One of the first things I did after getting engaged to Dale was to visit his Mom holding a stack of index cards. I then went through her recipe box copying recipes from her.
A few months later, my sisters gave me a shower. They had a recipe box for me and it was filled with recipes from all my relatives and Dale’s relatives. Some just signed their names, some wrote little notes on the back and some added additional ideas for the recipe. It remains one of my most cherished gifts.
With the internet I now find I hardly go to my recipe box or my grange cookbook. I just go online, search for what I want to make and go from there. This evening, Dale had a men’s potluck. Today was one of those fall days where you long for the past. I woke up thinking how I would love to have spent the day in Old Town Alexandria, VA with my youngest. She’s lived in Charleston, SC for years now, but the thought of pushing a stroller and browsing through shops and sharing lunch like we did long ago, just sounded wonderful.
But, getting back to the potluck, I wanted to make something that had a history to it. I decided on homemade baked beans. I searched my recipe box (you knew it was going somewhere, right?). Inside were scraps of paper, worn notebook paper, deposit slips with recipes on the back and the usual recipe cards, many with different handwriting than mine.
The baked bean recipe is on a note size paper, the bottom a bit frayed and the sides of the paper bent in many directions. I remember when I wrote it down. I sat in the kitchen of my mother-in-law. I sat in a chair at the table and she dictated the recipe to me. It was from the woman who taught her how to cook. The recipe is close to 100 years old. When I taste them, I taste home and hear the echoes of family reunions in my mind.
After fixing the beans, I pulled out my grange cookbook. So many tried and true recipes in there for me. Today it was pumpkin cake for the guys. As I leafed through the pages of the cookbook, there were again pieces of paper thrust inside. There were notes scribbled on the pages, don’t use this temp, it will dry out. Add more sugar to this one. Don’t ever make this again. Things like that.
It was a nostalgic morning for me today. Some recipes were from our time in Japan. It was like I got them yesterday, I remember the first time I had the Korean beef and realized I hadn’t made it in years. There was a hobo sandwich recipe that my sister had sent me in a letter while we were overseas. Hobo sandwiches were made in the hospital cafeteria when she and I worked there before I was married. Several cheesecake recipes that I swore I would make often and now I just remember the person writing the recipe for me and forgot how the dessert tasted.
It was a wistful morning for me as my mind traveled back in time to people and places that once were home.
Psalm 143:5 says, “I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done.” (NLT)
I never imagined all those years ago that my life would be so full. Eating is a part of life, it is a necessary thing for our bodies, but it is also a social event for us. Memories are made around food. People bond over food. Opening that recipe box today was like opening a scrapbook. With each bit of paper, with each signature, my life’s history opened up to me.