My Family’s Cookbook

Passing down meals and memories thanks to an album full of recipes

I grew up in an old farm house in Bowdoinham, which was once a bakery in the 1800s. We were surrounded by acres of wild raspberries and apple trees and had a large garden.

On hot summer evenings, my mom would be in the kitchen with the fan blowing, making a pie or canning pickles from cucumbers my sisters and I had picked. We always had homemade desserts, and there was never a Saturday spent without eating homemade pizza.

Katie Bingham-Smith and her mother, Karen Schneider, make oven-fried chicken together at Schneider’s home in Harpswell. The recipe is from Bingham-Smith’s great-aunt Joanne. Photo courtesy of Katie Bingham-Smith

During the long winters, I’d come home to freshly baked loaves of bread. My mom would take a stick of butter and slide it over the tops of the bread just as they came out of the oven. I loved to cut a fresh slice and spread it with peanut butter and homemade jam.

Everything was made from scratch. Our dinners consisted of heaping piles of beef burgundy over egg noodles, chicken fried steak or enchilada casserole. For dessert there was homemade cakes, cobblers or cookies.

As I grew older and started a family of my own, I wanted all those warm memories to come to life again. When I was 27 and pregnant with my first child, I quit my job to stay at home and care for him. The first thing I did while planning for that transition was ask my mother for all the recipes my parents used to make for the family while we were going up. I wanted to share those meals and make memories with my family.

My mom wrote down every family recipe by hand and presented it to me in a photo album. This book will forever be my favorite gift; my childhood is wrapped up in those pages.

Each recipe is smeared with butter, sugar or sauce of some sort. I’ve pulled the prized book out at least twice a week since she gave it to me 16 years ago. I’ve made every recipe dozens of times over.

Each time I crack it open, I am back in that old house, smelling the cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. I’m listening to my mom beat icing for our favorite chocolate cake. I’m watching her roll the dough for Christmas cookies and I can smell the beef stroganoff simmering on the stove and hear the bacon sizzling for the pasta carbonara.

My mom’s favorite recipes are in that book; my favorite recipes are in that book; my kids’ favorite recipes are in that book. They are such a part of who we are, I know they’ll stay in the family for long time, if not forever.

Photo by Katie Bingham-Smith

The recipe I’ve made the most from the cookbook is the enchilada casserole. It’s decadent, cheap and easy to throw together when you have a mad craving for Mexican food but don’t want to spend a lot of time stuffing burritos or preparing lots of toppings for tacos.

Enchilada Casserole

1 24-ounce can of red enchilada sauce
1 package of corn tortillas
1 pound of ground beef or turkey (browned in a frying pan)
8 ounces shredded cheddar

Layer all ingredients in an 8×10 casserole dish or baking pan. Start with enchilada sauce and top with cheese. Bake at 350 for 30–40 minutes until hot and bubbly. Great to make ahead of time and freeze (thaw before baking).

Katie Bingham-Smith is a writer, shoe addict and mother living in Bowdoinham. She pays her kids to rub her feet and never turns down anything with caffeine.

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