I only recall meeting my great-grandfather Archie William Diegel once. I was very young, visiting grandparents in Knoxville, Tennessee with my parents. He seemed nice but giant and scary like all adults. When I had the opportunity to photograph his recipe book, I realized that my love of food and cooking runs deep, perhaps to the bone, perhaps to my DNA. I felt a strong connection to this person I never knew simply because, well, this book is how I would have done it.
When carefully scanning each page, my first priority was simply to keep a copy. I printed all the pages, and bound a copy for myself and my parents, so the original could go back home to Tennessee. Each time I mentioned it, or thought about it, I thought it was something that should be shared.
The recipe book
According to my mother, her grandmother (Chloe Pernie Keith Diegel) was the cook in the family. One day she became too ill to keep up with the kitchen, so Archie, her grandfather, took over for her. He didn’t know how to cook; he had to teach himself. He was an engineer, so he was very precise. He collected recipes and hints from friends, relatives, and neighbors. Some of the recipes were old and handed down. Some were his own discoveries or modifications. He made sure to credit anyone whose recipe he included by name.
My mother remembers him in the kitchen, grinding meat and making his own sausage. He raised his own chickens, kept a garden, and a prolific fig tree.
My name is Michael Barrett. I’m a software developer with an art background. I grew up Charlotte, NC and live in Portland, OR. I write regularly at abouthalf.com.