Cookbook History


My old standbys.

We’re the ones who don’t think in measuring cup increments. Instead we think in spice palette increments.

I’m one of those intuitive cooks. You know what I mean? We’re the ones who read a recipe in 30 seconds, then try to recreate it.

“mmmmmm, cumin with honey?” or “Oh, wow, rosemary and lime juice!”

We think of cooking as an art, not a science.

We toss in a bit of this, a smidge of that, stir it around and suddenly realize that it needs buttermilk.

Cooking is my creativity.

So it’s kind of funny that I have a cookbook collection. I have cookbooks from China, Russia, Germany, Italy. I have cookbooks about snacks, cookbooks about desserts, cookbooks that are for kids. And I have a whole shelf of amazing leather bound cookbooks from the past century that tell more about social expectations of women than they do about how to make a perfect squab. I often read them for fun.

Tonight, though, I found myself thumbing through my very favorite cookbook ever. My daughter Kate gave it to me for my birthday during her junior year of college.

Kate and I used to cook together, and often experimented on recipes that the men in the family consumed with pleasure.

When she’d moved from the dorm into her first campus apartment, I’d sent her with a cookbook full of my favorite recipes. She might not be at home in my kitchen anymore, but I needed to know that my girl had the family recipe for red sauce and meatballs at hand.

She’d loved the gift, and had added her own discoveries and creations during the school year.

So when my birthday rolled around, Kate gifted me with my very own cookbook of HER favorite recipes. It was fabulous! She included recipes for “Reverse Chicken Soup” (made with beef broth and ground chicken meatballs) and “Pasta e Fagioli Cucina Lavandino” ( kitchen sink pasta e fagioli).

It was hilarious! I loved it.

I put its pages into my own home made cookbook.

Every time I found a delicious recipe, or an enticing food idea, I included into this three hole punched cooking notebook.

Well.

Tonight I decided to add a new recipe, for the first time in years. I have started making more raw veggie dishes, and wanted to add in hand written recipes for two new favorites: Italian Cole Slaw and Carrot Cumin Salad.

I wrote them down, popped them into the cookbook, and then started to flip through the pages.

Yikes.

This is like the history of my marriage and motherhood years. It’s broken into sections (appetizers, main dishes, desserts) but each one is in chronological order. A stroll through these pages is a documentation of my evolution through the basics (meatballs, chicken piccatta, yellow cake) and into our early marriage years.

That was when we wanted quick, easy and cheap (The Sausage Casserole I invented in grad school when each dinner had to come in at under 3 dollars). Dessert was usually a couple of graham crackers.

The book moves on into the early parenting years, when I mastered “Mexican spiced chicken fingers” and a lovely dish called “Heavy Slop.” Filling, easy and healthier than Hamburger Helper.

It goes on through special events that gave us “Christmas Shrimp Cocktail” and even “Red Sox Noodle Dandy”. The latter was created during the playoffs of 2004, when the word “Yankee” was completely forbidden to be spoken anywhere in New England.

Now I find healthier, higher-end recipes being added to the book. Foods with less fat, less salt, more fiber. Dishes that cost three times what the first entries did. Now I see recipes for lamb, for shrimp, for exotic pastas and sauces.

I love them all.

But mostly I love the idea that my life has been recorded as a series of recipes.

I can’t think of anything that would be a better fit for me than this!

25 thoughts on “Cookbook History

  1. I want your recipe for reverse chicken soup..plus an explanation of its intriguing name. And.. what is that next to your cookbook? Is it another cookbook, and if so, what is its spine made of? I, too, am an intuitive cook.. one reason I don’t do much baking, which involves more chemistry. Enjoyed this piece…

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  2. I’ve had cookbooks come and go over the years, but nothing has lasted long enough to have the well-worn appearance that yours do! I don’t really cook the way my parents or grandparents did, but there are a few things made during my childhood that I have tried to replicate at times and never managed to get just right- but there were never any written recipes either.

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  3. I love my cookbooks, too, and even when we downsized and moved six years ago, I couldn’t bear to part with many of them..so instead of 200-300 favorites, I now have about 75 on my shelf..all loved, cherished and often used💕

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    • Thank you! You should cook, if you like cookbooks! Just go for it. I always say that some of my best dinners were from messed up recipes. Also: in this day and age, if it comes out horrible, you can always order a pizza! It’s a wonderful form of creativity and invention. And so tasty!

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