By: Marlana Ward
I am a collector of things. My husband would tell you that I collect too many things. One of my favorite collections is my assortment of cookbooks and recipes. Whether in a shiny, glossy-paged book or a well-worn, stained scrap of paper, recipes are not just a list of ingredients and instructions but articles of history, culture, and flavors.
In today’s technological age, the sharing of handwritten recipes has gone the way of letter writing and actual pen pals. Church potlucks were once a showcase of families’ best loved dishes. A lady knew her dish was well received when others came to ask for her recipe. Some potluck dishes would be so popular that it would be printed on the back of next week’s bulletin for all to have. After a family reunion, letters would be sent to loved ones with recipes included for a dish that was especially enjoyed and requested.
Recipe cards were a fun way to share favorite dishes. Home cooks could purchase decorative or humorous cards to display their creations. Really popular cooks might even go so far as to purchase personalized recipe cards. Flipping through your grandmother’s recipe box will reveal a colorful collection of cards and also a variety of hand writing samples from her friends. Recipe cards are still available but it’s rare to see them utilized as they once were.
Recipe boxes were also once a fixture in family kitchens. What usually began as well organized arrangements of cards became overfilled boxes stuffed with clippings and folded papers.
Searching through these boxes is similar to opening a time capsule. It’s revealing to see what ingredients were popular during a cook’s prime and if you are lucky, the owner may have been the type to also put clippings of articles they found funny or important in their recipe box for safe keeping.
These small filing boxes of history came in a variety of materials and themes. Whether a simple colored cardboard box, a plastic box with the hinges turning white from strain and use, or, my personal favorite, metal tins with harvest scenes printed on them, I would choose a well-loved box of recipes over a box of fine jewelry any day.
Cookbooks are still widely available but I would wager a good number of the youngest cooks depend on a quick online search to find tonight’s supper recipe.
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