Nowadays you can get any recipe you want online. But whatever the source, I prefer mine to be printed on paper. And, like most women who have been preparing meals for a number of years, I have quite an accumulation.
After my mom died in 2003, my sister gave me a box that she said contained our maternal grandmother’s recipes. When she told me what it was, I got excited. But once I looked through the contents, my enthusiasm faded a bit. The box held a scrapbook, and the scrapbook contained old recipes. Some are in printed leaflets, some are handwritten, and many were clipped from newspapers. I cherish it, especially since the fading inscription on the inside cover, written with a fountain pen in graceful old-fashioned handwriting, was my grandmother’s maiden name. She apparently started the collection before she was married, which would make the scrapbook about a hundred years old. Some are a little newer, and in my mom’s handwriting. But there aren’t many “receipts” in it, and none look like anything I’d want to make.
I don’t know why I’d never seen it before. In my memory, Mom kept her recipes in a plastic box. It probably started out as an organized collection on 3 x 5 notecards, but by the time I came along, it had degenerated into a hodgepodge of clippings tossed in any-old-where. Kind of like most of us, right?
Like Mom, I started out with good intentions. I had a nice new recipe box, fancy cards, and a couple of good cookbooks. If I liked a recipe from one of the books, I copied it onto the card to make it easier to find (and to follow—books tend to close at the most inopportune times). But unlike my mom, I love to cook, and I’m always trying new things. My new little recipe box was soon outgrown.
I’ve tried several organizational methods over the years, and finally—inspired in part by the old scrapbook—I arrived at a system that works. I keep “family favorites,” those I make over and over, in a small looseleaf notebook on the kitchen counter. All the gazillion clippings I find that look interesting but haven’t tried yet—or those that I’ve tried but don’t expect to make often—go in a larger notebook.
Correction: in four big notebooks. One for main dish recipes (divided according to type); one for cakes, breads and cookies; another for for pies, puddings, fruit desserts, candies, pickles and jellies; and the last, veggies, salads, rice dishes and miscellaneous. All four are pretty well bulging.
Note: Don’t tell me about the benefits of scanning and storing on my computer. I tried that route and don’t like it, so go away and leave me alone.
Where were we? Oh, yes: I haven’t mentioned the folder I keep behind the paper towel holder. That’s where I put recipes that I plan to make soon. Except, sometimes “soon” turns out to be never.
After that folder got too full and I started a second, it occurred to me that maybe it was time to rid them out and do a major reorganization.
So that’s what I’ve been doing this weekend. First, I sorted through everything in the folders. Then I filed the recipes in the big notebooks. Then I started going through the stuff I already had stored to see if I really wanted it. A lot of it ended up in the burn barrel; after all, if I haven’t tried it after 20 years, I probably never will. I finished reorganizing the Main Dish notebook this morning. Will probably sort through the rest of them this week.
I now have a new collection of “will try soon” recipes in the folder on the counter. But they number only a few.
The exercise made me hungry, and as a result, I’ve been cooking all afternoon.