02 July 2011

The story behind the blog

My beloved mother, Betsy Carnall Stine, was (among many other things) a talented cook and a warm hostess. A transplanted Hoosier who raised her family in Massachusetts, my mother subscribed to a kind of 1950s housewife school of cooking: scratch baking, casseroles, Sunday roast. Our house was always filled with people—my parents’ many and varied friends, neighborhood kids, our schoolmates, and students from the college where my father taught for 40 years. When my mom passed away in 2005 from ALS-related complications, her box of recipe cards remained mounted on the kitchen wall.

When my father sold the family home in 2008, I took the two-drawered wooden box, glad to have salvaged something that preserves my mother’s personhood so aptly. I treasure the box’s contents not only as the ingredients that flavored my growing-up years, but as small souvenirs of a generous life. The hundreds of recipe cards are almost all handwritten, and not only in my mother’s elegant cursive. Here and there I recognize my maternal grandmother’s hand; other recipes hail from the kitchens of the many good cooks my mother counted among her friends.
I never expected to find myself launching a recipe blog. I mean, it’s not a very original conception: the blogosphere is supersaturated with posting foodies. What’s more, anyone who knows me well can attest that whatever talents I may possess tend to lie outside of the kitchen. But even as I may be sharing recipes, I am far more interested in their histories. Each recipe is its own sweet or savory letter—often from another kitchen— recalling a friendship, a place, a meal, a memory.
The title of this weblog, “If you can read, you can cook,” was my mother’s practical-minded mantra. To this day, when I feel myself a culinary butterfingers (forgive a terrible pun), I remember to relax, read the directions and follow them in order, even if I think I have a better way.
It’s not bad advice, really.


  1. Jennie, what a wonderful idea for a blog and what a perfect way to honor your mom! I cherish my mum's recipe box, too, and still make her beef stew and chocolate cake (dairy-free because the recipe most likely dates from WWII). I can't wait to try The Shortbread, too!

  2. Thanks, Michaela! Mayhap I will make The Shortbread for an upcoming Convergencia!

  3. Hey, Jennie, I stumbled upon your blog via facebook. Hope it's okay if I follow along. I cherish many memories of Bets and your kitchen on Larrabee Ave and I'll be looking forward to your post entitled "Dill is my life." Just kidding, no pressure.
    Casey Rich

  4. Thanks, Casey! I'll keep an eye out for that a recipe that lets me use that very title!

    I'd LOVE to have you follow--I'm hoping to raise a little bit of ALS awareness here, as well as share the recipe stories.