The Inheritance

By Joyce Maynard, "The Inheritance," May/June 2012

Author Joyce Maynard's essay on inheriting her mother's recipe box.

"I picture Joyce's mom, as well as mine, in that kitchen with one spoon in one hand and the other hand resting on the counter while reading these treasured index cards. Lovely homage. "

She taught me how to bake—less by any formal instruction than from years spent watching her brisk, confident, joyful approach in the kitchen, the thumb in the eggshell to scoop out the last drop of white, the authority with which she wielded her pastry blender and her rolling pin. But because I always assumed she’d live forever —she was the type who gave that impression—I never sat her down to ask how she kept her roast chicken so wonderfully moist or what the secret was to that flaky pie crust.

I was 35½ when the diagnosis came, of the brain tumor, and not quite 36 when she died—at 67, way too young, her cupboard spilling out with ingredients and a freezerful of giblets from the last 15 or 20 chickens she’d purchased. Kept to make broth.

Our inheritance didn’t add up to much, but I had no doubt, when my sister and I cleaned out our old house, that I wanted her file box filled with recipe cards, with those Dutch girls hurrying across the top and sides.

Next: Time Marches On »

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