It’s a cold and wintry morning,

and the snow lies on the ground,

deep and thick and heavy,

a white blanket all around;


From deep beneath my quilts, I smell

the coffee as its boiling,

In the kitchen down below, I hear

my mama as she’s toiling.


I slip into my old brown dress and shoes,

and the apron mama made me,

I splash my face with water,

and tie my hair behind me,


I rush down to the kitchen

to see what I can do,

And mama looks at me and laughs,

,says “You haven’t tied your shoes”


I ask what she is making and

she tells me with a smile,

We haven’t had those muffins

that you like, for quite a while”

Oh, muffins! Muffins! My heart sings–

I run down to the cellar

and there amongst the straw I find

red apples in the barrel;


In the kitchen, I help peel and dice

two apples, I am learning,

And mama takes some kindling and

she gets the stove fire burning.


She takes out her yellow mixing bowl

and puts in salt and eggs and flour,

adds soda, butter, cinnamon, and

some milk that has turned sour.


Then we fold in those chopped apples,

that I stir up with a wooden spoon,

She says the batter should be lumpy,

But we’ll be eating muffins soon.


I grease the little muffin pans

that look like little cakes,

We gently spoon the batter in

and wait for them to bake.


Mama tells a story while

we both clean up the kitchen,

The apples in a barrel come

from her brother back in Michigan.


He sends a barrel full each fall,

and it’s such a wondrous feeling,

and while the muffins bake away,

I sit and eat the peelings.

Here for you to make in your own kitchen is mama’s receipt for apple muffins.  This recipe calls for “one cup milk” and doesn’t state that it should be fresh–presumably so, but mama would have known that sour milk would enhance the recipe (mama called them receipts) while at the same time using up some milk that had gone bad.












Preheat oven 400 degrees. Grease 12 muffins cups or line with paper cupcake liners; mix all ingredients using a wooden spoon. batter will be lumpy. Fill muffins cups 2/3 full. bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Mama would use a clean broom straw for a tester.  Makes 1 dozen.

*We didn’t peel the apples because mama knows I like to eat the peelings.




Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted June 24, 2010

Updated October 8, 2018


When mama’s making apple pies,

She never makes just one–]

Oh, no, there’s always two or three,

or a fourth, sometimes, for fun.


That’s ’cause we all love pie so much

and apple pie’s the best,

We’d eat it any time of day,

for breakfast, I’d confess.


Dinner, supper, for dessert,

It don’t matter much to us,

Even for a midnight snack,

Pie’s never any fuss.


Mama starts by making up the crusts

for all those apple pies,

She mixes flour and salt and ice cold lard,

I watch her, with keen eyes.


Into the big old yellow bowl

she mixes these things up,

And then dribbles in some water, chilled,

Pour from an  old tin cup.


When it’s  looking like coarse meal,

She starts to mix it up,

and when the dough comes to a ball,

she covers it all up.


She puts it in the ice box and

she lets it rest a while,

and while the dough is chilling,

she asks me with a smile


to fetch some apples from below

from the barrel in the cellar,

I go to bring the apples up,

“I love apples best” I tell her.


We peel and slice the apples and

sprinkle them with spices,

some sugar and some flour too,

but cinnamon is nicest.


One by one, mama rolls the dough

and fits it in the pie pans,

She flutes the crusts and hands to me

the pans so I can fill them.


For each she rolls another crust

and these will go on top,

and then we bake them til they’re done,












Preheat oven 450 degrees. Roll out half of the pastry dough and fit into a 9″ pie pan.  In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Place sliced apples in a large bowl (a yellow one if you have it) and toss with the sugar mixture, coating each slice.  Pile the apples high into the prepared pie crusts. Combine the butter and lemon juice; drizzle over apples. cover with top crust. Moisten the edges of the crust with water, then crimp to seal. cut several openings in the top to allow steam to escape. bake for  10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees for an additional 45 minutes or until browned and bubbly.  serve warm or cold, day or night.

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted June 25, 2010

Updated October 7, 2018



When mama’s making biscuits

it’s quite a sight to see,

As she mixes flour and some salt,

and soda, then you see,

she works in lard with both her hands

in her biggest yellow bowl,

From the icebox she takes buttermilk

and then begins to fold

the batter in and round and out,

until its mixed up fine,

And then the  dough starts gatherin’ up

before you count to nine,

She kneads the dough a dozen times

and pats it out  just so,

then cuts out biscuits with a ring

Pa made for biscuit dough,

And while the oven’s getting hot

she lays biscuits in the pan,

and she tells me to get out

buter and the jam,

Sometimes its all we have to eat,

biscuits, jam and butter,

but nothing ever tastes so grand

as biscuits from that cutter.

Years later when I’m old and  gray,

eating ready-biscuits from a can,

I think of all the times we had

the best biscuits in the land.


(This is actually a baking powder biscuit rather than one made with baking soda)

2 cups all purpose flour

5 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 TBSP butter or vegetable shortening. mama would have used lard

3/4-1 cup cold milk (mama would have used buttermilk

Preheat oven 450 degrees. sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium size bowl. work the butter (or shortening i.e. Crisco) into the flour mixture   with your fingers or a pastry blender. gradually add the milk until just blended. Turn onto a floured board and roll out to 1/2″ thickness. cut biscuits with a round biscuit cutter or a jelly glass and place on a greased baking sheet. bake until light brown, 12-15 minutes* Makes 16 biscuits.

  • Sandy’s cooknote: I think 12-15 at 450 is very hot; check the oven a  few times as the biscuits bake–I have a very old 1940 vintage oven and hardly ever bake anything over 350 degrees. just saying.




Here is a cookbook, faded and worn,

some of its pages are dog-earned and torn,

some of its pages are much stained and spattered,

Its’ covers are frayed and just a bit tattered,

Herein are clippings, some loose and some pasted,

and notes that reflect recipes often tasted,

Here is an heirloom, that lets us all know,

what life was about, a long time ago.


Sandra Lee Smith

Sandy’s foodnote: Undated;  years ago, people didn’t use the term “recipes” – they called them “receipts” When I was very young, the term “receipt” instead of “recipe” was still being used by older women.


What became of flour sifters?

or a pastry cutter?  What became

of home-made bread spread

thick with home made butter?

Homemade cakes and pies and such,

alas! I cry forlorn

what became of those old days

when store-bought stuff was scorned?

What became of biscuits, muffins,

crispy apple strudels?

How I yearn for doughnuts, crullers,

and my grandma’s homemade noodles;

I remember sweet aromas

from homemade apple pie,

as it view its frozen sister,

I repress a sigh..

modern times and modern tastes

are here to stay, they say,

yet how I wish for just a sniff

of that old fashioned way!

Sandra Lee Smith

There is a TV show I enjoy watching with Ralph Story, called

“Things that aren’t here anymore” – it’s on cable and the

things  being discussed are all places that used to be in and

around  Los Angeles–so I don’t have any idea if the things in

question, being all about greater Los Angeles, would  be

broadcasted in other cities or states or even other countries.

But every time “Things That Aren’t Here Anymore” is being re-

played on our local KCET network, I start thinking about other

things–particularly kitchen things–that aren’t here anymore.

(or can be found in antique stores).

I think of rolling pins and yes, flour sifters–I have two of each

and the handles on the very old rolling pins have been

breaking off.  If it has red or green wooden handles, they are

pretty old; there was a time when some cookie cutters had

either red or green handles, undoubtedly from the same time

frame. (although considered collectibles, I actually use all

of my kitchen equipment – so sometimes, things do break).

Years ago–around the middle or late 1980s, I think,  I saw a

recipe box in an antique store in Ventura…it captivated me; it

was wooden with decals pasted on the box–but the most

fascinating thing about that recipe box was that it was filled

with someone’s  recipe collection. Bob & I would go up to Main

Street in Ventura every chance we got — and I didn’t buy that

recipe box when I first saw it–maybe 3 or 4 visits later. It was

$11.00 and I was as thrifty then as I am today–eventually I

bought the recipe box  and then began wondering if there

were more filled recipe boxes “out there”. Well,

there were and I ended up buying quite a few but I am still

reluctant to spend over $10 for an old recipe box as much as I covet them.

Here’s a curious thing – I think recipe boxes are an American

product despite going back decades.  Years ago, I discovered

that my Aussie penpals were unfamiliar with recipe boxes; I

bought a box and filled it with recipe cards for one of my

Aussie friends who enjoying cooking Tex-Mex recipes. Over

time, I discovered that recipe boxes were frequently a food

company promotion–I have boxes  from Land O Lakes,

Campbell Soups, Rice Krispies, Coca Cola, Bisquick, Wisconsin

Cheese, SW Foods, Quaker Oats, Sun Maid Raisins–to name

just a few.

The collection of recipe boxes has grown to more than two

hundred boxes–most are filled, most are filled with cards I

collected or typed up when I was feeling ambitious–but my

favorites are the boxes someone else took the time to fill up.

The box I love the most isn’t a standard recipe box; its a large

cardboard filing box that I discovered at an estate sale

that Bob & I attended one Saturday morning. The cards are all

handwritten in a beautiful  penmanship with emphasis on

recipes typically found in greater Los Angeles. I think I

paid $3.00 for it.  Everyone who knows me knows about my

interest in old filled recipe boxes and I’ve acquired quite a few

this way. A friend of my friend Mary Jaynne was telling me

about her friend’s mother passing away – I couldn’t help but

ask “Did she have a recipe box?”  – not only did she have a

recipe box, she had some cookbooks autographed by chef

Mike Roy (with whom her mother was acquainted) –which I

was delighted to receive– another time a girlfriend at work

gave me six recipe  boxes that had belonged to her aunt.

What makes these boxes so fascinating to delve into?  Well, for

openers, you don’t   know what you may find inside. One box I

acquired was  obviously very old, recipes on cards were faded

and clippings were old and falling apart.  I think I figured out

that it was from the 1920s.

Another kitchen product I am fond of are old, glass measuring

cups–at one time  in the somewhat distant past, amber

measuring cups could be found–possibly in boxes of  a

particular brand of detergent.  I googled glass measuring cups

and was astounded by the prices — starting around ten or

twelve dollars and going up to $100 or more. Not just

measuring cups. Those old glass juicers fetch a pretty penny

too.  I have a couple of these.  Maybe its just  as well

that almost all of these desirable things are out of my price

range – if money were no object, I would be buying a lot more

of them (oh, heck, if money were no object I would remodel

my house to make enough room for all of my collections)

Sandra Lee Smith

Poem originally published in 1974 magazine called “Looking Back”

Updated July 29, 2018


It is an old recipe box, perhaps the oldest one

I have ever seen,

made of wood and covered with stains,

with the name KARL L. VONDERAHE

printed in pencil inside the lid.

Many of the recipes are on cards,

yellowed with age,

while clippings crumble and disintegrate

when touched.

One old recipe card, written in ink,

is dated 1938, while

some recipes are, curiously,

written on old cardboard luggage tags.

There are many different recipes for

cakes and pickles, and

jellies and jams–

Oftentimes in different handwritings

which might suggest

the owner of the recipe box requesting

a favorite recipe from a friend.

My niece found this recipe box

at an estate sale in Palm Springs,

leaving me to imagine that

the owner passed away and

no one wanted this fine old

recipe box.

When I carefully go through

the contents of the box,

I imagine the previous owner

going  through it,

searching for a favorite recipe

for pecan pie, or molasses taffy,

Armenian meatballs or

Mabels ham loaf–

it’s all here

in the recipe box.

Sandra Lee Smith

August, 2009

Sandy’s chatter note: The Vonderahe recipe box

is one of the oldest in my collection –yes, now

my recipe boxes are a collection–of more than

200 recipe boxes.–it was a slow progress because

(I surmised) that antique dealers or  estate people,  whoever ends

up with a person ‘s collection of “things” didn’t consider

the contents of a recipe box worth keeping–generally,

whenever we would find a recipe box in an antique store,

it would be empty. It has taken many years to acquire

most of the boxes that contain someone else’s  collection

of recipes. – sls


The magician had a book

and the book was titled

“The Service Cookbook


Ida Bailey Allen”

And I knew that this book

contained all the secrets

of the Kitchen Magic.

I held my breath

As I opened the pages

Many of them stained

And darkened and shredded

from use.

But I knew

It contained the Magician’s Secrets;


+baking powder+salt+raisins+milk =

Old Fashioned Raisin cookies


Sugar+milk+baking soda+additional sugar+

pecans=pralines and

Milk+tapioca+cornmeal+molasses+sugar+butter+salt = Indian pudding

Although I was a very young child, I studied the Magicians book, determined to learn all of the secrets and when the opportunity presented itself, I stole the book of Kitchen magic now it was mine and I could perform all the magical things that happen only in the kitchen.  And I did.


Sandra Lee Smith

March 2oo9



The harsh, hot winds blow across the dry, high desert Mojave landscape, Constantly, relentlessly;  Devil Winds, say some tribes of Indians. others call it Diablo.

In the Pacific Northwest, the winds are called Chinooks,

and in France it is known as the Mistral,

While in Austria and Germany, the Winds are called The Foehn;

But in California, everyone recognizes the Santa Anas,

which, strictly speaking, must be gusting

at least 25 knots to be an authentic Santa Ana.

It dries out the skin of the hardiest cowboy

and bits of sand blow into his eyes,

obstructing his vision.

Tumbleweeds blow across the scrubby desert floor

while the wind sweeps through, gaining speed

as it races through the canyons,

and the more knowledgeable travelers

scan the skies for any sign of fire.


Sandra Lee Smith

March, 2009


“Beautiful soup, so rich and green

Waiting in a hot tureen!

Who for such danties would not stoop?

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!

Beautiful soup! Who cares for fish,

Game or any other dish?

Who would not give all else for two

         Pennyworth only of beautiful soup!” –Lewis Carroll

My grandmother’s most frequently cooked homemade soup was a Dutch clear chicken broth

laced with tiny dumplings called “Rivels”

which  we pronounced “riv-a-lees”

and thought were very good

with a chunk of hot freshly made salt bread.

In recent years I began wondering what Grandma had done with the rest of the chicken, and I was admonished by Aunt Annie once when I put all of the deboned chicken back into the soup pot.  My justification was I liked ingredients in my soup.

The soup most often served by my mother was a homemade meat and vegetable soup made with beef bones (that were given away free by the butcher) and cooked with potatoes and carrots.  The bones and vegetables were removed near dinnertime asnd noodles added to the broth. That’s how we ate the soup. After soup, we had potatoes and carrots while my father an brothers spread the bone marrow on saltine crackers (a treat  lauded now by Martha Stewart, we thought it was simply the fare of poor people).

My soups are seldom without a myriad of ingredients:

Ham and bean or

Ham and split pea

Vegetable beef & barley

Chinese chicken soup

Cincinnati Chili

Beef Stew

Mexican Tortilla Soup

French Onion Soup

Turkey & Rice (when I had a turkey carcass)

Tomato Bisque and Clam chowder

soups so thick

you can stand a spoon in the pot

and it wont tip over.  My claim to fame (if there is such a thing) is that I can make a pot of soup out of almost anything found in the frig, freezer or pantry–a skill learned, perhaps, when my sons were children and we had almost nothing.  If necessity is the mother of invention, Poverty is the grandmother of culinary creativity.

Sandra Lee Smith

February 2009/updated June 6, 2018



It was a very old recipe tucked into a book

That my mother had used whenever she cooked,

Not a cookbook per se, but a journal to write,

Thoughts of the day some poignant, some trite,

A newspaper clipping, quite yellowed with age,

Nestled inside and staining the page

In which it had lain for many long years,

And as I read it, my eyes filled with tears,

For here was my mother’s noted recipe for

The old fashioned sponge cake she made by the score

For all of our birthdays, this was the cake,

My mother would quickly, efficiently make –

Without a card or checking her book;

We thought that she was quite an outstanding cook.

I had watched mother make it enough times and  yet

Had never written it down–but here, heaven sent

Was that same recipe and I could have cried,

I thought it was lost when my mother had died.


The following recipe for an old fashioned sponge cake, if followed minutely, will prove infallible. Beat the yolks and whites of six fresh eggs together for two minutes.  Add three measuring cupsful of sugar and beat the and eggs for 5 minutes.  Mix two teaspoonfuls of  cream of tartar with two cupsful of flour, beat this together with the eggs and sugar for two minutes. Next, dissolve one teaspoonful of baking soda in a cup of cold water, pour it in with the other ingredients and beat them all for one minute. Add the juice and grated rind of half a lemon, a salt-spoonful* of salt and two more cups of flour and beat the whole together for another minute.  Observe the time exactly. Line two medium size cake pans with tissue paper** buttered well on both sides. Pour the mixture into the pans and bake in a quick oven  (typed as printed)

*not sure what a salt-spoonful is equal to – I’m guessing half a teaspoon.  I have never heard of using tissue paper to line pans but mu earliest memories are of wax paper being used to line cake pans. I have no idea what a “quick” oven would have been equal to–but anytime I am in doubt, I bake at 350 degrees, which is a medium heat. – sls