THE RECIPE BOX – Thank you, Mrs. Leeming

THE RECIPE BOX – Thank you, Mrs. Leeming

LINCOLN – Often I think about the loss of family treasures, the heirlooms such as Grandma’s china dishes, old Pyrex casserole dishes, retro decor and the recipes passed down, collected and shared over a lifetime of being a homemaker.

My brother-in-law is employed as a refuse hauler when he is not in the Parks and Recreation Department cutting grass and grooming our town parks. He also collects ephemera.

There’s an old idiom by Yotam Ottolenghi that states, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and I am about to prove that to you. On a recent hot August day, he found in someone’s trash, a hardcover recipe book, that tells quite a story.

It is actually an older-style photo book, a three-ring binder with the plastic that you pull back, set the pictures and then overlay each page with the plastic, a protective covering. Keep in mind these photo books are now a thing of the past, thanks to digital media.

He was kind enough to retrieve the book for me, knowing I might like it for the recipes. He was correct. It was very clean, but dated. I left it on my dining room table for about a week, anticipating that I’d need time to peruse the pages and perhaps gain some insight into the collection. I never thought I’d learn so much about the collector.

The first page was yellowed and torn out of a magazine; the headline read: “Delicious Recipes of Top Celebrities.” Dinah Shore’s Deep Fried Mozzarella, Teddy Kennedy’s Cape Cod Fish Chowder, and Frank Sinatra’s Italian Chicken Potatoes and Onion dish, to name just a few.

Judging by other photos on the back of said page, Sammy Davis Jr. was still alive (he passed away in 1990) and there was an article about telephone operators. Remember when you dialed “0” to reach an operator? We were taught as children to dial “0” in an emergency but now that is gone and replaced by 911.

There was another noticeable trend throughout this book, several pages of “get in shape for Christmas,” or the 4-Day Wonder Diet plans stating, “Lose up to 10 pounds in 4-days.”

These easy diets (an oxymoron if you’ve ever had to lose weight) were the fad of the day. For years this diet of unknown origin had been copied and passed from office-worker to homemaker and to the figure conscious.

There was a nice blend of savory recipes, desserts, brownie bars and even a strawberry sipping dessert, more like an ice cream soda. Most were cut out of newspapers or magazines; however, there were handwritten recipes as well, like the one for Broccoli Cheese Soup, a Stuffed Cabbage recipe that called for Lipton Onion Soup Mix, and a Roast Pork with cranberry sauce.

The back of one recipe showed the sales that week at Shaw’s Meats – while supplies last; top rounds steaks for $1.49/lb., stewing beef for $1.19/lb. and Land O Lakes Butter, $1.19/lb. Boy have those prices changed!

A hint at this person’s ethnicity was her love of English recipes, Devonshire Tart, British broiled tomatoes and an English meat pie. Also sprinkled in were some saved personal memories, a wedding photo of a marriage between Elaine M. Bowker and David F. Culton which I’d later learn the significance of.

The family wedding occurred at Woodlawn Baptist Church and a reception followed at The Admiral Inn – that facility is long gone, both the pink building and the hill upon which it stood, replaced by condos.

“Dear Abby” was a repeat visitor in these pages, as was John Rosemond, the child psychologist and his parenting advice column (his column now appears in The Valley Breeze). One of his articles headlined, “We Shouldn’t Have Stopped Listening To Grandma.”

Finally a few saved brochures, one from a local church, St. Margaret Church in Rumford, where a name on the bulletin reflects someone close having been a sponsor for a child making their Holy Confirmation.

And a promo for a “Know Your Catholic Faith” game that asked questions like, “Complete the Beatitude … Blessed are the poor in spirit …” Can you complete it? The answer is “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

At last, toward the very end of the collection of recipes was a piece of mail addressed to a Mrs. Irene Leeming, of Almond Street in Lincoln. Ahhh, this would make sense since the book was discovered in Lincoln.

Assuming the book belonged to an older person, I Googled the name and was saddened to learn that a Mrs. Irene Leeming, age 90, had passed away on Wednesday, July 24, at the Holiday Retirement Home. The obituary read: Born in Woonsocket, she was a daughter of the late John and Margaret (Tomlinson) Bowker. Mrs. Leeming resided in Lincoln for many years. (Remember, the name Bowker was the maiden name of the woman in the wedding photo.)

This part of the obituary confirmed to me my overall sense of her “recipe” book. “Mrs. Leeming was a homemaker who enjoyed going to Cape Cod (White Horse Beach), going to the casino and playing the Kentucky Derby. She also enjoyed reading.”

Her get-thin-quick fad diets and her sense of humor leave me feeling more convinced than ever that the struggle is real. About halfway through the book, and exactly opposite each other, was a “Pineapple Diet” for quick weight loss and a recipe for “Banana Fudge Walnut Brownies.” The struggle is real.

I was left to wonder after my glimpse into Mrs. Leemings’ private collection, “Do I know her just a little bit, or did she know me?”

One last thing I wish to share … this Chinese proverb appears on the very first page of the book:

If there is right in the soul,

There will be beauty in the person;

If there is beauty in the person,

There will be harmony in the home.

If there is harmony in the home,

There will be order in the nation.If there is order in the nation,

There will be peace in the world.

Thank you, Mrs. Leeming.

Rhonda’s Note: My story is based on supposition. If someone from Mrs. Leemings’ family would like to share or confirm that this book belonged to her, please contact me at .

I would be more than willing to return this treasure to a more deserving family member.

British Broiled Tomatoes
Hearthstone Inn, Eureka Springs, Ark.

4 large ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tbsp. cubed butter
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Sprigs of parsley for garnish

Wash tomatoes and cut into halves. Drain on paper towels, cut side down for about 20 minutes.
Place tomatoes, cut side up, in a baking dish, brush tops with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and the crushed garlic.
Sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.
Place under the broiler until cheese is bubbly and browned, approx. 3 minutes. Watch closely so as not to burn. Serve immediately with sprig of parsley to garnish.

This is the photo album full of recipes and memories of the life of Mrs. Leeming of Lincoln. (Breeze photo by Rhonda Hanson)
This recipe for Broiled Tomatoes was taken from the recipe collection recovered from the trash.