Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Proust May Have Been On To Something

Kay wants pictures of recipe boxes/whatever's? Way ahead of her. Okay, a little ahead of her. Except that doesn't reveal the astounding cleverness and beauty of the whole thing. Let me expound (expand?).

I used the box system. I still have a very pretty wooden one with stencilled baskets of cherries, or maybe apples. It was stashed in one of the kitchen cupboards. I could never find anything in it. One year, after I thought I had lost my husband's favorite Christmas cookie recipe (Walnut Cookies from Good Housekeeping's Christmas cookie issue, circa 1980 something), I got fed up and decided to put together a system that worked for my brain. Behold. Cute winter picture, because it started life as a repository for Christmas cookies and cardinals not only hang around in the winter, they're the Illinois state bird.

It's flexible. Pockets for original cards/articles/napkins/torn off scraps of paper. Some recipes are copied into the book. I can leave space to make notes. Like the one we made this year when Clare used dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar in the Walnut Cookies and everybody was so impressed with them that we actually ran out.

The most treasured recipe I have though, is not the Walnut Cookies, happy as I was when the original resurfaced. That accolade has to go to Pineapple Cookies. I suspect this was typed up by my uncle, but the second sheet of handwritten notes is my Grandmother's writing. She must have enclosed these in a letter to me when we were living in Stanford, the first year or so we were married, because she died a month before we moved back to Chicago.

That would be my mother's mother. She lived in Detroit and would make the cookies for my Dad when we went to visit. At least, she did if it wasn't too warm. The dough is so "short" that it would melt on a hot day. (That's "short" as in "shortbread" or "shortcake." Not height or lack thereof). Family legend has it that these were originally more of a sweet roll. I don't know how or when the transformation was worked.

I'm sure my mother made them, too, but the memories I have are of my Grandmother's kitchen. Watching her hands as she rolled out the dough, cut the squares, dabbed the filling, folded the ends over, and transferred the cookie to the cookie sheet. The economy of movement was grace itself. This year, Clare made them for the first time.

Recipes hold almost as many stories as knitting.

1 comment:

Bobbi said...

that's a great system, I'll have to consider it. I never use my recipe box. :)