Search The South Padre Island Flip Flop Foodie Blog!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Family Recipes and Family History - Write them down! And...My Family's Recipe for Cranberry Salad

My Mom 1946

In the early part of this new century, my Mom had the idea that she wanted to create a cookbook of some of our old family recipes and give them to each of her daughters for Christmas.  She wrote down the things she could remember and brought them to my house.  We sat down at my computer and she talked about each recipe and we tried to come up with written recipes to record for posterity.  We did our best.  She bought some fund-raiser "blank" cookbooks from one of my nieces (I think - could have been a nephew - but I remember it was a school fundraiser).  She took what I typed to a copy service with the books and they printed them and cut them to the non-standard size of the "blank" cookbooks.  We all got them for Christmas that year.  We treasure them greatly!

It's difficult to create recipe for cooks, like my Mom, who cook without measuring!  Some of the recipes, we just wrote down what she did - without true measurements.  Others, she came pretty close to measurements we could grasp sufficiently to "sort of" recreate her dishes.  Do they ever taste "just like Mom's?"  Not really.  For several Thanksgivings after that, I asked her to spend the night at my house Wednesday night, and to just sit there and let me recreate some of her dishes...or let me watch her prepare her dishes.  Then I took notes on the recipe pages she had put in her little recipe book.  I believe I have perfected her cornbread stuffing - it's now what I'm asked to prepare if I am attending a Thanksgiving that my Mom is not attending. 

Our family used to get together - the entire horde - for Thanksgiving.  As our family expanded to a massive size with children, grand-children, great-grandchildren and assorted Mom would have us to the Fraternity or Sorority House wherever she was a House Mother at that time...after a long a industrious work life - her "retirement" job was as a House Mother for several University of Texas Greek Houses.  She finally retired from the last sorority job and now travels from family to family for the holidays.  None of us can handle the multitudes...and actually, as we've all gotten older...we like to have our own Thanksgiving in our own homes.  Oddly enough, I'm now in the same position my mother found herself...I travel to my son's house for holidays.  I live so far away from the family that with working schedules, melting pot families who have to fit in many "stops" for the one can come to my house now.  So, I go there.  I take the cornbread stuffing and a few other favorites.  It's a mixed emotion.  I miss my Mom's Thanksgivings, I miss MY Thanksgivings, but I love watching my oldest grow into the excellent cook and host that he has become.

I've got my Mom's Recipe Book out today, and am reading what we typed, sitting there together in my computer area (MOM, we made lots of mistakes!).  I have become more adept at cooking and creating recipes myself so the errors are glaring to me :-)  but, it is a marvelous walk down memory lane.

Mom camping with 5 kids on the beach - Port Aransas, TX - mid 1960's

My parents started taking us to the coast when we were tiny tots - mostly Port Aransas - but I do remember visiting the Port Isabel lighthouse as a child.  I attribute those frequent week-ends as the basis for my long-standing desire to live at the coast.  My Dad grew up in Donna, right here in the Rio Grande Valley.  My Mom likes to talk about being a newly wed at 17 years of age and moving to The Valley and working for the Singer Sewing Machine Company.  She said they would take the long drive over towards Brownsville and go to Boca Chica Beach on week-ends off.  That had to have been in the late 1940s.  She didn't stay long in The Valley - she returned home to Austin on a bus after Singer told her she and her husband could not both work for them.  My Dad soon followed and they started their career in the grocery business in Austin.  It's odd that I ended up living in The Rio Grande Valley, driving the same roads my Mom drove in the 40's.  When she visits, she always shakes her head at how much it has changed. 

In October 2009, she celebrated her 80th birthday on South Padre Island - full circle it seemed.  We had a grand time for several weeks of birthday activities. 

The back of Mom's b-day tee

Mom's custom b-day tee - "Buck Up Getting Old Ain't for Sissies"
Mom on the jetties at South Padre
Mom with her 80th birthday cake

This year - beginning her 82nd year of life - she will be having Thanksgiving with one of my sisters...maybe two!  I will be travelling to Austin to share it with my son...and I will take the dressing.  Thanks, Mom, for all the good meals and many happy holidays.

My son carving his first turkey

I encourage each of you who are lucky enough to still have your parents with you, to write down the family recipes.  The opportunity is NOW.  Don't let it be lost!  This year, I'll be trying, for the first time, and without Mom's supervision, her Cranberry Salad - which was handed down from my Grandmother (lovingly called Good Witch since I was a little girl and heard Sugar Bear use the term "Granny Good Witch" in a commercial).  Good Witch has been gone for over 20 years now - but her recipe lives on.  My husband loves this I'll do my best.  Here's the recipe as dictated by my Mom - it's simple and delicious.  I hope I don't mess it up :-)  It's kind of funny - I wouldn't eat this as a child - I didn't like cranberries or nuts in my food.  Now, it is considered primo.  I love going to the fridge and having a bite of this before bed on Thanksgiving night.  Bon Appetit Y'all !!!

Updated with photo Thanksgiving 2011 - my Mom's Cranberry Salad!

Updated 2013 - my Mom, Mary Helen Culp, passed away in December 2012.
This was the last batch of Cranberry Salad she ever made.  So glad I
was with her that year and in the moment she crossed over.  When I tell
you "get those recipes"... I mean it... I can't tell you how many times
I've reached for the phone to ask her a question...and she's no longer here.
It's the saddest feeling in the world!


1 pound fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 pound red seedless grapes
2/3 pound of fresh pecan halves
1 pint whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

The day before you plan to make the salad, grind fresh cranberries in blender until chopped (or use food processor or hand chop into small pieces)
Pour 1 1/2 cups sugar over them and put in freezer overnight.
The next day, remove cranberry mixture and allow to sit out for 1 hour.
Split grapes in half, stir into cranberry mixture, add pecan halves.
Just before serving, whip the cream, add vanilla and 2 Tbsp. sugar.
Fold whipped cream into cranberry mixture and serve.




  1. Choked up....that picture of your mom camping is to you, Jodi

  2. Thanks Jodi - I choked up several times writing it. Love right back to you way over in Italy!

  3. Beautiful story :) Thank you for sharing!


Comments are moderated - you should see it within a few hours if approved! Spam or marketing comments are immediately deleted. Thank you!!!