Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Little black bookMy trusty old recipe book, battered, tattered and spattered, is so full of cuttings and clippings, and so strained and fragile, that I really need a younger, sturdier edition.
But I can't bear to move on to a new one!
I started this one in 1976, when, working on the railways in the Pilbara and pregnant with Simon, I realised my life was going to take an inevitable turn for the domestic. So I'd better start cooking. Or at least, make an effort to look as though I could start cooking.
So I began cutting and pasting into recipes from magazines into this little notebook. I'd used some of its pages already, to copy out poems, the odd address ("Adrian, c/- the London Walkabout Hotel ... "), and a list of the serial numbers of my brother's American Express travellers' cheques (no plastic bank cards in those days).
Pretty soon, though, these scribblings gave way to an amazing collection of now tired and dated-looking 1970s recipes from Belle magazine for jams and preserves, sophisticated salad dressings and glossy-looking dishes that feature such exotic ingredients as canned pineapple slices.There's nothing between 1976 and 1978 ... ... I imagine that once Simon was born there wasn't much time for prancing about the kitchen with cans of Golden Circle, and my domestic ambitions soon got shoved aside.
By the eighties, though, I was well into it.One day in the mid-1990s, realising the collection was by now a family record, I went back and put dates and details on as many recipes as I could, those I could remember anyway. Since then, whenever I enter a recipe I date it and tell where it came from, and from whom.
I have the recipe for Pepper and Salt Nuts that I made for a party at Laura's house in 2002, my neighbour's Tetragona Marenga (nut squares), Karen's 'Father's Favourite', and a fabulous pasta and tuna dish with capers that I got from my friend Helen 'at the Nicholson Road bus stop, Monday 17-11-03'.
There are a few eccentricities among Ian P's tuna salad and Kate's pumpkin souffle, like instructions for making the aloe vera and beeswax soap that I used to whip up in enormous quantities in 1989, and even recipes for whatever was ailing the roses...The San Diego section, the newest one, tellingly has several great recipes for chili con carne, including one that will feed twenty people, which I made for our first Superbowl Sunday, February '06.There are also recipes gleaned from the many blogs I read, like the excellent and aptly-named Foolproof Fudge from Jennifer in Massachusetts and, from Madrid, Lobstersquad's fabulous stuffed capsicums. Last year, before Lily moved off campus into her own shared house at the start of her second year at college, she spent hours copying out my recipes into a book of her own.It's part of the family.


pinkfairygran said...

This is such a lovely heirloom to leave the family. I had one which was my mother's begun just after the war, full of recipes from that time, bearing in mind rationing and so on. There were traditional family recipes, traditional Yorkshire recipes. If she made up something from leftovers and it was good, she would copy it in this book. I remember so many of the lovely recipes, which is just as well, as the book was mysteriously 'lost' in one of my many moves over the years. I have started one of my own, copied in old recipes, stuck in ones from magazines, but I know that when I die, it will just be destroyed, nobody will be interested. So why do it.. well, I suppose I always hope human nature will prove me wrong and someone, a grandchild possibly, may just want to keep it.

Natalie said...

This is such a great post. What a treasure you have created.

M said...

Oh thank you for letting us have a peek at your book!

Recently I started typing up all my recipes and would like to gather up all the family recipes into one big cookbook, representing generations of food.

Ours would be interesting with a plethora of diets (vegan, diabetic, coeliac, heart etc.). Still, it is no match for the handwritten beautiful heirloom you have there.

Laura Jane said...

I've got one of those too Lesley!

Aren't they treasures? I remember places and times too, and note if it is someone's favourite.

Stephanine has copied some of her favourites into her own version, and when Patty left home he took some with him too.

I have often given a starter book to my friends or sisters with some of my recipies or their favourites.

And the handwriting is what makes it. I treasure the ones from my mother-in-law whom I never met (I hear she was a terrible cook!) but its good to have the recipes she used for nostalgic purposes.

I also have the pharmacy version from my late Aunt-in-law (my MIL's sis)with her recipes that she used as one of the first women pharmacists in Tasmania. It contains recipes for such things as pomades, tonics, and creams for baby's bottoms.

Finally I have my own grandmother's nursing notes that she made while a student nurse in WW2, when Perth was preparing for 'radiation attack' and it contains nursing considerations and contingency plans for the disruption of the transport between north and south of the river, and the implications for health care, as well as how to nurse someone with radiation sickness!

Now do you see why I can't part with any of my Stuff?

Karen said...

Ha ha, glad you have my MOST SOPHISTICATED RECIPE in your book!
I of course have a very similar recipe treasure trove, annotated with remarks like "one quantity fits perfectly in yellow Corningware bowl".

Meg said...

What a beautiful book!
When I got married, the guests to the hen's party were asked not to bring gifts but one of their favourite recipes instead. So I have a nice little collection from friends added to my version of 'the recipe book' - many decorated with special paper or notes (one from my mother-in-law saying now that I was joining the family I could have the Secret Family Christmas Passionfruit Punch recipe). My mum's contribution was staggering - recipes of her own, plus handwritten recipes (on the old index cards) from her mother, her aunt, her grandmother and grandfather (who was a baker by trade), my stepfather's mother, sisters... I don't know how she amassed such a collection. Many are too frail to actually 'cook by' so I'll copy them out into my book one day and preserve the originals. It will go down in my memory as one of the most wonderful gifts I've ever received!

Fairlie said...

That is an absolute treasure. I have a similar one that I stick bits into, write things in...but I haven't updated it for a while. Recently I've found I print recipes off the computer, lose them. Print them again. I must get into the habit of printing them, and then sticking them in.