Drowning in Recipes

What have I done? I am drowning in my mother’s recipe collection.

I’m wading through scraps of paper and stacks of index cards. It’s as if each one is a grain of sand and I’m sifting through to find the hidden treasures. Recipes clipped from newspapers, magazines, and food packaging. Index cards with recipes copied from cookbooks or passed along from co-workers, friends, and family. I’m trying to interpret scribbled notes in my mother’s infamously poor penmanship. There’s a secret code and I’ve lost the only one who can decipher it. I need her to give me the key. I’m now a crazy, recipe detective lady. I examine each scrap of paper, newspaper clipping, and index card looking for any sign that mom made the recipe. Is it stained with food splatter? Did she make notes about the ingredients? Do I recognize it? Does it spark any memories? And the Holy Grail: did she write “Good Recipe” or draw a little star to indicate it was a keeper?

The Holy Grail: Food stains and the Good Recipe note with stars.
Mom’s co-worker’s salad dressing recipe.
Recipes with Mom’s notes.

I can’t keep them all – I know that. But, I can’t bring myself to throw them all away. Mom spent decades collecting these. She must have spent countless hours diligently copying recipes from cookbooks. Most recently, thanks to this little thing called the internet, she started to read cooking blogs, subscribe to recipe listservs, recipe e-newsletters and who knows what else. She printed them. She printed lots of them. I can guarantee she printed many more than once.

Looking back on it, there were times I tried to enable her recipe-collection efforts. I remember telling my mom about this new thing called Pinterest. She looked at my computer screen with utter amazement. “Oh, I know I can’t let myself do Pinterest,” she said. “I’ll get addicted,” and then she laughed. I remember chuckling because in a way, I knew she was right. At the time, I don’t think I realized that mom had a physical version of Pinterest already. Stacks of recipes, organized in bins – with index card dividers by category. Binders full of blog posts, organized with tabbed dividers. There were plenty of recipe stacks still waiting for their rightful place in the binders – I threw those in boxes and brought them home too.

One of the many stacks waiting to be filed away in binders.

As we went through mom’s house, I told my brother that I wanted to save the recipes. Looking around at the sheer volume of paper, with wide eyes, I think he said something like “All of them?” Yes. All of them.

I’ve tried to make a little progress each day. I pick a pile and read through them. I keep the ones I think that I’ll make and I recycle the rest. It’s going to take some time doing it this way, but that’s ok- I’m not in a rush.

So, I find myself drowning in recipes. For now, that’s fine with me. It’s a welcome distraction from the sudden and often overwhelming tsunamis of grief.


3 thoughts on “Drowning in Recipes

  1. Jenn O. May 4, 2017 / 10:19 pm

    I also love the notations of how good a recipe was. As a child, I decided to copy my mother and grandmothers and concocted my “own” recipe for chocolate chip cookies. In my child’s shaky cursive, I also wrote “VERY good” in the top right corner. 🙂


    • Amy May 5, 2017 / 12:13 am

      That’s awesome! I’ve found a few of those too.


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