Recipe Boxes

This morning began with printing out some recipes. Which led to tidying up my cookbook area and baking pans. Which led to pulling out the recipe boxes I’ve had forever, but mostly have treated like bookends.

I love old recipes, but I’m a modern person, right? I never think to pull out a card when I could pull up something on a screen. So the three boxes have sat, rarely touched, until today.

I first started collecting recipes when I was 10 or 11. My Aunt Ginger sent me a little recipe box, with a few of her own included, as a gift. Her choices, like her, were pragmatic and sensible. Her handwriting is clear. It all makes sense.

With that, I was off and running. I tried to emulate her direct style. It didn’t exactly translate. You may well need a translator for my handwriting.

You can also see I had already isolated the first element of a good recipe box: Overwhelming ambition you will never actually carry out. I don’t know how much cream of broccoli soup or tabouli salad 11-year-old me thought I was going to make. I had never eaten either of those things. No matter!

I gave up on writing out cards pretty quickly, opting instead for taping clipped recipes to them. At some point, I dispensed even with the taping, just cutting whatever looked good from the food section of the paper. Emphasis on WHATEVER.

Clearly, I was not going for a theme. Please note: I have still made none of these things, but I’ve held on to the recipes for 40 years. You never know when you’ll need to make a batch of Polish mushroom soup on short notice. I have always been prepared for such an emergency.

Recognizing that 50-year-old me doesn’t want to cook or even order an anisette souffle, I was able to clean out this whole stack today. I kept my aunt’s recipes, and a few of my childhood ones, but that’s all. Begone, obligations of the past. Out, old clippings. That alone allowed me to pare down from three recipe boxes to two.

With the other recipe box—my mom’s–I kept every single thing. Time capsules take all forms.

In these, I can see her early cards, written as an ambitious young bride. And later ones, where she was less striving and more…herself.

This “macedoine of fruit” has to be one of the early ones. I’m 100% sure she never attempted it, but she clearly gave it a lot of thought.

My favorite part is the notation about “flaming cubes.” For the love of all that is edible, flaming cubes of…WHAT? WHY?

I have to add: The idea that she would consider subbing in cherry pie filling is 100%, center of the target, on-brand for my mother. She once combined orange-flavored coffee beans and coconut-flavored coffee beans to make tropical coffee. She also liked to put mayonnaise in guacamole “to make it creamy.” So of course canned pie filling in her macedoine. Of course.

It’s cousin in the box is “frozen Caribbean salad,” which requests a cup of mayonnaise and a cup of whipped cream. Presumably to make it creamy.

In rereading, I see that she forgot to indicate when you add the pineapple, so that the recipe (as written) is one banana in two cups of white goo. I guess you could put it in any time, really.

Laughs aside, the notes are my favorite part. Who is Fitz? Why does she need to be there by 1:30? Another recipe card notes someone’s flight time from Houston. This was also very her. Wherever she was, my mom’s orbit always included a legal pad or a list jotted on a torn envelope. Underlining and cross-outs were a given.

Just seeing that makes me feel like this box is still hers. But it’s mine now. I patched up its cracked lid and added a recipe card of my own.

Let’s hope that some future finder opts for my scones, and not my grandmother’s corned beef loaf. ☗

© 2021 Tori Brovet/All rights reserved. GraveyardSnoop — at —

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