Monday, May 3, 2010

The Recipe Box

I wonder how many people still have and use a recipe box. Especially for those under a certain age, the internet has most likely replaced the trusty box with carefully, or hurriedly, copied cards.

My recipe box is now a bit of a relic that I use more for odd notes to myself than for storing recipes I still make. I no longer even remember where the box itself came from - it's too far in the dim past.

Like most recipe boxes, mine has marked categories - cookies, cakes, sauces, casseroles - but the papers jammed in behind and in front of this section have taken over with a ragtag of clippings and notes.

There are recipes from both my mother and my grandmother - lovingly handwritten - recipes for shortbread,  homemade mayonnaise, Chinese chicken wings and orange cupcakes. There is a recipe for Clever Judy Icing (very tasty) - it would be fun to trace the history of the name.

A random pull brings up a recipe for nasal spray. I remember initially refusing this recipe offered by a friend in favour of purchased nasal spray. The purchased spray turned out to be expensive French seawater; the very cheap homemade version was water and French sea salt. Live and learn!

Amongst the papers and clippings are recipes for rose hip tea, "elegant" cream "cheese" (no dairy), and vegan caramel sauce. Also chickpea nibbles, faux parmesan and something called "bean muck," in my ex's now indecipherable handwriting (name aside, I remember this as being quite tasty!).

My most recent addition to the recipe box is a note indicating that my summer tires are on the left in the shed (my husband's identical ones are on the right). Why we didn't just label the tires, I don't know.

From time to time, I clean out the recipe box, but I just can't throw it out. It's great fun to look through for the many memories, and every once in awhile, I make a great meal from a long-forgotten recipe.


Ciss B said...

I have one, but it is a bit larger than yours. I use many of the recipes that my grandma gave me, though I have had to change some of the ingredients like lard. Still, they are the family favorites for get togethers.

I have to be honest though. I'm converting much of those favorite to a computer program because they don't disintegrate like those 4X6 cards do. But I love the handwritten one because of the memories they evoke. Hard to beat those grand old memories.

ChrisJ said...


It is hard to beat the memories and hard to beat some of the old recipes with mountains of butter, lard, and bacon fat, etc - terrible for health, but so tasty.

Forty years ago, I think I put a little bacon fat into pretty much everything savory!

One of The Guys said...

I love this!!

I have a bunch of little "recipe" boxes. I have an assortment of stuff I keep in there:

Packs of special playing cards.
Little pen knives.
Money Clip.
Old collector's stamps.

I also collect old cigar boxes. I have no idea why, they just are cool to keep things in. I have about ten of them. My wife thinks they're horrible for my allergies, but what they hey!

I don't have any recipes. I improvise everything. It's the jazz musician in me.

P. M. Doolan said...

I've never heard of a recipe box. What a wonderful idea.

ChrisJ said...


The jazz musician in you and the kid! I haven't had lots of little collections in boxes for a long, long time. Maybe the recipe box is a way for people to keep some fun stuff from childhood.

ChrisJ said...


Now I'm curious about the roots of the recipe box. My friend's German Oma had a notebook, as did my husband's Slovakian mom.

Hels said...

Some young PhD student, decades into the future, will laugh and marvel at this old fashioned treasure. So make sure you write on every recipe card: who you got it from and when. The said student will bless you for your thoughtfulness :)

ChrisJ said...


I have one card from my grandmother for Betty Best's shortbread. With such full provenance, it might keep someone busy for a semester!

Cooper said...

I have an old one with only two recipes in it, and those are for canning or pickling.

nothingprofound said...

I still have all my aphorisms scattered around the house in old notebooks and drawers. I've been trying to organize them and put them on the computer, but somehow that doesn't seem as tangible or personal

ChrisJ said...


If it's like mine, the pickling recipes are ones that I made from combining others - like pickled beets.

ChrisJ said...


You're right - looking through a box or a notebook is very different than looking at things on the computer. That's why I don't want a Kindle (one of the reasons, anyway).

Pearl said...

I have a recipe box I still use, recipes from grandmother, aunt, great aunt. Mine's metal and came as a wedding shower gift. All the lady neighbours contributed a recipe or two.

ChrisJ said...


I vaguely remember a recipe book put together by the church ladies who gave me a bridal shower many, many moons ago. There was a recipe for Swedish cream cookies that were wonderful - now I'll have to see if I can find one online.

askcherlock said...

I love recipe boxes. My mother-in-law passed away at the age of ninety almost three years ago. Now, as each of her 5 granddaughters gets married, I send them hand-written recipes from "Grammie" and they love it.

ChrisJ said...


The connection with the past is probably as much, if not more, special to them than the recipes.