Leaving a legacy for your grandchildren can take some effort.
So every couple of weeks, Patricia Jaggie sits down and adds some new entries into her recipe book.
Jaggie, 62, of Galloway Township, is compiling the book for her six grandchildren.
It's effort this mother of three doesn't mind expending.
A retired labor and delivery nurse, Jaggie never really knew either of her grandmothers.
"Both passed away when I was very, very small. I have no recollection of them," she said. Those deaths left a hole in Jaggie's life that she didn't realize was there until a few years ago.
Now, with her own generation of grandchildren to look after, Jaggie is making sure they get all the benefits of having a grandma, or Omi. And one of those benefits is being in touch with their past.
That's where the cookbook comes in.
"The intent is to tighten their roots, to let them know where they came from," Jaggie said. "Because, as I got older, I had a greater sense that something was missing. I didn't know where I'd come from."
Along with cooking instructions, Jaggie includes little notes with each recipe to tell her grandchildren something about the people, or situations, related to the dish.
One recipe, for Great Grandma's Lime Pear Jello Salad, also known as Green Goop from Jeanne, includes a note saying this is the only homemade dish Jaggie and her sister remember their mother taking to get-togethers.
"If not chilled well - Green Goop can make a curious mess on the table or floor or car or one's lap. Great Grandma had all of those experiences," Jaggie wrote.
The cookbook also explains that Jaggie is a relative novice in the kitchen.
Spending most of her childhood in Paramus, Bergen County, Jaggie remembers cooking wasn't a big priority for her mother.
"We ate the most simple of foods - even making a sandwich was something my mother never got any pleasure from," Jaggie said. "We ate whatever came out of a can or what my father would cook."
Her father took over many of the kitchen duties - even preparing Thanksgiving dinners - because "he liked to eat," Jaggie said.
With that kind of background, it wasn't surprising Jaggie never had much interest in learning how to cook - until she had to.
She met her future husband, Neil, right after high school.
As they raised their own family - daughters Michelle and Noel and son, Chris, Jaggie mastered what she needed to keep her family happy and fed.
"I learned what I needed to know to go grow another family," she said. "But in the kitchen it was all trial and error."
She learned by reading cookbooks and newspaper food stories - she still uses recipes she cut out of newspapers in the 1970s. She also experimented and dabbled with ingredients, working through her share of kitchen disasters to develop a repertoire of meals she's comfortable with.
Working full-time at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point, Jaggie came to rely heavily on a crockpot to help with family meals - perhaps a bit too heavily, she recalls.
"My kids joked that my obituary would read 'death by crockpot.'"
While Jaggie badmouths those meals, her husband defends his wife's cooking.
"You made the most delicious meals I could imagine," Neil Jaggie, a retired minister who served 30 years at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Pleasantville, said loyally, a statement of support his wife treats as a kind joke.
Knowing how tough it was to be a self-taught cook, Jaggie tried teaching her children about working in the kitchen.
"They had zero interest - until they got married and had kids and realized they had to grow their own families," she said. "Now I get calls - my wisdom is in demand."
Jaggie doesn't mind. Those kitchen-related calls help her keep up with what's going on in her children's and grandchildren's lives.
And while her own children had no interest in helping out in the kitchen, that's not the case with this latest generation of little Jaggies.
"When they come over, the grandkids want to know what we are going to make, what are we going to bake," she said.
It was granddaughter Emma Seals, who gave Jaggie her cookbook. The book has a picture of Emma when she was about 5 (she's 14 now) and the young girl's recipe for mashed potatoes.
It was up to the grandmother to fill in the rest of the pages - a task Jaggie is relishing.
"It's phenomenal to go through the recipe cards I have, to see people's handwriting - I can see their faces and hear them," she said. "With them, it wasn't about the food that came out on the plate, its about the people - the good stuff, even if the food isn't quiet so good."
And it's this message - along with a grandmother's love - that is the real content of "Omi's Cookbook," Jaggie said.
"'Omi's Cookbook' will not be circulated around the world. But I hope that, long after I write the last entry, these children, and theirs to come, will forever be reminded of the gift of family, faith and an Omi who adored them," Jaggie said.
Contact Steven V. Cronin:
Great Grandma's Lime Pear Jello Salad
•6 ounces cream cheese
•2 tablespoons heavy cream
•120-ounce can of pears, mash pears, save 1cup of juice for use in recipe
•1 small box of lime jello
•1 cup whipped cream
Soften cream cheese at room temperature in advance. Add heavy cream. Heat pear juice and pour over lime jello. Add cream cheese, then mashed pears. When cool, add whipped cream. Chill several hours.
Chunky Ham and Bean Soup
( I found this recipe in the Cincinnati Inquirer early in Pop's seminary days ... about 1972. It serves about 20. This is the best part of the Christmas ham!)
•1/2 pound bacon, diced
•2 pounds dried northern beans
•4 cups sliced celery
•2 cups sliced carrots
•1 1/2 cups chopped onion
•1 cup chopped green pepper
•1 22-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes
•6 quarts water
•1 pound cubed cooked ham (I cook with the ham bone then pick it clean.)
•2 tablespoons sugar
•1 teaspoon salt
•2 teaspoons seasoned salt
•1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
In large soup pot, cook bacon 5 minutes. Add vegetables and saute till golden. Add remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat for three to four hours.
(This freezes well. Like good friends, this recipe is worth holding on to. It never stops warming your soul!)