Recipe Memories

box 2At first sight, the recipe file is a bit of a mess.

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.

Vintage Views

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.

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12 Responses to Recipe Memories

  1. I was not from a foodie family, but I hear stories so often of memories centered around warm aromatic kitchens and secret batters. I get a little jealous of those well-worn boxes of scribbled ingredients. I’m glad you have one.

  2. mandy smith says:

    Van, this is priceless! I related to it all–recipe cards splattered with BBQ sauce . . . I have a small recipe box similar to the red one in the photo, packed with recipes just like you describe–Crisco stains and all. It’s wonderful to get them transferred to digital, but make sure nothing happens to the originals–that’s true history! Wonderful post!

  3. LaVagabonde says:

    Recipe box/treasure chest of memories. I started to store my favorite recipes on my computer, but just started writing them down. There’s something so impersonal about looking at a computer screen, and besides, I don’t want Crisco stains on my keyboard. 🙂 I really need to get one of those recipe boxes, or at least a book. Do they even make them anymore? Wonderful post, Van.

    • There are a lot of vintage boxes out there. Mine is from the 60’s. They, like a lot of cookbooks, have become archaic. Like everyone else, I go to the internet for new recipe ideas. Thanks, Julie. Van

  4. I treasure the recipes I have which are written by those now long-gone for one reason or another. Your strawberry-rhubarb pie lady breaks my heart. How could she ever recover? I’ve done as you talked about in the comments with some of my recipes and put in the three-ring binder. It works well.

    • Thanks, Barbara, I think the binder is a good plan.
      I knew Miss Bev for a few months and noticed the undercurrent of sadness. One of her best friends filled me in. I can’t even imagine the pain. She was the sweetest lady, so full of compassion for everyone else. A lesson in grace, to be sure.

  5. Ashlee says:

    Dea Van,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “Recipe Memories.” It’s beautifully written and such a unique glimpse into a story that has shaped you. I think it would make a wonderful youshare. In fact, I think several of the stories on your site would make wonderful youshares. Your voice is authentic, and it’s clear you write from the heart.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to share your story with the project. I hope to hear from you soon.


  6. Ashlee says:

    Thanks so much for your reply. That’s great to hear! Please let me know if you have any questions, or need anything at all ( Warm regards, Ashlee

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