tends to be a little bit odd. My mom's real
mother and father were dead by the time she was nine years of age, so as a result,
she and her brothers and sisters who were young enough were separated by the
county's child welfare system and placed in foster care. I never knew either my
Grandmother or Grandfather Smith, her parents. As the family history goes,
Grandmother Smith was too sick to care for her children (depending on who you
listen to, there were between 11 and 13 children in total). When she could no
longer care for them, she surrendered them to foster care, but because of the size of
her brood, they could not be placed all-in-one home.

I will not go into the horrid details here, but suffice it to say that due to my mother's
is family's beginning in life, I grew up in a family where there were relatives who I'd
never gotten to know. By the time my mother was nine years old, she was lucky
enough that she was being raised by my Grandmother Irwin, who also had enough
room to take in her and her younger sister, and for a short time an older sister.
Knowing my mother's family, the fact that her older sister had to be re-housed in
the nearby city was not a fault of my Grandmother Irwin . The older half of her
brothers and sisters were just too used to living in an urban setting and could not
survive the farm life that my grandmother and some of the other foster families

In spite of this beginning, my Grandmother Irwin did her best to be a mother to the
children she fostered. In her lifetime, I am told she opened her home to 23 children
who otherwise might not have had any kind of stability in their lives. Of all the foster
children it was just my mother, and later my mother and father after they had
married, who stayed around to care for my grandparents when they needed it. Due
to oddities in the State foster system, not to mention a scheme on the part of a pair
of my mother's older siblings to hide the death of my Grandmother Smith by moving
her to another state. When she finally passed away the State of New York was not
aware of this and therefore, could not legally put up those siblings left in foster care
for adoption. I know that if given the chance, Grandma Irwin would have adopted
my mother and her younger sister in a heartbeat.

While my mother was growing up, she was lucky enough to have two of her
brothers being fostered by another family who lived nearby and which allowed her,
her sister, and her two brothers to attend the same schools in the same school
district. Grandma Irwin and Grandma Gertie (the lady who took in my uncles) were
kind enough to allow the children to visit as often as they wanted, and Grandma
Irwin often allowed my mother's youngest sister (a heart defect suffered from birth
necessitated that she be placed in the nearby city, almost 35 miles away from or my
mother was, to necessitate rapid medical care if needed) to visit her on the farm and
later in the house owned by my grandmother after they had given up farming.

As the years progressed, much of the family information from her side of the family
and passed to my mother and younger children was incorrectly remembered by her
older siblings. For countless years at the rare family gathering, thrown whenever all
of them could be found in New York State, they would regale the younger
generation (me and all of my cousins) with, as it turned out, highly improbable tales
of the exploits of my Grandfather Smith, a man known to us only as the man in the
poor quality, fuzzy photographs taken of him in his World War One Canadian
Army uniform. Completely confounded at how they could give such reverence and
almost hero worship to a man who passed away around 1948, I was never able to
understand why they could so easily forget the foster families who took them in and
raised them to the age of majority. Even after my mother passed the golden age of
majority, my Grandmother Irwin did her best to help see that my mother made it
through nurse's training, and even after she married opened her home to both of my
parents. She was there for us from the day I was born until the day she died, and
will always be my Grandma. She was the one who accepted me as if I were her
own naturally born grandchild, and lovingly taught me the lessons that would later
form the cornerstones of my belief system.

Although I was luckier when it came to my dad's side of the family, they, in their
own way, were just as dysfunctional as my mother's family. My Great-
Grandmother Wallace separated from her husband when my grandfather was only
three years of age (possibly earlier -- it was a taboo subject never to be spoken of,
so I never did find out if she legally divorced him since she kept his name after their
separation. The family papers which might've confirmed this disappeared when an
unscrupulous antiques dealer made off with several boxes of period documents
when my uncle sold the homestead), and after my grandmother committed suicide
when my younger sister was only three or four weeks old, we never associated with
my Grandmother Rena’s side of the family until I was well into my teens. My
Grandfather Wallace passed in 1981, and his second wife, Grandma Alberta has
shared my grandfather's prejudices to this day, whether out of loyalty to her
husband, or a genuine dispute with them, I never have been able to find out.

I can look back now as an adult to realize that I didn't share in these sentiments,
and whatever their arguments were, they were in the past and had nothing to do
with me. It wasn't until I was 16 years old that my father reconnected with my Aunt
Helen and Uncle Sok who were my Grandma Rena's brother and sister-in-law.
Unfortunately, my time with them was short, as they both passed away before I
was 20 years of age, and their only daughter, Little Helen was gone before I was
30. Through them, I reconnected with my Aunt Ruth (Grandma Rena's little sister)
and my Aunt Lucy who was Grandma Rena's aunt. All of them were delightful
people and I really regret that the squabbles of the older generation robbed me of
their company and knowledge of family history while I was growing up.

The very first time the we went to see Uncle Sok and Aunt Helen, they were so
delighted and surprised that my dad would want to contact them (let alone bring his
entire family to meet them) that they put on a feast of family favorites that would've
done any King proud. Unfortunately, my love at that time was more along the lines
of writing than cooking, so I never did get copies of the family recipes before they
passed away. I regret that oversight to this day since Aunt Helen obviously had
some of the early family recipes that had been passed down both through the
Wallace side, as well as the Duryea/Sherwood side which I had never been privy
to. She made a salad of fresh cranberries, walnuts, flaked coconut, and whipped
cream, the likes of which I have never been able to reproduce or find directions for
to this day. The same is true for some of the other delectables that she served us on
that and other occasions until the time she and Uncle Sok passed away. If it had not
been for the trades that my Grandmother Irwin made with my Great-Grandmother
Wallace, all of the recipes from both sides of the family would have been forever

Again, due to some of the dysfunctions that operated in my dad's side of the family,
I am now in touch with cousins who never had access to the recipes that I have
shared on the site, and despite the fact that they had pictures of Great Grandma
Wallace and her siblings, they were too little to know them before they were gone,
and consequently never shared in the wonderful family recipes or knew the
characters that I grew up with. My cousin recently sent me pictures of the four, and
the first time I was able to put names to the faces, and the approximate times and
places the photos were taken for them. Sadly, they never got to experience life on
the homestead, but will now have to rely on those places where life in the Victorian
era is re-created for tourists and schoolchildren.
While we no longer have reunions on my father's side, I have tried to take steps to fill in those gaps in the family history that
were never made apparent to me. The same has been true on my mother's side of the family, although strides have been
taken in recent years to correct this oversight. After so many years of staring at that stranger in the picture, I decided to take
matters into my own hands and try and find some information on the young man pictured there. Knowing that my
Grandfather Smith served in the Canadian Army, I contacted the Department of the Royal Canadian Army to see if any of
his service records still existed, especially since members of the family were suffering from medical problems that could not
be traced due to lack of information. After all these years of moping and crying, not ONE of my mother's siblings had ever
done a thing to take this step. (Even earlier than this I had contacted a penpal who was living in Belgium at the time, and
through her kindness obtained from her pictures of my Uncle Herbert's (an older brother of my mother) grave. He died in
the Battle of the Bulge in 1945. Up until that point no one had ever seen his grave, and my mother was more than delighted
to immediately make copies of the photos and pass them out like peppermints to her family.) According to the official I
contacted, I was the very first member of his family to contact them regarding his service records, and the packet of
information I got back from them was quite an eye-opener. It was an important key in merrily skewering the vast majority of
the sacred cows of family recollection.

It turns out that my Grandfather Smith was NOT an American citizen who was so eager to fight in the war that he lied about
his age and joined the Canadian forces at the tender age of 15. In truth, he was a Canadian citizen born in Bellevue, Ontario
who was called into service with the Royal Canadian Army at the age of 21. Despite the articles he wrote for a regional
newspaper, and the legends handed down by my mother's older siblings, he never saw military action (much less was
bayonetted in the chest by an enemy German soldier as he crested a hill) but developed a near fatal case of tuberculosis
which was with them for the rest of his life and was returned to a tuberculosis sanitarium in Saskatchewan, Canada well
before the war ended. I now have a very good idea where my talent for writing probably originated.

Like many others seeking easy US citizenship at the time, he exploited a loophole that many immigrants were aware of to
make it seem that he was born in the United States. In 1898 there was a major fire in the facility located in our state's
capitol where the birth and death records are stored. All of the records from little towns reporting in from across the state
up until that point and which had been sent to the capital department of vital statistics were destroyed, so rather than
obtaining a birth certificate from his adopted town, he received a certificate from the state which said that his birth records
had been searched for and most likely were destroyed in the fire of 1898. Ta dah! Grandpa Smith was now a citizen of the
United States and entitled to American social services. Due to the laws operating in Canada up until recently, it means that
my mother, her siblings, and me and my cousins all had dual citizenship until 1972 when Canadian law demanded that a
choice of country be made.

On my dad's side, I have only recently made strides in filling in family history concerning my Great-Grandfather Wallace and
his family. I always remember my Uncle Clayton, his wife, Aunt Barbry, and his sisters Ida and Leona, but it was never able
to figure out just how they fit into the family tree. My dad, as it turns out, was one quarter Native American through his
father, and now I understand why Uncle Clayton had long hair and rarely spoke English around me. Most of the time he
spoke Gaelic, or from time to time what I believe was Seneca, and when I was around him or the others, I grew up
speaking these tongues along with him. Great Grandma Wallace either spoke a dialect of German or Gaelic, so again I grew
up speaking something other than English when I was visiting with them. (Uncle Harry would frequently take a great delight
in teaching me swear words in any of these languages, and then sent me off to ask my dad what the words meant just to see
if he can get a rise out of my dad.) To this day I believe firmly that this is where I picked up my love and ear for foreign

If you're like me and have decided that you want to delve into your family's history, don't wait and do it now while some of
the older members are still around to provide stories and information. There are plenty of inexpensive family tree software
programs around (the one I use cost me a whole $9.95 at Wal-Mart), but if you don't have the opportunity to use one of
these, I suggest you start with 3 x 5 cards and a notebook. Because you know the most about your own circumstances,
make the first card you do for yourself. Include your birthday, pertinent details like when and where you were born or
baptized (in my family I was the very first child to be born in a hospital and not at home like both my parents), when and
where you graduated from high school, and if old enough, who you married, when and where. You can also include such
information as memories of the houses that you lived in as a child, schools that you attended, childhood friends, etc. Next do
one which has as much as the same kind of information possible for your husband/wife. Now do the same thing for each of
your children, your siblings and their spouses, children, etc..

If you find 3 x 5 cards too small to contain this information, you can do the same thing on pages punched for a three-ring
notebook if you don’t want to use the cards.. Page protectors make fine holders for things like graduation
announcements, napkins or announcements obtained at the weddings of family members, copies of birth, death, or marriage
certificates, or other information you might find for any given person. Be sure to group these pages together by family.

Now start a page for each member of your family that you're interested in learning the history of. One of the fastest ways to
fill out these pages is to take this notebook with you to your next family reunion. Explain to the relatives what you trying to
accomplish and ask them to look at their own page to see whether or not the information you have on them is correct. At
the same time, if they bring a dish to pass that is a family heirloom, ask them if they'll write down the recipe for it so you can
keep it with their information. Ask them where they got it, and how might it changed over the years as they made it for these

If there are older members of your family who might find it difficult to write up their story or recollections, take a small tape
recorder with you and ask them if you can record them as they talk. I wish I had such a device back when my Grandmother
Irwin and my Great-Grandmother Wallace were still alive. It certainly would've caught and preserved many of the stories I
had heard from both sides of the family, possibly filling in some of the gaps I am faced with now in doing my research on
both families . If at all possible, you might even want to take time to make several appointments and visit with them in order
to keep from losing their memories due to disease and loss and later be able to accurately write down their recollections.
These stories will be invaluable for future generations and prove to be a good jumping off point for you to begin your
genealogical searches. If possible while you're there, ask them if you can see any documents they might have in their
possession like birth certificates, baptismal certificates, old wedding invitations, graduation announcements, or even any
obituary clippings they might have. Since they might be reluctant to let these things go to make copies of, be prepared to
either copy down the information by hand, or record it for later transcription.

Although now rare, the old family Bibles can be a good source of information concerning such things as births, weddings
and deaths. During my grandmother's generation all of these details were usually lovingly recorded in special sections made
just for this purpose (usually contained in the center of the large Bibles) kept by the family. In Scotland for example, it was
not uncommon for a new groom or bride to write in their information to the family Bible just prior to or on the morning of
their wedding day. As in my case, sometimes it's also possible to find old copies of family recipes along with other such
things as a flower pressed from a wedding bouquet or other special arrangement.

Examples from my own family history are as follows:

When my Aunt Claire growing up, she was a member of the choir at the high school she attended. She never has been
known to be a cook, but for one particular end of the year picnic put on for chorus members, she was insistent that she was
going to prepare a dish to pass by herself, without help from my mother, grandmother and or anyone else.

Having grown up with my Grandmother Irwin from about the time she was five years old, she no doubt was more than
familiar with the range of dishes that Grandma often prepared for the myriad of socials and picnics that her busy social life
required of her. She even had the benefit of knowing my Great-Grandmother Black (Grandma Irwin's mother), and no
doubt was aware of the dishes passed in that social circle as well. Like Grandma Irwin, Great Grandma Black was active in
such organizations as the Home Relief Corps (they knitted and rolled bandages which they sent overseas for use by the
soldiers in World War I), the Farmers’ Home Bureau, the Grange, the Co-Operative Extension and the Eastern Star.
This of course did not include the variety of church groups that she was a member of. Like Grandma Irwin she was always
doing something for anyone who needed a hand.

I don't know why Aunt Claire made the choice she did, but she decided to make the two grandmothers’ version of tuna
macaroni salad. Completely eschewing any kind of help, my aunt cooked the macaroni into a semi-glutinous mush. I don't
know if he panicked due to some kind of time restraint, or just was clueless as to how the dish should turn out, but she
threw in the remainder of the ingredients, then took a hand mixer and blended the entire mess into a gray, lumpy paste. I
was told by the chorus teacher (I had her myself, during my own high school years, since the school district was small
enough that most of the teachers held their position until they passed away) that she made everyone take some of the tuna
macaroni salad until it was gone.
Read, "The Story of the Missing
Cookie Jar" by PenVampyre.  A
delightful little Christmas story with
mouthwatering  recipes for the most
wonderful time of the year!

Read "
Santa and the Magic Key",
plus recipes for your holidays.  A
story by Robin Wallace.

Read "
Easter and Where NOT to
Hide Eggs"  Memories of Easters
past and a few vintage recipes.

Logan's Halloween Story -The
original story won first place in
sixth-eighth grade division of
Southeastern Middle School, 2005
by Logan Lyon

Family Reunion Recipes.
"The Fourth of July and Other
(With Apologies to Jean Shepherd)
By Robin L. Wallace

A short story by Suellen Fry.  
Memories of my father and his
version of
My grandmother and me - circa 1950 something
Bertha Black's Cabbage Salad


1 small head green cabbage, finely shredded

1 cup red cabbage, finely shredded (optional)

5 scallions, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained (reserve liquid)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

2 McIntosh apples, cored and finely diced

1/4 to 1/2 cup black walnuts or pecans, medium chopped

2 tablespoons stone ground mustard (such as Gulden's,

Miracle Whip salad dressing

In a bowl, mix cabbage, celery, scallions, apples, nuts and crushed pineapple. Toss well.

In a small mixing bowl, mix reserved pineapple juice, mustard and enough Miracle Whip to form a creamy dressing. Add
sugar. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix until well blended. Pour over cabbage mixture and toss until all
ingredients are well coated. Serve immediately.

Note: Although I have never tried this recipe personally, I have tried Grandma Irwin's recipe for cabbage salad with a
packaged cole slaw mix, but the result is not the same. It's best to do the shredding yourself with the green and red
cabbage, although it requires more work.

There also seems to be a notation that hickory nuts or English walnuts may be substituted for the nuts in the recipe if
that's all you have on hand.

As with Grandma's other recipe if you don't have crushed pineapple, rings or chunks may be substituted, Just dice them
up a little more finely. I started using crushed pineapple in Grandma's recipe after it became available to save time. When
I was a kid, it was my job to cut up pineapple rings or chunks smaller for the salad.

I suspect that as with the other cabbage salad recipe one small shredded carrot may be added if desired, on occasion,
for church suppers and dish-to-pass dinners to pad the amounts.

You can decrease the amounts of sugar, salt and pepper to taste, if desired, as well as omitting the red cabbage and
Families in the late 40's, early 50's
1950's baby in car

Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Set macaroni aside to thoroughly drain.
In a large bowl finely chop hard-boiled eggs, add diced scallions, celery, garlic, and flaked tuna. Add the macaroni and mix
ingredients well.

Add Miracle Whip and toss until all ingredients are well coated. (If onion powder and celery seed are substituted, they can
be mixed with the Miracle Whip prior to adding to the other salad ingredients.) Use right away, or refrigerate until needed.
Be sure to refrigerate any unused leftovers.

When my Grandmother Irwin was growing up, she lived a couple miles from school she attended, so from about the time
that she was eight years old, she would hitch up the family horse to their buggy and drive the two or three miles to the local
school. There is an old stone trough that up until recently was located near the Temple Hill Cemetery in town and still filled
with water. All of the kids who had horses frequently stopped there on their way to and from the school to water their
horses and socialize. I am told that it was at the school where my grandmother met my grandfather. Living closer to the
school than my grandmother did, he walked to school everyday. She would often offer him a ride in her buggy and
accompany him back to his house before driving back to her own home.

In the winter, living in the northern United States, it was not unusual for impromptu hockey games to be played by the
children at the school. Never mind that hockey equipment, per se, did not exist. Being the ever resourceful farm kids they
were, they would often find sticks or appropriately-shaped branches to be used as hockey sticks to bat around a ball made
of horse manure (Gram always insisted that it made a fine and dandy hockey puck until such time as it melted a little and
started stinking, at which time they would simply choose another frozen ball of manure to continue the game). The area was
always famous for its fox hunts conducted from thoroughbreds, so between those and the animals which came to school
there was never any shortage of material to be used as hockey pucks.

Of course, not being raised on a farm all the time, but rather was merely a visitor, my sensibilities were a little bit different
when it came to some of the things encountered as a part of their daily living. Although my grandmother insisted all her life
that every person had to eat a peck of dirt before they died, I was always convinced that MY peck was going to be a heck
of a lot cleaner than hers.

Another story that I remember with great fondness was the time that Grandma Irwin and Aunt Agnes (one of grandpa's
sisters that you can read about in the Fourth of July piece on this site) were doing some spring cleaning at the farmhouse
Grandma and Grandpa owned. While the two of them were cleaning, they came across a mysterious clear liquid housed in
a jug that normally carried water for the farm hands.

The day was hot, and not wanting to go back to the kitchen to get water, the two of them decided to sample what was in
the jug, thinking it was a leftover from when one of the men was out working in the field. They both decided that whatever it
was tasted pretty good, so after a little bit, giggling, they went back and had another sample. More and more as the morning
progressed they found themselves giggling and going back time after time for just a little more of whatever was in that jug.
By the time my grandfather got home to have his lunch, he found the two of them sitting on the floor in the kitchen, laughing
their heads off. As it turns out, Grandma's father had hidden a jug of homemade dandelion wine from his wife in a jug they
usually used to send out in the field with water for my grandfather, and the two of them, not being drinkers nor realizing
what they had gotten into, had managed to get themselves completely drunk on the dandelion wine. Without realizing it, the
two of them had managed to polish off almost three gallons between the two of them. Needless to say, very little cleaning,
or anything else for that matter, was accomplished that day. My grandmother told me that she had such a hangover from
this occasion, that she never touched a drop of alcohol again the rest of her life.

While doing the research for this piece, I found an old yellowed sheet written in my grandmother's hand. It appears to be a
version of the cabbage salad that my grandmother always used to make which I believe to be the version favored by my
Great-Grandmother Black and she was alive. I don't know if Grandma just never liked this particular version, if Grandpa
Irwin would never eat it (he was the fussiest thing at times), or what, but I never remember having tried it. On the paper
Grandma attributed it to her mother (it was titled "Mother's Cabbage Salad"), and I have to say although I've never had it, it
sounds very tasty. I offer it here in the hope that this or any of the other recipes that I have cited and shared on this site will
help you get started on your very own journey to finding the history of your family's treasured vintage dishes, as well as a
good way to start recording your own family's story for your future generations to come.
The correct recipe is as follows:

Bertha Black/Leona Irwin’s Tuna Macaroni Salad


1 pound box elbow macaroni, cooked according to package

2 (6 ounce) cans white albacore tuna, well drained and flaked

3 stalks celery, finely diced (if you don't have the celery, 1 teaspoon
of celery seed may be substituted

6 scallions, finely diced (1 teaspoon of onion powder may be

6 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and chopped finely

2 cloves of garlic, minced finely

½ cup Miracle Whip salad dressing (or enough to thoroughly coat
salad mixture)
Vintage family
Happy at work in 1960 something
Me, Starla and my mother in 1972