Cookbook CoverDone! Not as in under done. Not in as over done. Just plain and simple done. I’m finally done…well almost. I’ve been working on restoring, actually reconstructing a Better Homes & Garden cookbook we received as a wedding present fifty-two years ago today – St Patrick’s Day. Over the years the familiar red and white plaid covers had fallen off, pages had come loose from the five-ring binder, and frankly, we’d moved on to other recipes from other cookbooks and magazines. But still there were the BH&G favorites – cinnamon rolls, twenty four hour salad, cherry pie… But, really, why keep an entire cookbook when you only use a few of its recipes?

That question resurfaced following a fabulous art and writing retreat last August hosted by Connie Rohde of the C Gallery┬áin Los Alamos. Our writing pieces focused on food memories – Sunday dinners around a grandmother’s table, the “always” meals that become traditional expectations, the cooking disasters, the disappearing canned pears in the cellar – course after course we regaled one another with food stories that then morphed into mixed media collages.

Using a ziploc baggie of assorted papers and ephemera given me by a friend, I created a “3 in 24/7” collage. We typically eat three meals in twenty-four hours seven days a week, but far and away my most favorite meals are those where I sit at tables with the folks of my heart – family and friends sharing our lives over a meaningful meal. This collage pictured above sparked the idea of reconstructing my dilapidated BH&G cookbook and transforming it into an artful repository of our favorite foods and recipes. I have used the topic of each section divider to guide which recipes went where and then set about creating collages on each divider relevant to their theme with images from several cookbooks and a few magazines plus the lacy edges of paper doilies and crumpled white tissue paper. There’s a certain slap dash quality to these twenty two-sided collages because I want this to continue to be a working cookbook, open to more spills and stains like those that already splash across some of the recipes.

Desert Island FoodsOne of the cookbook sections was Outdoor Cooking – something we don’t do much of. So I decided to stretch the theme a bit and invite my family members to tell me what three foods they would want to take with them to a desert island. There were some very interesting questions and responses, and a few of my grandchildren couldn’t figure out what Grandma was up to now! But the majority of the cookbook was a trip down memory lane of favorites recipes that have stood the test of time, been gifts from friends, as well as chronicling the changing tastes of American cuisine over the last five decades. Incorporated are precious recipe cards in my mother and mother-in-law’s handwriting, my husband’s transcription in his own hand of his favorite childhood dessert, Sundae Pudding Cake, and numerous handwritten recipes acquired from extended family friends. This cookbook is rich in calories and the cherished memories of many shared meals.

In my day I’ve enjoyed well over 76,000 meals, having rarely missed my three squares a day – provided that coffee counts as a square. But it’s the treasured table time that nourishes my body and feeds my soul. The communion of where two or more are gathered that turns a simple recipe of teaspoons and tablespoons into a banqueting table laid out with a laughter-filled, heartfelt feast.Covers & Spine

If you were to re-purpose a beloved cookbook that incorporated favorite family recipes, what would you include? If you were stranded on a desert island, what three foods would you want to have with you? If you were to share a favorite food story, what would it be?

PS – I’ve found the most amazing food trivia online researching old cookbooks and products. And…I’ve also saved the two or three favorite recipes from many cookbooks and then thrown the rest of the cookbook away! I’m still committed to ruthlessly “thinning the herd” of stuff we no longer need to keep while archiving and conserving “the best of the best.”

Now that that’s done, what else shall I do…?

2 comments to Done

  • Kate Larsen

    Lynne, this is pure fun!!! A wonderful idea I want to copy. Thank you.

  • Karen Greenslate

    Smiling all the way through the reading of your cook book of family life creation, Lynne. And of course, a great blog post…as it brought images and pictures…so I could “see” better. And great because your post conjured up random recipe/cook book/file box images of our family life. I was thinking of those recipes that wouldn’t make it to the health food article, but definitely made it to the family hit list! I was thinking that our favorite recipes might tell about how much fun we had around food at our house. Last week I found a recipe (not totally spelled out) written in my Mom’s handwriting (in pencil). It sounded complicated (for my cooking style): egg whites, egg yolks, heavy whipping cream, yeast?, etc. Some kind of custard thing. My Mom died when I was 21. I have very few things in her hand writing, only one letter. So. Reading this blog, Lynne, I am thinking I will gather the ingredients, try to decipher the parts that are incomplete, and go for it!! I think it will be a great connect experience with my Mom in her kitchen!! And as you say, food and families and friends: what a great reason to create something around the favorite recipes. I think I’ll write to my kids and grand kids!! Maybe I’ll get some text responses!! ­čÖé

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