I’ve listened to many of my generation decry the problems with electronic media today; its impermanence, its lack of proper grammar. I’ve heard my friends talk about how they hate “e-books” because they love the feel/smell of a new/old book in their hands.. and I’ve always kinda just shrugged. I LOVE the quickness of electronic communication. I love using chat and tweet and Facebook. They keep me so connected to my friends and honestly, during the first few weeks after my mother passed away, it was the lifeline that kept me going. Just the little “I’m thinking about you” notes showed me that there was a “normal” world out there, somewhere far from the chaos.
But last night, I hit a point in which I may have changed my mind, on one aspect.
My father brought a Christmas card to our family dinner and handed it to me. Inside was a nice letter from my cousin Lynn. Lynn is actually my mother’s cousin and she and my mother had grown close over the past few years. In this Christmas letter, Lynn included something she told my father to give to me.
It was a recipe card.
The recipe was a simple recipe for hot turkey casserole. Nothing fancy, just diced turkey, mayonnaise, chopped onions, covered with crushed potato chips and baked at 350 for 20 min. But it was what was written on that card that stopped me. Across the top of the card, my mother’s mother had written that this was the recipe used for my mother’s bridal luncheon. On the back of the card was written the rest of the menu; olives, pickles, bread, coffee and cake. Under the list was a short note “Quadrupled the recipe and it still wasn’t enough. Everyone wanted more!!!!” (yes.. with the multiple exclamation points)
I took the recipe card and went to my own recipe box which was sitting neglected on the back of my counter, behind my iPad stand that I use to cook with now. I opened it and went through some of the cards. My mother’s recipe for nutbread, my ex mother in law’s recipe for Cherry bars, my high school friend’s recipe for cookies. It went on and on.
From there I went to my book shelf. There, tucked between the Cormac McCarthy and the Edward Gory was where I kept both my grandmother’s and my great Aunt Kath’s hand written cook books I’ve looked at these recipes many times, but this was the first time I really understood why they were so dear to me. The recipes aren’t all the fancy. Simple fare, mostly. Things you would serve to your family on a regular night. Some of them cite substitutions due to war rationing. They were the recipes my grandmother and her cousin used in their daily lives.
As I sat there with my eyes closed, I could hear them laughing in the kitchen as they baked dozen after dozen of Aunt Kath’s oatmeal cookies to give out at Halloween. I understood then that there was something in these old fashioned recipe cards and hand written cookbooks that we just can’t keep electronically. Sure I could scan the cards, but it’s not the same. When I hold these cards, in one little way and just for one little moment, I touch those women who meant so much to me.
I think I’m going to go out and buy a little journal, and write down the recipes I use on a regular basis. Just because.