In 1993 my mother-in-law sat at her trusty old Underwood typewriter and documented a collection of heirloom family recipes. The purpose of this rough-bound, ramshackle collection, which became universally known as "The Family Cookbook," was (she hoped) to` instruct a new generation of wives and would-be cooks in the making of such family favorites as the chocolate cake that Aunt Babe made from mayonnaise during World War II and the cookie recipe that the author herself wheedled out of a baker friend from the Michigan State University test kitchen sometime around 1950 when her husband was teaching there. (And which I modified only slightly for this recipe.) It was as much memoir as instruction manual.
Last year, on the twentieth anniversary of the original, her granddaughter published a revised edition -- a slick, illustrated version with not only Grammy's iconic recipe collection, but contributions from other family members. Yes, even from those hopeless daughters-in-law of hers who had somehow -- miraculously -- become good mothers and good cooks in their own right. A lot can happen in twenty years.
Then there was my daughter Kate, representing the newest generation of mothers... let's just say she has much yet to learn. So when asked to contribute to the new cookbook, she obliged with one submission to the "For the Pets" section. I have reproduced it here verbatim.
Feline Love Potion
When I was in grade school, living with my parents in our little house on Waterloo Street, we had two cats: Ginger, a chubby, orange-striped tabby and Malcolm, a big, sturdy black cat with a white "bow tie."
In May of 2000 there was a very bad storm -- torrential rain, flash flooding, damaging wind, lightning strikes, the works! We were lucky that the storm didn't do any damage to our home, but we had one unexpected consequence to deal with: a tiny, feral kitten literally washed up in our yard. He was much too young to be separated from his mother, but we took him in and hoped for the best.
At first it didn't seem that Cal (as we optimistic fools named him) would survive. He was tiny and traumatized. He had trouble eating and couldn't seem to stay warm. In the middle of one miserable night, when it seemed his life might slip away by morning, my mother crept out of bed, determined to find something, ANYTHING, that would help this poor kitten live to see another day. She warmed up a little homemade chicken broth and rubbed it on his mouth... and hooray! The little guy seemed to perk up a bit. He even lapped a little more out of a dish and then curled up on our VCR (his favorite warm spot) and went to sleep.
Over the next few days, with first more chicken broth and then real cat food, Cal gained strength and began to thrive. He became quite playful and mischievous, and we finally dared to love him. Only one thing marred our happiness with this scrappy, funny new kitten: Ginger and Malcolm DESPISED him! They would hiss at poor, unlucky Cal and cuff him without mercy. We worried that we had saved this small creature only to condemn him to a life of constant bullying and abuse by his feline "siblings."
But mother had another idea. One day she took some reserved "juice" from a can of tuna and rubbed it on Cal's little head. Then we all waited to see what would happen. It turned out that tuna juice was something those big cats of ours couldn't resist. They were compelled to lick the delicious fishyness right off of Cal, and what started as licking soon became grooming and finally became acceptance. Ginger, Mal and Cal have been buddies from that day on!
Sometimes the simplest things make all the difference.