A recipe with a story. That’s what I’m always looking for. My parents were coming to visit, so I asked my mom to bring her recipe box along with my grandma and great aunt’s collections.
Flipping through the cards is like a walk back in time. Some recipes are typed, some are written in cursive, and mostly all are yellowed and stained. They are from the days when recipes were shared on index cards, not emails or online links.
I imagine my grandma and my great aunt, each alone in their own kitchen, making these recipes. Back then, everything was homemade. There wasn’t an influx of bakeries and cupcake stores. You couldn’t just pick up a phone or log in to a website and order dinner for delivery. Meals were planned, shopped for, and created in tiny kitchens.
My grandma’s kitchen boasted an avocado colored stove and refrigerator, only one wall of cabinets, and a table with wrought iron legs and swiveling chairs. Counter space was scarce, especially after she added a microwave. Of course, there was no dishwasher or garbage disposal. I wonder why I demand to have so much more, knowing how grateful and content she was to have what she proudly bought for herself.
My great aunt’s kitchen was the home of many Thanksgivings. Her classic white gas stove baked countless turkeys. Not much counter space lead her to keep a small table for extra workspace in the kitchen that she kept spotless.
Simple kitchens with just the basics. That’s all that was really required. Turns out a kitchen doesn’t need a pricey backsplash and built-in refrigerator. There was a time when the kitchen was not just the place to congregate, but the room where hours were spent actually cooking and baking.
That’s what lead me to asking for their recipe boxes, my desire to connect with the past. The recipes we create, share, and repeat offer a glimpse at a different moment in time. There is something quite therapeutic about following a recipe that my grandma made for my mom more than 60 years ago.
I think that’s why I truly love spending time in the kitchen and cooking for my family. It’s not always about simply making something that tastes good. Family meals are an opportunity to connect and make memories for years to come. While many dinners pass with little distinction, there’s a few that create a story to be told time and time again throughout the years. These are the dinners I live for.
Like the time my dad somehow
spilled dumped a glass of wine on my brother’s head.
Or when my little brother got mad, danced/jumped around, and threw his roll on the floor, which created the term “Roll Spiking Mad.”
My dad accidentally dumping a margarita on my mom’s lap.
My brother’s unfortunate reaction to shellfish that took several ER visits for my dad to finally realize it was a real allergy.
The awkward dinner when my husband (my boyfriend at the time) ate 5 bratwursts to everyone’s appall.
The Thanksgiving when my dad stormed out of the kitchen because we accused him of putting giblets in the gravy, so my brothers and I figured out how to make regular gravy and it turned out to be the best gravy ever.
That awful bottle of wine that we all refused to drink because it was so bad. Surely, something was wrong with it, yet my dad continued to drink it, insisting “it’s fine.”
And that’s why I cook. I put time into creating meals for my family to share with the hope that it’s a little more than some food on a plate. Some are forgettable, but you never know when something is going to happen that will end up being a story repeatedly told with fondness and laughter.
These little recipe boxes are not just connections to my family’s past, but ways to keep memories alive. My son asked me what I do with all the recipes I create. Some end up on the blog, but most just fizzle out in my head. Thoughtfully, one of my Christmas gifts was my own recipe box. As I fill it with new ideas and ingredients, I imagine someone looking through it years from now wondering, “Why was she so obsessed with her protein powder and chicken?”