There is something about the snow and cold of winter that opens up space to hibernate. Pulling back from the demands of community, family, home and garden, I turn to my dearest projects, long shoved onto the back burner. It is a time to slip the bonds of efficiency and plunge into the comforting crafts that are all my own. These projects can be time-consuming and cannot be hurried.
This week’s project has been sorting through my accumulation of recipes and pasting them into notebooks. Because I inherited the “clipping gene” from my mother, I have many new recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers. My mother died in the years since I last worked on this project, so I also have many recipes from her scrapbooks. I feel like I am creating a quilt, stitching together recipe “patches,” including ones from my grandmothers, an aunt, their friends and even from my great-grandmothers (like the ones below).
But my recipe quilt is a living thing, sourced from new friends as well as old ones, and from some of my grown-up nieces. And even recipes from the Internet and Pinterest – handy references indeed when Nick and I have ingredients we want to use, but no recipe available!
This project has been ebbing and flowing across the dining room table for the last week or so, as I create order out of the chaos while sorting through the various categories of recipes. Today, for instance, I might be working on breads with recipes sorted into subcategory piles for pancakes, sweet rolls, yeast and quick breads. After sorting, the fun part begins! I cut and trim the recipes with my trusty scissors and use white glue to paste them in artful arrangements on pages that will go into 3-ring binders.
Being an inveterate recycler, the pages are one-sided paper from my giant accumulation, and the binders come from a collection continually refreshed with new ones from the transfer station. I punch holes in the pages, or reinforce old ripped ones with gummed hole reinforcers that came from my late father’s desk. And, not totally averse to modern improvements, I often slip pages into plastic sheet protectors, which keep the splatters of tomato sauce and other cooking stains off the recipes.
An improvement this time around is the addition of a pocket page at the end of every category. Any new recipes can be slipped in there instead of accumulating in massive piles, which can metastasize into boxes and clutter up my house. Speaking of reducing clutter, I was also able to give away some cookbooks on my shelf, copying the one recipe I ever used in each book, and adding these to my binders. Now there is room for my new recipe binders!
Nick’s main critique of these binders is the lack of an index, which makes finding a desired recipe time-consuming and inefficient. I hope that clearer marking and better organization will make it easier to find recipes now. But it’s true that this whole project, like so much in this good life we are building, is more about joy, hands-on craftsmanship and self-reliant productivity than it is about our modern world’s idols of speed and efficiency.
Will Nick take the time to browse for recipes like he browses for books in the library? We’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, what shall I make for the potluck at my church tomorrow evening? Hmmm, I already pressure-cooked some black beans, so I think I’ll make this spicy, Mexican-style recipe (shown at right) that came from a former pastor!
It’s so satisfying, the way this project connects the many strands of my life.