My sister and I made this book the year our grandmother turned 102 years old. We set out to collect our grandmother's recipes to share them with our extended family, but quickly found that they're more than just one family’s nostalgia; they paint a unique portrait of a specific place and time (Pennsylvania, midcentury), a distinct culinary heritage (Hungarian American Jewish), and a particular and perhaps obsolete way of engaging with the daily meal. And through these cards, all dutifully reproduced (and beautifully laid out by our friend and designer Julia Novitch), emerges a portrait of our grandmother: a woman who didn’t merely comply with her socially determined role as “wife” and “mother” and “homemaker,” but found a way to meaningfully engage with those roles, and define them for herself. No small task, then or now.
My favorite thing about the recipes in this book (aside from being able to imagine, in an extremely specific way, a key element of my mother's childhood) are the cakes. There are so many desserts, and none are extravagant or time-consuming or particularly seasonal. We've come to call them "everyday cakes": the cakes Ruth served to the milk man and the mail man and the neighbor who dropped by. I've started making these "everyday cakes" with some frequency, and the ability to give a friend a piece of cake for no reason other than pleasure is pleasure itself.