Mystical Temples and Bridges to the Future . . .

“My kitchen is a mystical place, a kind of temple for me.  It is a place where the surfaces seem to have significance, where the sounds and odors carry meaning that transfers from the past and bridges to the future.”  Pearl Bailey

Here I am in my “temple,” making “Curried Pumpkin Pots” from my Autumn Book.  I look like a mountain in Vermont in that apron, but I love it . . . I am a fall festival all by myself in my kitchen!  The third best place for me after we got home.  Number one, was of course, seeing my kitty; number two, we needed to go out on our walk and see how everything was doing out at the pond; and number 3, into the kitchen to nest like crazy and get ready for the holidays.

When I pull a card from my recipe box, where there are recipes from my mom, my dad, and my grandma inside, (and chocolates I saved from the QEII and a note from my girlfriend Sarah) and pick up one of my old wooden cooking spoons, I go right into that “significance,” where the “past bridges to the future.”

There’s no better time of year to feel that connection and all the traditions that come along with it, than now.  And there is no better time for the nesting part of it, than when you are home (home!) from a long journey; you’re alone in your kitchen, with your birds scurrying around the feeders just outside the windows; your guy is making hammering noises outside on the rose arbor (men making hammer noises, or lawn mowing noises is an aphrodisiac to me), because right that moment you know that all is right with the world. 

But all is not quite right if your cutting board looks like this, not really!  I promised you I would write about keeping your wooden things looking healthy, so this is the day; and here is the “before” photo!  Because #1, I love my cutting boards and old spoons and #2, I really couldn’t be making beautiful fall food with dried up wooden things . . . it’s really just not done! 🙂        (I’m nesting, leave me alone.)

I’ll show you the cutting board first, because it’s basically the same method for the spoons . . . the thing that solves the problem is Mineral Oil.  Because, unlike other kinds of oil, it will not go rancid.  You can get it at the supermarket, or at the drug store, and keep it under your kitchen sink.

You can already see how much better the wood looks under the puddle of oil!

I use a pastry brush to paint the oil on.  And since it has a wooden handle too, I soak the brush part in a bowl of hot water and dish soap when I’m done . . . no dishwasher for wooden things, it dries them out, takes all the color out of them, removes the patina of chicken soup and creamed butter and sugar, all those cookie juices you worked so hard to instill into these things.  Just a quick hand washing for them is fine.

The cutting board is done; now here is the “before” picture for one of my favorite spoons  . . . a spoon that knows all my cooking secrets and the inside story of every dinner party I’ve ever given.  A very good girl.

And now, she is oiled.  We let her sit, absorbing, while we do the others.

This takes no time at all.  After they’re all done I let everything soak up the oil for a couple of hours; it will all disappear.  See the “Sue” spoon in the middle?  My dad made that with his own two hands. ♥  You can also find old wooden spoons, even handmade ones, sometimes in antique stores, and all they need is a good soapy washing and some mineral oil to bring them back to life, carrying all their cooking history with them, adding more “mystical” to your kitchen.

This pig board is another thing that’s been with me through thick and thin and cheese parties and sparerib servings too.  I got him when I was in my early twenties and he’s followed me everywhere, from California to Martha’s Vineyard, from small apartment to New England house, through cookbook writing and Joe-meeting too. ♥ 

I never use wooden cutting boards for raw meat or fish, I have a plastic one for that.  But every once in a while I will clean my wooden boards by sprinkling salt on them, rubbing them with lemon juice, then drying them well before I oil them.

Deep dark and delicious, that’s what they look like when they’re done.  Ready to return to their spot next to the stove, ready for the holidays, ready to help bring the past, through favorite old recipes (my grandma’s Turkey Stuffing!), into the future, again, for another holiday season. 

Now your turn.  I have a very special wooden thing that I think fits right into the realm of mystical-kitchen making, although, in the end, it will be up to you to complete the picture.  It’s a starter kit, and truly one-of-a-kind, a little original piece of art in my mind . . .

Would you like to have this?  I’m a big rescuer of old wooden recipe boxes.  I can’t bear to leave them behind when I see them in antique stores, especially if they have some family’s collection of recipes in them. So I give them for gifts. When I found this one, it had divider cards in it and a few recipes; of course I have no idea where it came from, because like quilts, recipe boxes aren’t signed. 🙁  I made it a little more homey by writing words on the divider cards; I added my recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole (it’s used, as you will see; it came out of my box) . . . I also put in the words to the song Cinderella sang, a dream is a wish your heart makes, that I keep in my own box.   One of you should have this box is what I think.  It has plenty of extra cards in it for your own recipes.  I wish I could do one for all of you, but I don’t have that many!  It’s a way to say thank you for giving me such a wonderful welcome home!  It’s so fun doing this blog and knowing you’re out there!!!  As soon as I find out the name of the winner I will write a note on the little gift card that you see under the box, and tuck it inside. 

All you have to do to enter the drawing for this box is leave me a comment telling all of us about your favorite holiday tradition. Or, even just say hi, and you’re entered!  You may already have a recipe box, but maybe you want to add your own recipes to this one for your daughter, son, niece or nephew.  (If you’re one of the Daring Girls Club, tell your moms about this so they can enter and do it for you! :-))  And then be sure to sign the box with your name and the year.  xoxo

It will fly off Martha’s Vineyard into your hands — we’ll wait a couple of days for everyone to have a chance to see this posting, then we’ll draw the winner and the wooden box will come, from my mystical kitchen to yours . . .

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1,323 Responses to Mystical Temples and Bridges to the Future . . .

  1. Nancy says:

    HI Susan,
    My posts haven’t been making it the last couple of times. I don’t know what I have been doing wrong but I’m going to be VERY careful this time to push the right buttons. I wrote about Thanksgiving and I’ll tell it again closer to the date. I’m sure you will be talking about it again.

  2. Doreen Strain says:

    HeLLo SUsAn….HOw aRe YoUr eyES FeElinG AftEr ReaDInG aLL ThEsE pOsTs! LoL!!! Isn’T IT FuN???? I’m LOvInG aLL THe “GiRLfRiEnDs” pOStS! LoL!
    FOSB 4~Ever! ~ Doreen ~

    • sbranch says:

      They were OK until just a minute ago! 🙂 I’m loving them too!

      • Doreen Strain says:

        I’m just having fun being silly! I really am enjoying reading about all the different traditions eveyone has and some of them are the same for our family. I have to tell you, I now call the time I spend reading your blog my “Susie & Me” time. My husband laughs when he askes….”Whatcha up to honey?” and I respond…I’m getting in some “Susie & Me” time! He knows just what I’m up to!!! 😉 FOSB 4~Ever! ~ Doreen ~

        • sbranch says:

          Too cute Doreen! xoxo

        • Karen P. says:

          You’re too cute, Doreen! My hubby hears the birdie tweet and he just rolls his eyes and knows what I’m doing for the umteenth time that day. Maybe Joe should start a support group for all the hubbies! Ha!

  3. Virginia says:

    It’s so fun reading about everyone’s special family traditions. I’m a bit late to the party, but here’s my contribution. One of our favorite traditions is the one we have come to call the “goofy picture”. This had its beginnings in 1981 when our daughter was three and our son was just five month old. We had decided to send photo Christmas cards that year, so the day after Thanksgiving, we found a likely spot outdoors, set up the tripod and snapped off a roll of 12. We chose the best, had cards made and sent them off.

    The “tradition” didn’t begin until three years later and we decided to do this again. By then DS was an ornery three year old unwilling to sit still for the 12 pictures to be taken. We took one shot then he began to fuss and squirm. The picture we used for our cards that year had three of us nicely smiling for the camera and DS in the background climbing on a tree. The next year, we presented the kids with a deal: pose nicely for nine pictures and on the last three, we would all make funny faces. They were thrilled with the idea and a tradition was born!

    We now have over 25 years of family photos recording the kid’s growth from childhood to adulthood (and their young parents morphing into middle age!) The “kids” are now in their 30s. Both are single and always come home for Thanksgiving. We still go out the day after Thanksgiving, regardless of the weather, and take our picture together. Digital photography now makes it faster and easier, but we always save the last three shots for the goofy picture. It gives all of us a chance to be totally silly for a few minutes. And sometimes those pictures are our favorites!

    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to share our special holiday traditions and to reflect on their importance to our families. If I am lucky enough to be chosen the winner of your wonderful recipe box (is that teapot card Mary Engelbreit?), I would add to it my own favorite recipes to it and pass in on as a gift to my daughter.

    Reading your blog and all the wonderful comments is a daily highlight for me. Thanks so much!

    • sbranch says:

      How funny that must be to look back over all those photos! Something to remember forever! The teapot card is by me, silly! Tho’ I love ME too! 🙂 Thank you for being here Virginia!

      • Virginia says:

        Sorry about the ME mistake! An honest error (slaps forehead 🙂 ) I had a series of her teapot cards years ago that looked similar to the one in your recipe box. Mary uses marker and colored pencil however. The card above is obviously watercolor now that I look more closely. My bad…

  4. Laura Blose says:

    Hi Susan,
    I’m so glad you are blogging now. I check for new things very regularly and if the sound is turned down on my speakers, I have to turn it up to hear the little bird tweet across the top of my screen! 🙂 Then I know the day has started right! I love to cook in our warm, wonderful kitchen with my husband, our daughter and any family or friends that want to join! I’m not able to do this a lot b/c of our family business, but these times are so special when we do. (even when we bump into each other in “the corner”!)

  5. Allison Williams says:

    Hi Susan! My favorite holiday tradition is one that my mom carries on. Even though I am 23 years old she still gives me a present or two wrapped in brown paper and twine from “Santa Clause” and I relish in it every year. She almost skipped out on it one year when I was maybe 18, and I mentioned to her that at a Christmas party we were asked what our favorite tradition was and I told them it was that one and so she kept up with it 🙂

    All the best,

  6. Carol Wingo says:

    I love wooden receipe boxes also. I still have my mother’s and don’t know which daughter to leave it to. I have 2 awesome daughters. Would love to have this one.

  7. Sandi says:

    Would love this.

  8. Lauri says:

    I have two heirloom recipes I always make for Thanksgiving. My husband’s great-grandmother’s Corn Pudding and her Applesauce Cake. Both to die for mmmmmmm…..

    I can’t wait for the holidays….is it too soon to start listening to Chrismas music?

    • sbranch says:

      Some of the girls here have us beat by a mile, Christmas-music-wise. I think you can hear them saying “nooo way!”

  9. Lisa Nelson-Jones says:

    Love, love, love this wooden box! Have been looking for one for awhile now! Glad you are home safe and sound!

  10. TxVicki says:

    I love decorating the tree the day after Thanksgiving.

  11. Michelle says:

    Mom always gave myself and kids pj’s for christmas. About 5 years ago I bought her and I matching nighties with socks and of course she had to have our picture taken. She passed away a couple years ago and it was my turn to continue the tradition. That first christmas I was close to tears when I opened a gift from my daughter…and it was pj’s. I am wearing my “counting sheep” pj’s from my daughter as I write this. I too have my mom’s old recipe box with a rooster on the front of it and I cherish it and think of her often as I make another of her recipes.

  12. DonnaRay says:

    Ohhhhh, Susan, recipe boxes hold such amazing treasures.! I’ve been cooking for nearly 50 years and still absolutely love pulling out a recipe card in my Mother’s handwriting. I also have a few that are typed (poorly) by my brother when he was taking a class and Mother put him to work. I can barely read some recipes because of the grease splotches. Some recipes are written by friends and neighbors from those lean years when a pound of ground beef fed a whole bunch of people! I laugh everytime I’m looking through the PASTRY section and see Ruby Peede’s Applesauce Pie (from my friend Rachel’s mother)…..I’ve never made it….and probably never will….but would never take that card out of my recipe box. Cooks like us are so lucky to have these tangible connections to old friends and family members. I LOVE my recipe box! And, it’s the source of a long standing Thanksgiving tradition. Peggy was my next door neighbor in the 70’s …..on Thanksgiving morning she sent her children over with a bowl of her mother’s Cranberry Jello. She explained later that the recipe makes more than would fit in her mother’s mold so she always gave the extra to a friend…..hence Peggy gave us her extra. Over the years I have made her Cranberry Jello and given the extra to friends. Here’s the recipe: Dissolve 6 oz cherry jello and 2/3 cups sugar in 2 cups boiling water. Drain syrup from #2 can crushed pineapple then add the syrup, 1/2 cup cold water and 2 T lemon juice to the jello and chill until partially set. Add: 1 whole orange (rind and all) ground in blender, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 and 1/2 cups raw, fresh cranberries, ground in blender, 1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts), 1 red apple, unpeeled and chopped. Mix well then pour into mold. Pour the extra into a bowl and give to a neighbor. Enjoy! DonnaRay

  13. Katherine says:

    Hope to win one but if not, you have inspired me to hunt up an old wooden recipe box of my own. Now if only I could find some tres cute recipe cards to fill it with! 🙂

  14. Annette Gertz says:

    Hi Susan! I love reading your blog and exploring your web pages! Your creativity is such an inspiration. My husband’s birthday is October 18th, and every year for his birthday he requests pumpkin pie. We’ve been married for 30 years, and have enjoyed the tradition of having pie for most of those years! It’s an event we all look forward to.

    Enjoy fall!

  15. Lynnette says:

    I am so excited to see that someone else loves “old-fashioned” wooden recipe boxes! I made mine (brown-stained wood with a kitchen verse decoupaged on top) in 1970. I was 14 and wanted to copy all of my mom’s recipes. I still have it! Last August, I found a old metal index card box that was at an estate sale. It had some recipes on index cards from the lady who had lived there. I had to have it. She had worked so hard on them, perfect handwriting and some were type written. So cute, as well as, some good recipes. In this day of quick accessibility on the computer, there is something so fun about pulling out a little recipe card and propping it up on the counter. Reminds me of my grandmothers!

  16. Leslie says:

    So many favorites that I cannot narrow them down to 1 so “Hi.”

  17. Sarah Nunnelly says:

    Hi Susan,
    I love your 2011 Daybook and hope you have one for 2012…but I didn’t see it on your website. It’s a wonderful diary. Is there one for 2012?
    Thanks! Sarah

  18. Debbie says:

    I just found your site and now I’m hoping to have a sweet lil box next to my cookbooks. I still love recipe boxes, even in this day of computers to store your special, never-fail recipes. My favorite holiday tradition is getting pajamas for my sweet kids and, now, grandkids and wrapping them up to open on Christmas Eve. It’s so exciting to wear new cozies, and read the Christmas story and have a cookie and cocoa before bed. And even better, it’s coming soon!
    Thank you for a wonderful peek into your life. I have many of your books and love them so. And I fly my summer flag every July!

  19. Lois says:

    For Thanksgiving, I love to use all the recipes that I grew up with. I keep thinking I’ll try some new ones, but I can hardly bear not to use my traditional ones. I still look at the new recipes, though!

  20. Oh, how beautiful! Would love to have this sitting in my kitchen. My favorite holiday tradition – wow, that one is hard. Here goes – When my son was young, on Christmas day instead of having a big family meal and travelling from house to house, we would stay home – in our jammies, curled up on the sofa or in the recliner and read our new books or watch a movie and would have a junk food extravaganza. ALL DAY! Great bonding time for him and I. Now that he is out on his own, he tells me that when he has children, he is going to do the same thing!

  21. Theresa says:

    Dang! My computer has been down ever since I asked you about peppermint bark…but I am so glad for the wonderful person who won the awesome recipe keeper. Susan Branch’ blog does bless all of our homes…thank you susan!!! The angels fly out of my computer every time I open to this website….looking forward to the next give away!!!!

  22. Amy Lynn says:

    Hi Susan,
    Its been a busy, but very enjoyable weekend, my sweetie is home for a few days~ so we are getting things ready for the inevitable winter ahead, and then off on a short cabin/camping trip this coming weekend. So, I am very tired this evening~ can barely hold my eyes open at this point~ so I will just sy “hi” on this post, and enjoy reading everyone elses sweet & charming family tradition posts over the next few days. But I didnt want to miss out on a chance at that sweet little recipe box!
    Have a gret week!
    Amy Lynn

  23. JeannieA says:

    Holiday favorites: my grandmother’s pineapple cream cheese salad. Some years ago my mom gave me the cut glass bowl Grandmother always served the salad in, and it travelled with our foreign service family all over the world. My grandmother – truly a bodhisattva-Methodist 🙂 – would have loved seeing the places where her bowl presented the most amazing jello church salad in the world! The recipe card with grandmother’s directions in my mother’s handwriting remains clipped onto my recipe journal — wouldn’t it fit wonderfully into your wooden recipe box?

    Other holiday tradition – my son (now 31) always gets a boot with treats on St. Nicholas Tag (the night of December 5th – German style). It’s fun to think of what little goodies to put into the boot (sometimes a paper shape with a little folding green tucked into the greeting card, now that he lives several hundred miles from me). Our Christmas season always begins with that SNT boot 🙂

    Thinking about the holidays makes me smile ~ thank you so much for sending me to that happy place this October morning….I love all things SB – just one of your thousands of fans, JeannieA

  24. Mecky says:

    I so understand not passing up an old wooden recipe box. I have several but my favorite one belonged to the lady who use to live in the house next to me. She would be 104 years old, so you know there are some wonderful OLD recipes in that box!

    Best Wishes

  25. Kathryn Zitelli says:

    I have the same bowl in yellow! I love that it’s made from recycled materials.

  26. Karen P. says:

    I found a bag full of gorgeous handcarved wooden spoons, spatulas and forks the other day at a thrift store for $1.00 for the whole bag! Like brand new. I came home and oiled them “a la Susan Branch” and they’re beautiful! You’re so handy to have around! xoxo…

  27. Debbie says:

    My cutting boards and wooden spoons have been oiled…..looking good!!! Thank you……again.

  28. Paulie says:

    Well if you don’t ever find Patricia will Paulie do? smile………… Have a day filled with blessings and do hope you find Patricia too.

  29. Elizabeth Rayl says:

    Reading all these holiday traditions is wonderful, gives great inspiration to start a few new ones! In our family, every year someone gets the “ugly gift”…it is a box with a wonderfully tacky carved and painted cat sitting on the lid. It’s a family rule that who ever recieves this gift (from the person who had it the year before), has to display it prominently in their home for the following year! There is space inside the box for a special treat; candy, movie tickets, a poem, and a sheet of paper that tells who had the box in previous years. My family has been very inventive on wrapping it so that it’s not detectable and it is always hilarious when it is finally opened by the “lucky” recipient!!!

    We also have a tradition at Halloween where we will carve turnips like jack o lanterns. Instead of carving all the way through, the face is made by leaving just a thin bit of shell remaining, so that when you put a tea light in the hollowed out turnip, the light shines through the thin spots, making the face. These make great individual place setting decorations too.

    I love the fall/winter season. Now my cutting boards are all oiled, apple pies are in the freezer, and it’s time to make some soup. Thank you Susan for your everyday inspiration to see the beauty in this wonderful life we have!!!

    • sbranch says:

      I have a HUGE turnip on my kitchen table, all rooty on top, I’ve never tried to carve them because I assumed it would be difficult hollowing them out. . . No? Love the ugly gift! 🙂 Thank you for your sweet comment!

  30. Nnacy Jo says:

    Hi Susan,
    Love your blog, but then who doesn’t? I too love old recipe boxes, always on the lookout for them, so to have one from your collection would be a really good thing. Thank you so much for the chance to win it.
    I love pressing leaves this time of year, I have a whole book of them. Almost hate raking because the yard looks so pretty when its covered with leaves.
    Hugs, Nancy Jo

  31. Kathy Cronberg says:

    I got some mineral oil and a new pastry brush today for my cutting boards and spoons, and I just got down brushing them all down. They are so beautiful, and soaking up the oil like mad. My dad made me a cutting board from his woodworking scraps when I got married 32 years ago! That poor thing has never been oiled… it cried with happiness when I oiled it just now 🙂 And my husband’s aunt bought me a beautiful rooster cutting board a few years ago, one of those made from all the exotic woods, it is the decoration behind my cooktop, it got a dose of oil too, and it is soaking it up even faster than the other board! So beautiful in my kitchen now… thank you for the how-to lesson, dear Susan!

    • sbranch says:

      You are so welcome, it always makes me feel good when I take care of my things too, I can almost feel them thanking me!

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