I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first began the Harrisville Heritage project. The first cookbook grew out of my having gotten my first apartment with a kitchen and realizing that I was on my own for food! Having grown up in the family I did, I had always been surrounded by excellent cooks, and there I was, standing in my kitchen without a clue how to carry on this tradition. Up until that point, I had gotten through college just fine eating the standard Ramen noodles and heating up cans of Spaghettios on my radiator (it really works — it just takes a little bit of time to heat up). But, as with most college kids, I found this got old really fast, and I was ready for some home-cooking.
This wasn’t as easy as I imagined, not simply because of a lack of cooking skills or experience (or utensils), but moreover because I didn’t have all those favorite family recipes. To complicate the matter, I found that many of these classic recipes were not to be found in written form, but had to be carefully extricated from my grandmother’s brain. Even the recipes that were written down never seemed to come out right when I tried them, as I was missing some secret trick, key ingredient, or important tip that made the difference between success and a mess. How could I have spent my whole life in the company of these great cooks and not have this encyclopedia of recipes in my head? Had I missed a gene somewhere? I assured myself that this wasn’t the case, and reminded myself that my sister certainly couldn’t have all the recipes in her possession either. What we needed, I decided, was a definitive sourcebook — a primer on the foods consumed by Farinas and Wrights.
And thus Harrisville Heritage was born. My goal with the first volume was to collect the very best, most well-known recipes of my family and put them away in a book, so that the next generation of poor, hungry college students wouldn’t have to suffer through the process of trial-and-error. However, life is never without trial-and-error, and so we have room for things like Harrisville Heritage Volume Two.
I’m very pleased with the latest edition of Harrisville Heritage, not only because I was able to make many improvements over Volume One (my kingdom for an index!), but mostly because of the involvement I’ve had from all different sides of the family. By including stories and using individual’s own favorite recipes, this cookbook really has become a collection of who we are as a family. After all, that’s what family is: a collection of unique individuals, loved in all their idiosyncratic ways.
This couldn’t have been more evident to me than when I began receiving the letters with recipes from all of you. Not only was I excited to be getting mail (I hadn’t realized that everyone would feel obligated to send a letter along with their recipes!), but I got a few good chuckles watching how each person’s personality was reflected in the way I got their recipes.
The first set of recipes to come in, of course, was from my sister, all photocopied and neat. This was no surprise to me, because Yo has always been very punctual, and hates to have anything hanging over her head. Ginny, the talker of the family, sent in not one or two, but a full 15 recipes in her package, while her brother, Rich (the computer hack of the family), sent all of his to me electronically, including pre-scanned photos. Diane’s recipes were concise, no-nonsense family meals for her boys, while Cheryl’s recipe came complete on beautiful paper in a rolling handwritten script (And what a recipe it was! Check out those Veggie Hills; they sound amazing). My mother, being in “school mode,” finally sent me her recipes the week after Thanksgiving, and, deadline being tomorrow, I’m expecting a few stories from Emily to slide on in. And speaking of stories, we were lucky enough to get some humorous tales from Jeff, told as only he can, and a few selections from Len — his stories aren’t brief either! And of course, towards the end, we have the Christmas piece which I coaxed out of Connie, which speaks of the spirit of this book more eloquently that I could ever do.
Special thanks to Sas for helping me collect many of the recipes and forwarding them to me via e-mail; to Emily for the use of her computer, without which there is no way I could have done this; and of course, to everyone who sent contributions to this year’s book. I hope you all enjoy this as much as I have.
Joanna LeRoy, December 1997