Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Recipe Drawer

I have been collecting recipes for well over 20 years. Sometime soon after I graduated from high school my father bought me a copy of the old Joy of Cooking.  For years I shoved scraps of paper with handwritten recipes between the front cover and the first page of this book. Eventually I couldn't close the book any longer and had to move the ever-growing pile of recipes to a box.  For the past 8 years they have had their own large kitchen drawer.  A couple years ago, frustrated with the dysfunction of riffling through hundreds of recipes to find the one I was looking for, I created recipe category folders.  So there is a folder for meat-based recipes, one for veggie/side dishes, one for breads and desserts, and a separate folder for cookies. Some of the folders are so fat that they barely contain their contents but at least its something. The meat-based recipe folder is the thinnest due to those 15 years of a vegetarian diet. 

All of my favorite recipes, that get made often, hover near the tops of the folders. When I have to hunt for a buried one there is a little time commitment involved.  I bring the folder to the kitchen table and page through the pile, re-living memories and being inspired along the way.  Usually when I go in search of one recipe I end up pulling 2 or 3 to the top that are calling out to be made. 

There are recipes from my travels, restaurants, old roommates, my mother, dear friends, and almost forgotten acquaintances.  There is the recipe from the Mennonite woman who had raised 12 children that I met in Belize.  She served me lunch in her home and on the table was a heaping bowl of sweet cucumber relish that tasted unique and delicious.  I wrote the recipe on a page of pink stationary as she dictated it to me. Now as I unfold the worn page I see that there is a quote at the bottom of the stationary she gave to me.  “Love never fails…..” I Corinthians 13:8.

There is the corn chowder recipe that was dictated to me in tandem by a pair of grandmothers who won the peoples choice award at a local chowder festival I attended years ago.

There is the carrot cake recipe that I finally obtained from the cook at the restaurant that used to be behind “The Cutthroat Saloon” in Markleeville, Ca.  It is the best carrot cake I have ever tasted.  I used to drive down there from Tahoe to go to Grover Hot Springs State Park and I would always stop in for a piece.  So I finally asked for the recipe, (this is probably 15 years ago now), and it was given grudgingly.  It now lives in my recipe drawer on a lavender piece of cardstock under the title: Thee Carrot Cake.  The lavender color helps me find it when I need it.

This is where the Luddite in me comes in.  I understand completely that any tech-savvy cook today has hundreds of thousands of recipes at his or her fingertips on their smart phone or iPad.  I myself have been using Epicurious for years and my folders now contain many favorites printed from the internet.  So I do not necessarily oppose the new, I am just cautious about giving up the old.  I just made up some song lyrics!:  I’m cautious about change.  What am I giving up for what I gain?.........  (Yes, I am a total geek.  We can get that out of the way right now.)  Anyway, I’m cautious about digitizing my drawer.  It would be more convenient and fast but gone would be the colors, textures, shapes, and sizes of the pages.  Gone would be the food stains and handwritten notes and changes.  The recipes chronicle my food interests through time and the handwriting itself triggers memories that may be lost if it were all traded for generic typeface.

I'll leave it at that for today but I have more thoughts on the old vs. the new so the topic is "To Be Continued"......  I'd love to hear your thoughts too in Comments!


  1. I agree there is something lost in an electronic format. You miss the full sensory experience of things. On the other hand, it allows for other kinds of experiences that may not have been possible otherwise, like your blog! So, I am grateful for the new as well as the old. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Karen! I'm so happy that your Mom recommended I read your blog. I am instantly transported to English Hill Farms Kitchen and your parents and you! Our family made a family cookbook two years ago in an effort to get some of the treasures into printed form we all can cherish. With 20 contributors, it is a little gem and I can instantly find all the recipes I use most often. Best is when the boys call and ask me to clarify something in the cookbook. The tradition continues.
    I fondly remember you, 15 years ago,introducing me to African groundnut stew. Yum. Keep up the excellent writing and cooking. I feel so connected to those I love!

  3. Candace, great to hear from you! Speaking of recipes, would you be willing to share your wonderful Christmas stollen recipe? Thank you again for your kindness and talent in baking this special treat for our family for the past umpteen years!