Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Little boxes...

I really shouldn't be allowed time off. I just get into trouble, finding myself in old familiar places; spending money that I should be saving to pour into my gas tank. But as usual, I couldn't resist the siren's song of the antique shop. And as always, I went in looking for something in particular and ended up not finding it. But I left a little poorer just the same.

It was the little wooden boxes that drew my eye. I have a weakness for little wooden boxes. I fully expected to find them empty, but to my surprise they had recipes in them. Recipes on little snips of paper and yellowed index cards. Written in that choppy cursive that few people use any more. I was filled with excitement at the thought of a treasure box to rifle through. What gifts would I find?Then I got to thinking about it. Someone took the time to write these down. Someone used these to feed their family. How sad that they end up in an antique store (most likely purchased from an estate sale) unwanted. I thought about my mom's own stuffed-full-to-bursting little wooden box and how I will probably have to fight my brother, the chef, for inheritance rights to it. My grandmother didn't even have a box. It was in her head. Fried chicken, biscuits, doughnuts, all these made so many times in her life that she really didn't have a need for the box. Do you need an index card to get out of bed in the morning or to breathe? Luckily, women of that age decided the best way to pass on their recipes (and to stop the constant requests from the younger folk) was to put out Church cookbooks. A fundraiser, yes but also a legacy to pass down. They didn't invent these recipes but they certainly had their own spin on things. Will I ever know why Holland Beets are called Holland Beets? Or why the Mahogany Cake was so named?And what of the future. Will this little wooden boxish I-Pod-like recipe storage unit be discovered by someone 75 years from now? Will someone be excited to find it at an antique store and hopefully be able to download it's many recipes? And will they wonder what Truffle Mac & Cheese is? I rather hope not, because I love the cunning little boxes, with their wood shiny from much handling, their cedary, floury smell, and their little dogeared cards and bits of paper that send forth a legacy of love written in spidery script. They have personality, and a sense of pride and care. No, I think that technology will just have to take a back seat in this instance, and let its little plastic cube full of circuits and chips be used for other, less important matters...

8 comments:

The Troll said...

Wow, you should send this essay to a Foodie magazine or something. Mama Troll has a couple of those boxes, a pseudo-rolladex, ripped not clipped newspaper and magazine recipes, and such in a messy drawer.

T'aint alphabetical or sorted in any other logical manner. She's the only on Earth who can quickly find anything from that drawer.

I'd organize it her, but I'm allergic to bird-shot.

moi said...

When my mother died, she left behind five spiral bound index notebooks, two shoe boxes, and one wooden box full of recipes. That was seven years ago. I'm still going through them all. It saddens me beyond words to know that things like this end up in antique stores. But you've given them a home, so all is not lost.

The Big Shamu said...

Thanks Moi, it is a little sad. I think to bring them back to life the first recipe I'll be making will be the Oven Surprise Pudding. Now I just need some test subjects...

The Phosgene Kid said...

It's a real treasure. A lot of the old recipes (meaning ones my mom used to make) have faded into history, but they are delicious none-the-less. You should have seen what I went through trying to find a recipe for "Lazy Daisy" cake. Even a couple of vintage "Joy of Cooking" books I had didn't mention it. Found it on the net. It will be a hoot to try some of he recipes out, except for the one with the beets - ick.

The Big Shamu said...

I'll try some of them out. I do have to say they ate a whole lot more "breads" than I do. Pumpkin, gingerbread, zucchini, freezer rolls and biscuits. Oy.

Aunty Belle said...

Hey, I'll volunteer to be a taste-tester!!

Can we move Mahogany Cake to the top of the list??

Troll-man is right--this would be a good mag piece. I did manage to get all the way through the Sept. Issue of Gourmet--on Paris--but I ain't tried makin' mah own Duck Confit ...yet.

The Big Shamu said...

Well it seems like everyone has the Bloggy Blues so nows just as good a time as any for Duck Confit.
Consider Mahogany Cake moved.

a-nony-mouse said...

My recipes, from Mom, Mom-in-law, Nana and various aunts and sisters-in-law are kept in an old tin cookie cannister that my husband told his grandmother to leave him in her will - full of cookies, please.