Whoa! Don’t touch another recipe until you read this article.

Monday, September 13 2010
Revisiting the Recipe Reality Review
By Daryl Hoole - Meridian Magazine

Whoa! Don’t touch another recipe until you read this article.

I heartily agree with one anonymous reader who reminds us to be very selective in throwing away those little cards we long ago collected. Some may be family treasures. So, with her permission, I share her counsel. She writes:

“I, too, grew up in a home/family of fabulous cooks. I was blessed to have homemade meals and didn’t know you could buy bread or cake mixes until well into high school. I respect the need to clean house and discard old recipes, but can I add one caution: please check with the kids first!

“As my mother aged, her diet changed--less fat and salt. The table was set for two instead of nine. She, too, condensed her recipe collection. When I would call for my favorite childhood recipes (such as divinity from the Betty Crocker cookbook—yes, the book was falling apart, and no, she hadn’t made divinity in 15 years, but. . .) they were gone. She no longer made pies from scratch (lard and all) and, no, I won’t make them often, but now no one will make them at all because Grandma’s ‘no fail pie crust’ recipe was thrown away. She had a recipe for homemade hamburger buns that were a pain to make, but what a wonderful treat for a grandchild’s special day—especially with her stuffed hamburgers. Both recipes are now gone.

“Some of those old recipes actually turn out meals from scratch as well as meals that use very few ingredients. There may be a time in the future when my children won’t have access to packaged/canned/bottled foods, and it may well be Grandma’s three-ingredient recipes with basic ingredients that are the saving grace. We store food, but not always the resources needed to do something with those 50-pound bags of wheat.

(Note from Daryl: I’m reminded of the young bride who said she had spent the entire morning at the super market looking for a box of “scratch” because her recipe said, “made from scratch.”)

“Those recipe cards are like journal entries, especially the handwritten ones. The amounts and even the types of ingredients have changed over the years. Oven temperatures and baking times have been adjusted. I see those chicken scratch marks and marvel anew at the attention to detail my mom put into her meals and treats. She wanted them ‘just right.’ And the food was wonderful every time because she followed those recipes to the letter. Few do that anymore.

"I would love to have a scrapbook of those old recipe cards, some typed (my grandchildren won’t even know what a typewriter was) with the various cute borders and the egg splatters and grease spots adding to the charm. I close my eyes and see those messy little cards and my mom in her apron standing over the cupboard kneading love into everything that went from the kitchen to the table. And, as for those recipes for foods we refused to eat because they were so bad (there were a few), I would even like to have those. It was nice to know that she was human and made a few culinary mistakes along the way. This gives me courage as I try new recipes.

“Many recipes came from magazines, newspapers, and Relief Society handouts of years ago. The recipes are only part of the charm; the articles and pictures on the back, and the scribbled notes and comments in the margins, take me on a nostalgic walk down culinary lane. Please, be cautious about throwing out the memories. I’m glad to add some extra page protectors to my binder for these treasures.”

So, thank you, dear reader, for the cautionary advice. Yes, it is important to manage our recipe collections, both as to volume and organization, but I appreciate the reminder to look carefully at the old, smeared, rumpled ones: Aunt Merle’s meatloaf, Aunt Lila’s lemon cream pie, Mother’s raisin-filled cookies, Swiss steaks, and German Chocolate Cake, and everybody’s favorite “Grandpa Juice.” They may belong among the “keepers.”