When I go in looking, I allow myself time.
It is not a collection of food, it is a walk through my past.
Most are handwritten, on anything handy at the time; index cards, post-it notes, brown paper bag scraps.
Some are yellowed, with torn edges and faded ink. The best of them are well-worn, stained with Crisco, egg yolk, flour-dusted fingerprints.
They are signed and dated, from all over the country, from towns we called home.
A few of them were family secrets. At my mother’s funeral, I was given the desired Cherry Cheesecake recipe from one who brought the treats to every potluck, refusing to share the recipe. I lived hundreds of miles away, so she was sure it was safe to give it to me ?
One was a favorite clam chowder from a chef at a Salt Lake City seafood restaurant. The man who shared the recipe died a few years after I left the area.
There was a simple, foolproof pie crust recipe from a farmer’s wife in Michigan. Her life story was a tragic one, she had accidentally run over her toddler as she backed out of the driveway. He did not survive. She never really recovered.
My BBQ sauce, cooked with fresh lemon pulp, diced onion and hot sauce, came from a dear friend and co-worker, a mother at 16. I was her age, and childless at the time.
There is a chocolate cake recipe that, once revealed, ended a friendship for my mother in the 1950’s.
Stuffed cabbage from Pittsburgh in-laws, authentic Maryland crab cakes, Carolina pulled pork, New York style pizza, Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie, Ukrainian pierogi, Italian lasagne with English subtitles…just a few favorites.
Some have a short list of ingredients, followed by a page or two of instruction. One special example is Mom’s nut roll recipe “work the dough and add flour until it feels right”. I called her from 2000 miles away to define “right”, telling her that I was using a glass 7-Up bottle, since I had not invested in a rolling pin.
Some of these folks have passed away. Looking at these recipes brings them back to life for me. I remember the food, the conversation, the love, the pride in sharing a bit of their culinary skills .
Some have offered to convert my recipes to a digital format.
It makes sense, but I prefer to keep my raggedy file box of memories.