Kimmitt Genealogical Research

03 May 2016

Elsie's Receipt Book--The Heart of the Home

Good cooks have always collected recipes, or receipts as they were sometimes called. My mother-in-law's mother, Elizabeth Mary Stephens (Drapes) Churton, aka Elsie, was no exception. We recently uncovered a little journal, begun on 16 June 1918, eight months after she married, and about the time her husband was to return home from World War I, minus an arm and in need of much nurturing.

Elsie was born 12 July 1885 in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, Ireland. She met her future husband Harry Leslie Churton when he was working at the Asylum there as an electrician.

Cooking being at the heart of what we consider home and family life, this little book gives us insight into Elsie's world. Maybe because Elsie was born and raised in Ireland she didn't know some of the recipes that the English ladies already had ingrained in them, but for whatever reason we find some classic English foods, along with little hints. The page below has a very simple recipe for that most cherished dish, Yorkshire Pudding.

Beneath that is a key to which sauces must be served with which meats. Critical that the sauce changes depending on cooking method, so a roast chicken demands bread sauce, while boiled chicken wants a parsley or egg sauce. I remember my mother-in-law still holding to these hard and fast rules and wish I had known at the time that she had it all written down! Entertaining the in-laws might have been a little less stressful had I been able to anticipate the proper sauces!

Initially I thought it would be fun to work through each recipe in order, as an homage to ancestors, cooking and love, but mayonnaise sauce and many of the other treats don't really fit into our current dietary regime. What else, what else might Elsie have a receipe for?

We learn that Elsie was an orderly sort, for she created an index at the back of her little book. Oh, I like this lady!

Now this would all be quite wondrous enough, but upon further examination I found that Elsie and I have a few other things in common. First, she was a singer! While techniques may have changed a bit, I love that she recorded these warm-up exercises.

As if that weren't enough to put me into a swoon, I then discovered we have a pastime in common--knitting! Here are directions for making socks for her new husband. Now there's something I could try. You can see that she has squeezed in a receipt at the bottom, sideways, just as my mother-in-law Rosemary used to do on aerogrammes when she wrote to us and had one last message!

Finally, in anticipation of having children, Elsie also had some instructions for knitting baby garments.

Did mother-in-law Rosemary and Auntie Tealy (Sheelagh) end up wearing these woolly pants? Probably!

If we are lucky our genealogical research turns up documents, and many of those are dry--full of facts, and lacking in warmth, but helping us link together the generations with proof. Most are transactions between men concerning war, purchases, migration, and death and probate, in sum, the harsher side of life. This pleasing little journal, on the other hand, gives us a peek into the softer side of our family history and we will cherish it always.