This past holiday season, in preparation for gift-giving, I spent a lot of time scrutinizing my recipe collection. Not my cookbooks so much, but those little scraps of paper that are crammed in that great recipe box that my Mom gave me, and the other one that I inherited from my Grandma. You know the ones. The boxes that I have been meaning to organize, clean up, consolidate, transcribe and get all those scraps onto uniform recipe cards for years now. For some reason, I have been resistant to finally getting the job done and organizing it already, when it hit me: I don’t want to throw away ANY of these scraps of paper. As I looked through all my recipes I made a decision that goes against my personality type, and I am at peace with it: leave the recipe box messy and disorganized. Why? Because my recipe collection is a series of precious memories – every speck of cookie dough on my Mom’s Sugar Cookie card reminds me of baking with my Mom; because I remember every recipe in that box based on how it looks: smudged, folded, on lined paper or a scrap of envelope or torn from a newspaper. Recipes are history, and I feel that my recipe box truly reflects my growth as a cook – family favorites, borrowed recipes, recipes I adapted, recipes I invented. I am so glad that I have inherited recipes from my family and friends – I feel like an archivist now as I have shifted my energy from homogenizing the look of my recipe box to preserving the historical contents within instead.
My siblings and cousins have been gently asking for me to copy recipes down from Grandma’s box in the year since she passed away; “This summer when we had a ton of zucchini, I should have made some of Grandma’s zucchini bread!” or “You know what sounds good? Oatmeal cookies. Grandma made great oatmeal cookies!” And other subtle comments of that nature. Normally, I would have just transcribed everything and made a little book out of her recipes or just emailed them to everyone. However, every time I sat down to work on the project, I felt that by making uniform, clean copies of the recipes that I was in some way erasing memories. It just felt so wrong. So, I devised a way to scan in every recipe as-is, which essentially takes a photo of the item: recipe card in Grandma’s handwriting with smudges, food particles, misspellings, folds and rips. They were ruggedly beautiful images, and since I have a color laser printer I was able to print them out on card stock – front and back – to really give a feel for the originals. This technique produced perfectly imperfect recipe cards that are virtually indistinguishable from the originals. Sure, they are minus the folds and 3-dimensional rips and torn edges. But they are there, documented. Gift-giving this season never felt so good! Everyone has their own reproduction of Grandma’s recipe box now, and can make bunuelos, tortillas, peach cobbler and Harvey Wallbanger Cake whenever they feel like it. And, they can now share our family legacy with whomever they wish.
Reproductions are on bottom, originals on top