Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Writing in Cookbooks

College was the first time I wrote in a book, my name inside the front cover or accidental toddler scribbles aside. I remember the feeling of sacrilege as I made a hasty note in the margin, still not quite believing my own audacity. Probably my note said something like "study this!" or "sounds important!". I'm sure it was quite helpful later.
These days I'm still writing in books - but now they're my cookbooks instead of history texts, and my scribbling marks favorite recipes, alterations, and dates and people I've cooked certain dishes for.

It started with our copy of Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything". When I tried a recipe I liked, I started putting the date and a smiley face next to it. If we made it for friends or family, I noted that as well. Any changes or difficulties started to earn their own little notes, and gradually my cookbook has morphed beyond a collection of great recipes into a sort of family heirloom.

That might sound dramatic, but when I flip through the pages and see a little note and smiley face from three years ago telling me that Greg loved the cabbage coleslaw, it reminds me of the BBQ we hosted in the backyard of our first house. (There's also a little note reminding me that Mom doesn't like cabbage.) On the next page is a remark next to a recipe I made for a friends bridal shower, reminding me I owe her a phone call. Flip to the breakfast section and I see that Greg made me light and fluffy pancakes for breakfast on my first day of teacher workshops. That makes me smile... and it makes the cookbook a treasure trove of memories as well as recipes.

There are technical notes too, about checking the bran muffins after fifteen minutes because mine were done, or that coconut really does burn if you're not careful. One of my favorites is a snippy little aside in the chicken section that reads as follows: "Kelly, at age 25 you do not have the patience to wait for roast chicken to cook thoroughly. And having the oven up to 500 scares you. Pleas just cut the thing up and braise it. 2/2/09"
It's funny now, but it'll be even funnier when my son reads it as he starts learning to cook. (May I say that while I still don't turn the oven up to 500, I am now capable of roasting a chicken to completion.)

I can't wait to make little notes about the first things Will cooks, his favorite dishes, what we made for birthday celebrations. Every time I open a cookbook to one of those pages, it'll be a little snapshot reminding me of the ways food brings us together.

Happy cooking, happy eating, and happy remembering :)

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