I cannot express enough the importance of documenting the recipes you love: your own special ones along with favorites you've gathered from family and friends over time.
The issue moved to the front burner after a dear friend, Ruth Wiles Freeman, lost her battle with Parkinson's disease on the last day of 2013. She was 85 years young in spirit and downright beautiful, inside and out.
Like everything else Ruth did, she was a wonderful cook who left a legacy of recipes that will continue to grace the kitchens of many of us who loved her and loved good food.
Ruth not only collected teddy bears, she named each one, often after historic or local characters. She even created Christmas plays, dressing them in costumes. The bears' own Christmas card once depicted a group of suitably dressed bears participating in a Nativity scene complete with shepherds.
She was the kind of person you liked instantly, and she had the innate ability to draw folks into most any civic project with the aplomb of a snake-oil salesman. She put me under her captivating spell right away, first with Friends of the Library and several Cherokee Strip projects to follow.
Many of Ruth's most-traveled recipes were from dear friends near and far: Cappie Addison's Hot Rolls were also made into cinnamon rolls, tea rings and her memorable Teddy Bear Paws, complete with an almond paste filling and little slivered almond claws.
Ruth was a history buff. She was founder of the Heritage League of Enid and the Keeper of the Plains Foundation, dedicated to spearheading volunteer recruitment for many events and activities centered on the history of the Cherokee Strip and Oklahoma. Another of Ruth's favorite recipes was from Joan Mason, former curator of the Museum of the Cherokee Strip. The recipe for Old-Fashioned Ginger Cookies was brought by a member of Mason's family at the time of the land run in 1889.
Her funeral was conducted on a cold, bitter day, with ice and snow creating difficulty for folks who loved and admired Ruth to attend her funeral, but they found a way. I thought of the great difference she made in the lives of so many. I will be forever grateful for her inspiration and those recipes.
Compile your ‘classics'
In 1997, Ruth compiled “Kitchen Classics,” a 68-page booklet of recipes, with proceeds going to what was then the Enid-Phillips Symphony Orchestra. Her clever notes and attributions recalled friends and family along with important notations for particular recipes. This booklet and another she did in 2003 are kitchen treasures.
Get started now. Write down those recipes of yours. Copies of your family's favorite recipes make great gifts for young couples starting out or any graduates as they leave home and set up a place of their own.
As I stir up the Old-Fashioned Ginger Cookie recipe Ruth left us, I am warmed by the memories of her engaging smile and that generous spirit.
The Teddy Bear Paws recipe makes 96 rolls, cinnamon rolls or bear paws, or four tea rings. The original recipe is from Ruth's friend Cappie Addison, of Dallas, about 1947.