Inspired by a fellow blogger, foodie, and recipe collector, I am spending some time sorting through old recipes and arranging them in an old photo album with “sticky” pages. There is a chaos and comfort in the yellowed newspaper clippings and the handwriting of my grandmother on the back of bank slips and envelopes that far outweigh the organization and ease of Internet bookmarks and digitally stored ingredients and measurements.
Recipes are part of our family folklore. I hadn’t considered this until a project was assigned to me many moons and teaspoons ago in my college folklore class. Homework: collect family recipes and write comments on the recipe cards that tell everything from eaters’ ratings—4 stars on the coconut cream pie— to the name of the person who passed along the favorite cinnamon roll recipe—childhood friend Becky.
The best recipes record snippets of our personal history…
the family members who cook for us,
Sauce and Meatballs—from our wonderful Aunt Millie, who made a giant meatball for Mac’s 8th grade graduation present. And who calls you “poopie” and kisses you smack on the lips.
the family members who teach us how to cook,
Chicken and Dumplings—from Grandma Jo. “Mimi, don’t add so many dumps that all your broth will disappear.”
the celebrations that call for special dishes,
Dan and Amanda’s Baked Beans—Dan and I concocted this for one of the first family dinners we served as a couple.
and the things that put the “secret” in secret recipe.
Swedish Mocha Cake—given to me by Mrs. Cleary. I wrote another note years later after my divorce from my first husband: “OK, actually, my ex-mother-in-law never shared this recipe with me, and she called it Irish Mocha Cake. One day I found the recipe in an old Good Housekeeping magazine on her bookshelf. It is Swedish Mocha Cake. And I stole it.”
My daughters and I had fun going through the stack of recipes, remembering people and parties as we did foods and flavors.
Thanks to the blog post that inspired me to finish a project I began so long ago. http://lifeisfare.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/from-my-mothers-recipe-box-sponge-cake/