Tin Box Treasures

Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything. (Ephesians 5: 19-20)

There’s nothing fancy about the small tin boxes and old oatmeal box sitting on a shelf in my kitchen, but to me they hold priceless treasures.  As a young military wife, with limited finances,  I was excited to get the recipe tins for free by sending in cereal box tops and labels from pork and beans. That was more than 40 years ago, and they have been part of my kitchen ever since.

I inherited the oatmeal box from my Grandma on my dad’s side of the family. It was presented to me by my aunt when my husband and I arrived for a hometown visit when we were in the Marines.  I still remember how emotional I felt that day. The box was filled with grandma’s tin cookie cutters with wooden handles. It brought back memories of afternoons spent in her old farmhouse kitchen baking cookies.

Though the recipe tins were free, priceless treasures reside under their lids. Opening the boxes reveals a library of recipes. Food-splattered and worn-out index cards hold secret family recipes. Each contributor’s handwriting is unique in style, and I can recognize whose recipe it is just by glancing at the writing.

Some of the recipes were written on small scraps of notebook paper or the backs of grocery store receipts, but they are more valuable to me than any of the cookbooks sitting on my kitchen shelf. Looking through the recipes is like visiting old friends and relatives, many who have passed from this earth. I sense a part of them still with me as I leaf through the recipes.

I can almost see Grandma Mitchell’s stout arms rolling out cookie dough for her famous soft sugar cookies. She was always cheerful and happy, regardless of life’s circumstances. We looked forward to her plump cookies at Christmas and Easter. At times, she surprised us with a batch on Valentines Day, cut in the shape of hearts. Her seven-layer salad was anticipated at family picnics and gatherings.

Memories surface of my mom standing at the kitchen table mixing up her raisin nut cake and a variety of cookies that often awaited us when we returned home from school on cold winter afternoons. I can smell her delicious beef vegetable soup wafting through the farmhouse, enticing us in after evening barn chores. Mom’s fresh strawberry pie was a recipe from her best friend. It was a favorite summertime treat. I remember picking the sweet berries with Mom and later enjoying the refreshing pie, topped with mounds of fresh whipped cream, as the juice from the berries dripped down my chin.

Recipes from friends, some from other states, and some from other countries, bring to mind our adventures as a young military family. I’m grateful for the shared recipes from my friends from the Philippines and Korea. Many of us have lost touch over the years since we left the military, but their recipes bring back fond memories of street picnics when they would bring their unusual dishes to share. One friend held a cooking class with the ladies on our street one afternoon to show us how to master the art of making lumpia, which is a delicious egg roll filled with beef, shrimp, and vegetables.

Like old-fashioned letters, handwritten recipes are becoming a lost art, replaced by modern technology. I’m so thankful for the memories found on food-splattered index cards and scraps of paper. It truly is the simple things in life that I’m most grateful for,  like old oatmeal boxes filled with cookie cutters, and small tins purchased with cereal box tops and pork and bean labels.


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