As mentioned here, my grandmother had a zillion cookbooks.  She read them for fun, cooked from most of them and left handwritten notes in some of them.  I inherited all of them and over the years, I’ve pared down.  I mean, most of the time when I need a recipe I turn to the internet.,,, The Hungry Hippo, Lady Gouda-they haven’t let me down yet.  But the cookbooks I kept, the ones I turn to, are the ones I know she used because I can see her notes in them.  So now rather than an entire cabinet of cookbooks, I have one long shelf.  See:

While I love the internet for recipes, there’s nothing like cracking open a good cookbook.  Pages, yellowed and stained and sticking together.  Glossy photographs of delicious food.  Handwritten notes like, “too much sauce” or “needs more spice”.  Sometimes the cookbooks have stories interspersed with recipes.  One of my favorites in this category is by Lora Brody, called, Growing Up On The Chocolate Diet. There’s an inscription in it, written to my grandmother which starts, “To my dear friend, G.”  They were friends and a few years ago, I emailed Ms. Brody to tell her how much I liked her book.  She responded telling me how much she had loved my grandmother. It was a nice little brush with local fame.  Each cookbook that belonged to Grandma is a connection for me.

Any time I open one of the cookbooks, I can feel Grandma with me.  These were books she held, wrote in and used. I can tell which ones were used more than others by the notes and bookmarks in them.  Some of her favorites were from of course, Julia. She also had a lot of James Beard. Over the years, as I’ve said, I’ve pared down-there’s only so much Japanese Ornamental Garnishing I’m going to do.  Some I hung on to because of the history.  I mean, I don’t speak French but this one seems too good to give away.  Especially since the one I have is pretty old.  Some I hung on to because I actually use them.  One of the ones I use often is Beard on Bread.

Grandma used this one as evidenced by her bookmark notes throughout:

This one says "too dense, try more yeast"

This one says, “too dense, try more yeast.”

The recipe I use most from this book is for banana bread.  There are actually two, side by side.  I’ve used them both and can’t ever remember which one I like more.  So I think I end up alternating between the two.  Of course, Mr. Beard has his own notes on each, calling one more flavorful than the other but saying that both are “extremely interesting breads.”

This time around, I used the recipe on the right.

Since we  had a book club meeting at my house this weekend, I decided to make all kinds of “tea” things.  Banana bread, pumpkin bread, cookies…  Ok, so really, I  made lots of dessert things.  Whatever.  While I’ll post about those later, I wanted to give you the banana bread recipe first.


2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

1 c. white sugar

2 eggs

1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (I actually freeze my bananas when they get ripe and I’ve found that they produce really flavorful, moist bread)

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional- I like nuts in my bread but my husband doesn’t so I tend to leave them out)


Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk the flour, salt and baking soda together and set aside.  You could also sift it but I’m too lazy. 

Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs and mix well. 

Add the mashed bananas and combine well. It’ll look gross but stick with me, it’s going to be good, I promise.

In a small bowl (I use a measuring cup), add the lemon juice to the milk- it will curdle a little (essentially you’re making buttermilk which makes me wonder if you could just go ahead and use buttermilk.  Hmm.  Maybe next time.).  Alternate adding that and the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Pour the batter into a well-greased (I use Pam) loaf pan.  I actually use one large and one baby loaf pan- it seems to be the perfect amount. 

Bake for about an hour or until the bread springs back when lightly touched in the center. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes and then turn them out of the pan and let them cool on the rack completely.  Don’t wrap them up when they’re still warm- it will make them sort of mushy.

4 thoughts on “Cookbooks

  1. I’ll hang on to this one – try it later, using gluten free flour (for my future daughter-in-love). My Mom had the Beard book on bread, but for some reason or other i can’t find it, so Im glad to have you post this recipe! Thanks! (Mom also took a one-week cooking course with JB once many, many years ago.)

  2. Pingback: Tea Parties and Book Clubs « My Family Table

  3. I’m dieting right now, but it can’t last with the holidays coming. I love banana bread! Thank you for the recipes. I have a number of cookbooks, too, but nothing like your grandmother. Wow! Blessings…

  4. 1) My mother has that Beard on Bread. I had it for awhile but then she took it back. As if she ever makes bread.

    2) Loose papers in recipe books are DANGEROUS things. The last time I found one I ended up making spaetzle on a weeknight. I’m glad yours was only an admonishment to try more yeast.

    3) Bananas are horrible, horrible things. Please keep those on your side of Connecticut where I won’t have to smell them.

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