July 21, 2020
I read once that it takes a few days of vacation for you to settle in, your body to relax, your rhythms to adjust, and deep relaxation to happen, the ability to allow vacation to seep in and truly take root. For me midsummer is the type of relaxation that allows me to get up in the morning with my imaginary list and tackle whatever whimsical project that my heart desires. The time the project will take is unimportant. Whether anyone will notice it after I complete it is unimportant. These are the kinds of soul-stitching, heart-healing, deep-breathing kind of projects that have sustained me through all these seasons of being an educator.
This past week I accomplished many of those projects. The joy universally seems to be that something during the completion of them utterly surprises me, fills me with wonder, or overtakes me with a sense of … well, I’m not sure what the right word is, so let me tell you the story of the recipe box.
Truth is a recipe box has become superfluous. I once used it all the time, but now I’ve taken to googling an ingredient or a recipe to match whatever I want to prepare. I have a recipe box that has been shuffled from location to location coming to rest this summer on my kitchen counter. When I changed my counter arrangement to accommodate a coffee station, the recipe box, the files of recipes, the cookbooks, and the cookbook writing projects I’ve had all came together in a rainy day project.
I opened the recipe box… Arranged by alphabet, I began with A unloading the box and examining the recipes. Did I know when I first placed them here which ones would become so valuable that the recipe would be unnecessary? A had several recipes for homemade applesauce, a necessity in the early parenting phase of seasonal apple picking forays. I paused a moment to remember beautiful sunny autumn days hoisting young pickers up into trees for perfect specimens. Where is that apple pie recipe I love so much? Oh, it’s in this Silver Palate cookbook.
B turned up a dozen or so recipes for sweet breads made in the season of baking as gifts. I have several versions of loaf pans big and small to accompany these recipes. Remember this lemon poppy seed from that sweet cafe in Lafayette? Many of these recipes were annotated with their origins or written in the quick script of someone jotting down a memorized recipe to share. Pumpkin, eggnog-cherry, poppy seed, zucchini, and banana. Banana bread… how many loaves of banana bread have I made? Adapting my grandmother’s recipe, a favorite from Cooking Light magazine, here’s where I learned the formula for baking…Sweet breads have a pattern like pound cakes. When and why did I stop making the others and only focus on banana bread? Abundance of ingredients I presume. A left over can of pumpkin becomes pumpkin bread in that crockery loaf pan with the pumpkin detail. A neighbor’s zucchini crop becomes zucchini bread. Memories of baking smells and friendships begin to fill my kitchen.
C is for cookies. I couldn’t possibly contain them in this box. Several versions of chocolate chip cookies, though none needed for the frequent batches filling that mouse cookie jar from my long ago wedding shower. I pause to think about my mom’s cookie jar, Red Wing Pottery Bobwhite pattern. I think about my Christmas cookie lists, my bake club, and so many other batches and batches of cookies. But C contains cobblers, crisps, and cakes. Diana’s Apple Crisp… I can picture her kitchen as she served the delight with some coffee and tea warm smells of apple and cinnamon brightening a meeting. Molasses cookies, my grandmother’s favorites. I can see her hands, soft with age, scooping the teaspoons full onto the pan, the smell of molasses and spice filling the air. Gooey Butter Cake… I see the bakery in my home town, the square cakes ready to be taken home after Saturday errands. There’s a recipe for that Eclair Cake I love. This project is filling me with joy! I mark a few recipes for my bake club.
I continue on through the alphabet, letting go of some recipes, rereading others, cherishing the handwriting of my mom and grandmother both long gone and friends left behind in life changes. So many recipes for chicken when that’s what the kids would eat. New baby casserole favorites to drop off. Does that tradition even exist anymore? Recipes hastily scrawled on scraps of paper in chicken scratched short hand of sorts. This was a lovely walk down a lane of delicious memories. Food for the soul.
I write with my community of slicers at Two Writing Teachers each Tuesday.