Several weeks ago, I lost the recipe card that held my chicken and dumpling recipe. That may not sound particularly tragic to you, but then again, you've never eaten my chicken and dumplings. If you had, you would understand the magnitude of the loss.
I was so frustrated by this. I dug through my over-run recipe box, through every section, even the non-dumpling related ones. The recipe was gone.
This helped me decide something I'd been thinking for a while, that the index card method of storing recipes probably isn't the most efficient one. It's too easy for cards to get misplaced, and, even if they're in the right section, it still takes too long to dig for the one you want. There had to be a better way.
So I've spent the last several weeks transferring my recipes to a Word document, one I can print out and store in a three-ring binder, compete with page protectors to protect from the cooking mess. It's my own personal cookbook, if you will. I know there is software that helps with this, or even does it for you, but I felt like keeping my own hands on the project. And I'm glad I did it. Even though I'm not a lover of cooking or recipes, and even though this whole project had its tedious moments, I've really enjoyed the process. Here's why.
First of all, I have chuckled at my own ambition as a young bride. Most of the recipes crammed in box had been clipped and saved from my earliest newlywed days. I can still picture myself, hunched over our tiny table in our 500-square-foot apartment, dreaming big dreams of made-from-scratch meals.
I got over that one pretty quickly. In this most recent purge, I tossed just about any recipe that had more than seven or eight ingredients.
Another reason this task has been so fun is browsing my collection of family recipes--those recipe cards I could never part with, not in a million years. I have recipes handwritten by both mine and my husband's grandmothers. Hubs' grandmother, a grand Southern lady in the truest sense of the word, provided commentary on hers. When she shared with me her mama's Karo Nut Pie Recipe (which, incidentally, is made entirely of "a pinch of this" and "a dash of that" and thus dooms me from the start), she noted that over the years she finally caved and "used a store-bought pastry." But, she added, in a voice I can positively hear through the recipe card, "Mama didn't."
And lastly, reading through all these recipes has reminded me a thing or two about writing down recipes for my own future generations. Lesson number one? Keep it simple. I think that sometimes recipe authors are a little bit control-freakish. I'll admit that I roll my eyes a little at recipes that read like this:
Add half the flour, and stir eight times counter-clockwise. Add two pinches of salt, one egg and remaining flour. Stir as you pour, but not too fast, and only blend until moistened.
Really? If a recipe truly requires that much choreography, I'll just enjoy it at the bakery.
(And, by the way, have you ever noticed how many recipes tell you to "add eggs one at a time"? Unless you're, I don't know, an octopus, is there any other way to do it?)
Here's my finished product. In the left-hand picture, my new cookbook is the tallest one, in the center. In the right-hand picture, you can see an inside shot, since I have it propped ever-so-artfully open. I thought I should make it look like I was in the middle of cooking. Might have helped if I'd actually put something in the bowl, don't you think?
I love my re-organized collection, and now that I've culled down to the basics, I'm really enjoying some old favorites I'd long forgotten. In fact, I've stumbled across so many recipes I love that I will probably be sharing a few of them here on the blog over the coming months.
But I promise, I will not tell you how many times to stir. You're on your own.
(P.S. Yes, I found the dumpling recipe. Stay tuned...)