The Genealogy of a Recipe


My family has a collection of recipes that come from various friends and family members. They are part of our celebrations and meals, parties and surprises. Some of them I can share (and I do, over at my cooking blog, Holy Spoons. That’s where you’ll find some of my grandmothers’ recipes.) But other recipes are truly family secrets and they aren’t mine to share.

That’s the case with these cookies, affectionately called “Mrs. Griffin’s Good Cookies.” I had to think a bit to remember who she was, who in the family knew her, and when I first tasted her cookies. (And, I might add, just about anything that came out of her oven could be classified as “good”!)

Tonight I baked these confections. As they cooled on the baking rack, we sampled them. (The broken ones, of course.) They were DELICIOUS!!

Mrs. Griffin’s Good Cookies


I had to consult with my sister and my mom to get some specific instructions, as the notes on my faded and stained recipe card didn’t have a few key instructions. But after texting back and forth a few times, there was clarity and success. Delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, amazing success!!

Tomorrow I will share these gems with church family and friends. They were well worth the work, and honor the memory of the generous baker who shared the recipe with our family in the first place.

I reflected on how much of what we know and do is handed down by word-of-mouth. Family traditions, holidays, celebrations all seem to come through the generations, each previous generation depending on the next to listen, take note, and (perhaps) improve on the work of the past. In the church it is no different, of course. Every time I read 2 Timothy, I reflect on how the faith of the grandmother and mother were accepted and lived out in the son/grandson.

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. (2 Timothy, NLT)

But the faith of Lois and Eunice would not have become Timothy’s had they not shared it! I suspect his first theological education began as he watched them care for others in their church, perhaps providing meals for a widow or for orphans. They patiently answered his questions and challenged him to make their faith his own. Paul reminded Timothy of this.

Cooking and baking is like that, too. You have to watch, try, and try again. You adapt what works in a modern kitchen. You get the benefit of years of baking and cooking. I’m reminded of my mom taking the recipe for corned beef (which called for a side of beef in a barrel!) and reducing the portions to make it with a 5 pound roast. I worked with the family’s treasured white bread recipe to make a tasty loaf in the bread machine.

Like many recipes, I’ve added notes in the margin now. What size pan I used, how long it took to bake, and any other reminders so that the next batch comes out of the oven with a little less guesswork. These “tried and true” recipes and tips are what bring the personal, special touch to our tables.

Not every recipe is a keeper! The “Grange” cookbook that was my grandmother’s was a hellish collection of jello salad molds, pickled beef tongue and spam recipes. I remember many of these dishes with a shudder…

So it is with the traditions and expectations of the Church of previous generations. We observe their “lessons for success” – and try to duplicate those practices which infuse life and love into our churches. Perhaps, just perhaps, we are discovering that there are customs that we can let go of… for another generation to grow their own expressions of love for Christ and reaching the world with God’s Love. We can keep the traditions that work… like Mrs. Griffin’s Good Cookies.

thoughtfully… and gratefully yours…


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