Thursday, April 2 2020 - 5:51 PM
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Treasured Recipe Cards

The old family recipe box sat on many a kitchen counter during our childhood. It was usually messy and overflowing but your mother wouldn’t hear of you cleaning it out. It held treasured slips of paper. They were yellowed, frosting smeared and food spattered index cards, packed with delicious recipes. We are talking about classic food here. We are talking the life of a family!

My mother- in-law was a wonderful cook and lived to be 91 years old. She always had tin or wooden recipe boxes, piles of recipes and small cookbooks kept together with rubber bands on her counter. She also had the 1950 Betty Crocker edition picture cookbook that belonged to her mother. I’m the proud owner of this book now. Inside were slips of paper, handwritten recipes from her parents, which my mother in-law proudly labeled My Mother’s Handwriting.

Reading an old cookbook is so much more than going through a book of recipes. You will often find cardboard recipes cut from the back of boxes or worn paper from vintage magazines, outdated long ago. It’s very similar to browsing through old newspapers at the local library. A recipe for Oregon Pickles has the words Dad’s Handwriting, underneath it. While the amount of cucumbers needed isn’t listed, 16 cups of sugar are listed as an ingredient! Taped inside the back cover is a Prune Cake Recipe cut from a newspaper and Big Cake News, an ad for One Egg Cakes, which were praised as not only economical but elegant.

Years ago my mother-in-law gave me many recipe cards from her collection. Every time I see her handwriting and some of her favorite recipes, memories rush to mind. Many of these recipes were meals or treats my husband grew up with as a child. The recipe for half moon cookies is a favorite, homemade Sloppy Joe’s is another. Her cards with basic marinated recipes using oil, vinegar and spices were given when I was a young bride and not sure what marinate was. My mother never used them. My then new husband said, “I think Mom soaked her London broils in them.” Since I knew how wonderful her London broils tasted, that card became a keeper.

We gave her a new recipe box many years ago filled with green tea bags. It looked like a little teashop with her name hand painted on the shop and the word welcome on a mat in front of the shop. She loved green tea. She kept that box clean and might I say empty! Never did see a recipe card in it. I guess it just didn’t have the feel of the old beat up one.

If you are ever given the opportunity to go through a pile of old recipes or cookbooks, please don’t pass it up. You might stumble on a memory lost long ago or a family story that will rush back with a vivid flashback to your youth!

Christine Collier writes from New York.

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About Christine Collier

Christine Collier

writes from New York.

2 comments

  1. Avatar

    Christine, your story really strikes a chord with me. I have many stained, but beloved, recipes. Family favorites all. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Avatar

    Old family recipes like this are true treasures. I have many from my grandmother, along with a cookbook from each grandmother and two from beloved friends that have passed.
    Loved your post!

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