Keep Civil War Recipes — Keep

In my grandmother’s emphatic scrawl she instructs that these recipes, part of some sort of public relations campaign for the Potomac Edison Company of Hagerstown, Maryland, be kept, saved.  My grandmother added this to her collection over fifty years ago and, forward thinking, left a message — like one in a bottle — to those of us downstream.  The pamphlet of recipes is on my desk now, downstream.  She’s been dead seventeen years and her box of jumbled recipes, never ordered by her (or yet by me) also sits on my desk.  And from time to time I reach into it and pluck randomly to see what I will find and where I will be taken.  Her box is an archive of time, an archeological dig on a miniature scale, perched right here, holding the dreams and education and reality, not to mention culinary habits, of a 20th century woman’s life.  This little pamphlet was folded into her collection 100 years after the Civil War and she wants those whose hands it will fall into later to keep it.  “Keep” she instructs twice, almost desperately.  Keep.  She doesn’t want history to be swallowed whole and forgotten.  Who knows if Rivel Soup and Sally Lunn and Molasses Ginger Cake (which, the pamphlet tells us, was a favorite because it kept well and could be mailed to the troops in the field and still remain fresh) were actually favorites.  But does it matter?  The message in this pamphlet is that “good food, good living and good workers go hand in hand” and it promises the “industrial advantages of the ‘Valleys of History.'”  My grandmother rises from this box of hers on my desk with her offering: recipes, wars, my life, your life, our lives, history — don’t forget.  Keep.

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