Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Recipe Box

The Recipe Box

By Allison Adams 02-05-10 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun 02-07-10

Decades ago my dear daddy gave me a crystal clear Plexiglas recipe-card box for my birthday. He had my first name engraved in uppercase script letters along the front. It was very sleek and modern-looking. If a recipe-card box could be considered chic, it was this one.

For several years I collected recipes and carefully copied them using impeccable penmanship onto 4x6 cards that had an ivy border. I kept each one neatly filed – in alphabetical order – behind its appropriate category card divider. It would have only taken a few seconds to walk my fingers across the cards and pull out the very one I wanted – if I’d wanted one.

My recipe-card box was a source of pride and so I kept it I prominently displayed it on my kitchen countertop. It made a statement. It said: I neatly collect recipe-cards.

I’m not really sure what happened or when, but my once trendy and tidy recipe-card box is now a source of personal embarrassment. The outside of it is so covered in fingerprints and food splatters that my monogram is hardly recognizable. Inside the box, barely contained, is a collection catastrophe.

I keep it behind closed doors. It makes too much of a statement. It says: I am disorganized and could stand to spend a little extra time using a dishcloth.

These days my recipe card box contains cards of all shapes and sizes, along with bits of paper shoved in-between folded-up magazine pages and newspaper clippings. Years ago when I realized that I needed more space in the box I looked for superfluous items to omit, and so naturally the category card dividers got the heave-ho. Probably around that same time I also quit bothering to label some entries so I have to play the home recipe version of “Who Am I” with the haphazardly handwritten list of ingredients. Many of my recipes are so cryptic that only I can translate them.

When I need a recipe out of that box you’d better believe it’s a major event. I’m not talking about the making of the meal, but the hunt for the how-to. The only way to find anything specific is to empty the entire box and study each and every item inside.

As I sat down to begin the hunt for one of my favorite recipes I realized something had to give. I decided to sort and cull as I searched.

Out came the recipes that I’d knew I’d never-in-a-million-years get my family to eat – like Barbequed Stuffed Fish, Curried Cream of Mushroom Soup, and Artichokes with Yogurt Mustard.

Out came the ones that I knew I’d never-in-a-million-years attempt to prepare – like Lobster Fricassee, Iced Pear and Apricot Souffle’, and Rabbit Terrine. Rabbit Terrine? It’ll never happen.

Out came the recipes for things I’d never-in-a-million-years learn to pronounce – like Turbot En Bourride, Taramosalata, and Zabaglione.

Out came things that had no business being there in the first place – like the receipt for our artificial Christmas tree, most of the lyrics to “Desparado” written on a bank deposit slip, and what looked to be about half of an article entitled “Don’t Let Your Rug Become Dinner”. I am not kidding.

Although it’s a chore, flipping through my recipe file is also like walking down memory lane. I love when I come across one of the recipe cards that my mother painstakingly typed out on her reliable, manual typewriter. Some of them have wonderful names like “New Twist Dish”, and “Shrimp Secret” – names that require one to read further in order to discover the “Twist” or the “Secret”.

At last I came upon an envelope on the back of which was scribbled: 4 T butt, 2 on, 1 carrot, 6 gloves carlic, 2 70 oz toms, 1T oregno, sug, s & p, 4c chic stock, 2 c ½ ½ . Tranlsated … that, my friends, is Sherry Miller’s Terrific Tomato Soup recipe. More or less.

Having successfully found what I was looking for, I shoved everything back into the Plexiglas box except the never-in-a-million-years recipes, the receipt, and the song lyrics.

And as a precaution, I hung on to the article entitled “Don’t Let Your Rug Become Dinner”, just in case I’m ever tempted.

I am not kidding.

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