Last night Fred and I went out to dinner with friends. At the end of the dinner, one of them pulled a bag out from under the table and said, “Jami, I wanted to give you this because I thought you would appreciate it. ” Here’s what she handed me:

This cookbook, called “Coastal Cookery,” belonged to my friend’s grandmother. It’s a collection of old, handwritten recipes from the Georgia islands–St. Simons, Sea Island, Jekyll, and Sapeloe. It was first published in 1937. I have to do a little digging to find out more. It doesn’t appear to be a very common book, probably familiar mostly to the coastal residents of the area.

What’s special about this particular book are the notes from my friend’s grandmother. According to my friend, her grandmother had an eighth-grade education but possessed unusual skills in planning and preparing food, from family meals to large formal dinner parties. And she had to, since her husband was a state senator for many years.

Here is one of the grandmother’s cookie recipes, written on the blank page facing the book’s Table of Contents.

My friend tells me that this was one of her favorite recipes growing up, so the grandmother must have made it many times. But the writing here is that of an elderly woman, slightly crooked, very painstaking. What compelled her, I wonder, to write it down at that moment? Did she want to make sure it was preserved? Did she want to make sure someone else would make those cookies for children and grandchildren?

This may be one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. I’m going to make sure those cookies get made again, and soon.

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