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Food stories conjure family memories

TUCKED AWAY with my childhood keepsakes is a small wooden box chock full of memories. 

Like the wishes promised with the rub of a genie’s lamp, the contents of this box are priceless family moments and traditions. Some are splattered with bacon grease, batter or perhaps the remnant of an egg yolk, while others include handwritten revisions and reminders. 

Reading this month’s feature on classic Kentucky cookbooks, I am reminded of the recipe box my mother and grandmother shared. It is a miniature treasure chest, each recipe card a set of directions for family favorites. 

I can still smell the pancakes on the griddle as my grandmother prodded me to take a seat and not pour too much Karo syrup on the steaming stack. 

The country cooking and camaraderie of the kitchen is what I think about when I read Heather Bilyeu’s Around the Table column each month in Kentucky Living. Whether it’s recreating a reader recipe or sharing one of her own, Heather takes me back to the kitchen table of my youth. I strongly encourage you to watch Heather’s cooking demonstration videos on Kentucky Living’s YouTube channel. Like all of Kentucky Living’s recipes, they are free to enjoy. 

I took a trip down memory lane on for my family’s favorites. I found eight recipes for pancakes, five more for chicken and dumplings—a true Perry family staple—and more than a dozen recipes for biscuits. Do you taste a trend? We must love our starches. Which reminds me of a story. 

When I was 15, we got a newly outfitted kitchen thanks to my 4-year-old brother. Very early one morning I heard him crying, so I got up to check on him. He had gotten hungry before the rest of us were awake and decided to make himself breakfast. But through his tears he explained to me that he forgot to take the wrappers off the Pop-Tarts before toasting them and had set the kitchen on fire. 

Sure enough, when I bolted to the kitchen, the flames had spread to the cabinets. I ran out the door in my underwear yelling for the neighbors to call 911. We all made it out okay, and Mom got a new kitchen. 

It wasn’t the first or last burned meal in our kitchen. Mistakes happen, but—as we share each month in Kentucky Living—there’s something about family cooking traditions that keep us coming back for more

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