Falba Larsen was my maternal grandmother. During my childhood, she cooked and baked for my cousins and me all the time. Her home was a sanctuary, there was always food in the cupboard and a loving hug at the door. She was patient with her grandchildren in a way that only the most special of grandparents can be.
All of her grandchildren remember how she could make dinner out of butter or lard, flour, milk and a can of peas — a dinner that us kids loved because she made it with love. She was never wealthy, and oftentimes had to make do with what was on hand (butter/lard, flour, milk, a can of peas as dinner, for example). She made a pot of pasta and tomato juice that she called Chop Suey but let me assure you, this recipe’s origin was not from any place other than her Southern Idaho home.
She worked at many jobs in her lifetime to support her children and provide a home for them. In the late 60’s, she worked as a cook for the Salvation Army daycare — all the kids there knew her as “Grandma Whisky.” She cooked for those daycare kids the same way she cooked for all of us, and on special occasions, she’d tap dance for them, too.
She was a character in all the best ways. I loved her dearly, and completely. To this day, I ask her for guidance and strength and can still feel her presence in my life.
Grandma kept her recipes in an old index card box, a much older ledger book, and on scraps of notepaper and clippings. Some of her recipes are things I cook often, others I have never tried. This site isn’t a regular food blog. Few recipes are exact or kitchen-tested. There aren’t many notes about their preparation. You won’t see photographs of the assembled ingredients or the “before, during and after” of each recipe. Instead, you’ll see her recipes exactly as she used them and any notes she added are included. Where possible, a photograph or scan of the original recipe is included with the post.
In looking through Grandma’s recipes, I noticed she often included salt and vanilla in the recipe, but almost never indicated an amount for either. My cousins and I laugh about this, knowing that this is just one of the many ways she demonstrated her style of cooking: a dash, or a pinch, or a smidge of this or that. She just knew how much salt & vanilla her divinity needed — it’s on us now to create that ability in ourselves, to experiment and succeed (or fail, then try again) in finding just the right amount of Salt & Vanilla.