I've been going through old family photos recently, in an effort to get things sorted and organised once and for all. So I've been looking through Eleanor's old pictures, both her loose ones and the scrapbooks she kept as teenager and a young woman. Truly, these are full of gems-- photos of her where she apologises for the 'smirk' she's wearing, photos of my grandfather Wilbur doing silly poses in stupid outfits with his friends, and weird, unexplained photos like this unexplained Polaroid of a bear dancing in a cage.
And as I go through the photos, I've been thinking, in the selfish way that I always do, about what her life was like when she was my age. By the time she was my age (almost 30, ye gods), she had been married for seven years (twice as long as I have), was living in New York City (I think), and was going places like Miami, St. Augustine, and Niagara Falls with her husband and their friends. The year would have been 1949-50, and because Eleanor didn't have children until relatively late for the era, she spent a decade married to my grandpa and existing as a couple, not a family. I love that about their story. Whatever their reasons, they spent such a long time getting to know each other, getting to exist in their own world, and experiencing cool things as a couple before they had children.
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing the matter with having children, but I love that Eleanor and Wilbur had time as a couple first. I like to imagine them cooking dinner for their friends, the way Judson and I do (they must have done, based on the number of recipes that the box holds from before my mom and her brother were born), going to cocktail parties (documented through pictures), and saving up to go on vacation anywhere they wanted (the same way we do today). I like to think of her as a 29-year-old woman, with a job and a husband and an amazing group of friends, because there is something that's equally comforting and jarring about thinking of someone you only know in the context of 'elderly' as a young person. 30 suddenly doesn't seem so old when I think about all that Eleanor accomplished after that milestone. It's so odd to think of her as a 20-something, because I've built up this image of Eleanor in my head as a confident, unflappably active person. She was someone who did things, not someone that let things happen to her, and it's hard to imagine that brash confidence translating into her 20s.
Maybe it didn't. I found a recipe in the box for something called Salmon Loaf, a terrible name I thoroughly debated keeping from you, and it's hands down the cleanest recipe card I've found in the box so far. It's clear this was a recipe that was never made, and as I started to ponder why she would have held onto the recipe for half of her life without ever having made it, I asked myself what would me do the same thing... and I could only think of one answer. Someone gave her that recipe, and Eleanor, out of politeness, was too scared to throw it away. So it lived for years in her recipe box, accumulating dust but no stains, because once upon a time, she, too, was a (slightly) less confident 20-something, anxious to please and not wanting to offend.
Here's the thing: if you changed the name of this meal to Salmon Terrine, no one would have a problem with it. And honestly, it's easy to see why not. This dinner was delicious, possibly because I left out something called 'Tempo,' which was the first ingredient and I'm pretty sure was just 1960's code for 'MSG.'* This is the perfect meal for this time of year, when the weather goes from summery to frigid in the course of a day and you want something cosy to eat that's not absolute stodge. It's filling, simple, and easy to make on a budget. Serve it with some roasted veggies and it makes the perfect springtime meal.
*Since I couldn't find Tempo, I made up my own seasoning, which is what I listed below, but feel free to get creative.
3 spoons out of five. It's delicious, easy, and affordable, but it's not exactly a glamorous meal. Make this when you're staying in with a friend who you don't need to impress for a cosy night in.
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried dill
½ tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
Scant ¼ c milk
2 cans of salmon if you're in the UK, or, if you're Stateside, figure out what you think a 'tall can' is, and use one of those.
Preheat oven to 176C/350F.
Butter a small loaf pan and set aside.
Mix all ingredients together in order given.
Pack firmly into loaf pan.
Bake 30-35 minutes until firm and golden brown on top.
Slice and serve with a salad or roasted veggies.
Serves 2, heartily, or 3, petitely.