Many years ago, maybe ten years ago, my mom gave me her 5" x 8" wooden recipe box. It was always in our River Forest house and then when my parents moved I think that's when she gave it to me. I've used it for my big pile of smaller-sized handwritten or printed-out-and-glued-to-a-5- x-8"-index-card recipes. I've had this pile for about as long as I've had the box. Commercial recipe cards are usually 4" x 6" or even 3" x 5". I've never really understood that, because those are just way too small for me — and I even have small handwriting. My mom's card size, 5" x 8", works so much better, in my opinion. But obviously making this recipe box really work has meant rewriting pretty much all of my recipes. And I never did it. For some reason I would get the urge to do it every year around New Year's. I'd usually pull the box out and immediately sort of collapse with fatigue, just imagining all that writing. Then I'd put the box back.
I'm trying this new thing, though. I call it Do Things in Winter You Don't Do in Summer. Or sometimes I call it Take Advantage of February (Which Is Sort of Like Extra January). Or, like, yesterday I called it If You Don't Get This Done Now You Never Will So Sit Down and Write. Because if I can knit bobillions of rows of garter stitch in fingering weight yarn without batting an eye (much), I can do this.
And it's important to me. I love to cook. My recipes are precious. I make them over and over. Andy makes them over and over. Our history together is, in its own way, in this box. I hadn't really realized, until I started rewriting them (on the proper size cards), how much I would remember. The blue table with Ann and Martha on Eighth-and-a-Half Avenue in Rock Island, and no-knead bread with honey. Our first apartment's miniature kitchen in the Rozale, painted top to bottom wedding-cake white, and our little lasagnas. The shrimp crostini we made for the big Christmas party we had the first Christmas after my accident. Memories, memories — it was weird how easily they came. The places we've lived, parties we've had, friends we've fed, friends who have fed us and passed along their recipes. My favorites were childhood things I remember but rarely make (applesauce muffins, chicken and dumplings) and things I often do (Mom's sauce, my dad's chilli). I'll keep my few original recipes that are in other people's handwriting, but not in this box.
This box will be totally functional, and that's what I want. And need. I have a binder with page protectors that contains recipes I've printed off of the internet. I have a small library of my favorite cookbooks. But this box is going to contain all of our personal recipes, family recipes, and our most-used internet and cookbook recipes (I'll rewrite them onto the cards, because I can't tell you have many times I've tried to remember something I want to make and can't remember if it's in the box, or the internet binder, or a cookbook [which cookbook?], etc.).
I wrote out a list of categories: Breakfast Things; Appetizers, Drinks, and Dips; Soups and Salads; Pasta, Pizza, and Bread; Side Dishes; Main Courses; and Desserts. Then I went through some of the recent photos I've taken and resized them to fit on a 5 1/2" x 8" space (so, a little taller than the index cards), added the text, printed them on photo paper, then cut them out and took them over to Julie's to laminate them (should have known Julie would have something cool like her own laminator; we were laughing about this one time when she was absolutely incredulous that I didn't have my own sticker maker — [snort!]). Anyway, they came out just like I was hoping they would, so that was so nice.
For the past few days, every time I walk past the table I try to sit down and write a recipe. It's a big project, but actually going faster than I thought. I might be 1/3 done. It's obvious to me that I now need a laminator of my own, because I'll be laminating every single one of these, too. In my kitchen, recipes on paper get trashed. I can't tell you how many recipes I was trying to copy that I couldn't read because the ink was blurred off by water spills, or whatever. These little guys are getting protection. I've gone through three pens so far. But I kind of enjoy writing things by hand, especially when I'm taking my time. And I'm now thinking, Yeah. February! It's like an Extra January.