How A Binder of Recipes Can Change Your Perspective
Our world is filled with so much news – threats of ebola and entero viruses; terrorist groups doing unspeakable things to human beings and all of the political finger pointing that only gets worse as we edge up to November elections.
Unexpectedly, this past weekend I found a few hours reprieve from the ‘real world’. Maybe my experience will provide one for you as well.
When friends had to cancel weekend plans, I decided to still ‘clean up’ the house. (I’m the type that needs a good reason to do that type of stuff!)
I found myself shoving yet another recipe into my big blue binder that has been overstuffed for years. Recognizing that with the change of plans, there actually was time to go through it to purge some of those recipes that were just taking up space.
Do you have one of these?
Maybe yours is a box instead of a binder. It’s a place to store family recipes, favorite recipes and those, ‘oh that looks good’, recipes you tear out of magazines.
I Was So Organized!
Years ago, it started as a very organized place to store the makings of pleasures for the palate.
I bought separators and labeled sections: Appetizers, Soups & Salads, Side dishes, Main dishes, Desserts and Drinks.
I even bought page protectors! In the early years of my marriage and raising babies, I would selectively and carefully sort and place special recipes inside these plastic sleeves, wanting to preserve the ingredients and steps to making special meals for family and friends for many years to come.
Over the years, with less time for organizing, the big blue binder had become a jumbled collection of scrawled and torn (never mind the splash and spill stained) recipes of tasty items my boys and husband loved, mixed in with those gathered recipes that I hoped to make, but never had the time, ingredients, or wherewithal to bother to try.
The Purge Begins
As I opened the book, it was apparent a systematic method of purging had to be determined. I quickly calculated that anything I had not cooked in the last two years would be discarded. After all, I can find just about any recipe I want on line and read it off my tablet on the kitchen counter. Why save these old, yellowed pieces of paper?
Dishes I knew we liked, were family traditions at holidays, or ones I made often, I would keep – as a much as a help to this old memory of mine, as to easily share with the boys and their future (much in the future) wives, if they ever asked for them.
I came across recipes pulled from magazines; recipe pages torn from old cookbooks; several of those little stapled or bound books you get when you buy new appliances; and how to pages picked up at various country fairs.
Some stained and crinkled papers went in the recycle pile, while others were set aside to file in the proper section once I started putting the book back together.
I was going to rip through this before lunch time! Maybe I’d even get to the step where all the favorites would be retyped or scanned and put onto my computer into some organized fashion!
I turned a page then looked down at an old paper torn from a steno pad (getting the idea of how old this is?) with my BFF’s handwriting.
Lion’s Rock Pecan Chicken.
Lion’s Rock was a restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that we frequented in the late 70’s and 80’s. The company we worked for at the time would hold their Christmas luncheon or dinner (it was the 80’s – times were good) and we loved the pecan chicken. Ellie had asked the chef for the recipe – and she handwritten it for me and likely for herself too, on paper from a steno pad. And there it was, some 30 years later, preserved behind a piece of plastic in my overstuffed binder.
I remember making it once since we moved into this house 24 years ago.
Looking at that recipe brought me back to 1980, my first years in the corporate world and the wonderful friendships, some retained, some long gone, that defined that period of my life.
I kept turning the pages – the Golden Cheese Wheel, handwritten by me, but bringing a smile to my face as I remembered my teen years when this was the must-bring dish to our family and friends New Years Eve celebration.
There was the tiny piece of paper with my mom’s handwriting detailing her stuffed flounder recipe; another slip of tattered paper with the ingredients for her grandmother’s potato and cheese pierogies. And two more in her best cursive with the basic butter cookie and pecan nut cup recipes, slipped in the same protector next to my youngest sister’s carefully printed card for Sugar Cookies, all which are still Christmas favorites.
Even the printer generated recipes reminded me of friends, gatherings and fun, fun times spent with very special people, to whom I’d beg, “You’ve got to email me this recipe!”
I put the book aside, realizing it was not going to a quick 1, 2, 3 -keep, recycle, throw away, re-organize project, but rather, a project where I needed to sit down, pour a cup of tea or glass of wine, and allow myself to spend a little more time to recall the memories of good meals shared with good friends and family.
This was not just a recipe book, it was my history book.
In a world filled with threats to our health, our freedoms, and the dignity and basic rights of human beings, that big blue binder is a soothing and affirming representation of many phases of my life and the wonderful people who have shared good times and tough days along the way.
The plastic pages and yellowed handwritten cards are a concrete history of love and caring through meals, events and celebrations with both the most impressive and simplest of ingredients.
Recipes, the collective representation of generations of humans taking a basic need – food – and making into not only into something good to fill your stomach, but traditions and memories passed on to fill your soul.
But in times like these it’s just as important to sit down with our recipe books, old picture albums, diaries and journals, and realize that we are part of the history of the world. Our time here is short, but our influence – however we choose to influence – matters.
For convenience sake, some of the recipes might make it to my computer, but the originals and the stuffed, big, blue binder – well - they are here to stay. And for now, it's still crammed full. I got so distracted picking recipes to make this week, I ran out of time to organize the book!
I hope you have a recipe book or box stuffed and crammed full of memories! Tell us about it and share a picture on my Facebook page!
To your best,
More on empty nesting and mid life at www.getfocusedonliving.com
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