By: Elizabeth Webber Akre
I have been collecting and saving recipes since the 4th grade. Yep, you heard me. I remember it vividly. It was free-reading period and I was in the back corner of the classroom where our teacher had various books and magazines. I began flipping through a magazine and came across a photo of the most beautiful cake I’d ever seen. It was a 4-layer chocolate mocha cake decorated with almonds that had one half of them dipped in chocolate. It was magnificent and I had to have it. The teacher let me tear out that page and guess what? I still have it. That makes this magazine page 36 years old. It shows its age, of course. Years of being folded, unfolded, smoothed out, wrinkled. But, it’s still intact.
I held onto this recipe for years before I actually made it. I was in high school and had started baking cakes (from mixes). I felt pretty good about my efforts because, even to this day, my mom says baking round cakes is difficult and she never had good luck with them. Well, this was quite an ego booster since all of my round cakes have always come out of the pan without sticking, tearing or warping. So, as my mom’s birthday approached, I decided it was time to try the chocolate mocha cake. It was a challenge, as it involved making the cake totally from scratch and had lots of steps: making ganache, dipping almonds in chocolate, fancy frosting. But, I didn’t back down, I persevered and it was the most beautiful cake I’d ever seen. I think I knocked my mom’s socks off too!
As years passed, my chocolate mocha recipe got company. I scribbled down recipes from friends, printed emails and recipes I’d found online, copied old recipe cards from people like my next door neighbor’s mom, my husband’s grandmother, friends of mom’s who had given a copy of one of theirs to her. The problem was that they began accumulating on top of my microwave, completely unorganized and going unnoticed. (I wrote about it here.) So as I stared at this jumbled stack of randomly sized papers, it dawned on me. Duh! It was time for the notebook. Of course! How could this not have occurred to me sooner? You see, way back in the day, my mom had the same issue. Tons of recipes she’d collected over the years stuck willy-nilly into cookbooks, becoming dog-eared and ragged. My sister and I decided to take charge and we organized all those handed-down recipes into a big notebook. We even made a table of contents. My mom still has the notebook and occasionally I flip through it when I am at her house. So, quite honestly, it’s a bit embarrassing that I let all of these little babies stack up on that microwave!
I’ve since made myself my own notebook and it’s been awesome! I’ve come across recipes that I haven’t made or even thought of in ages. Last night, I pulled it out and made a recipe for Pasta with Vodka Sauce. Awesome recipe. Now, I’ve conjured up all kinds of ideas to use some of these old favorites (my mom’s beer rolls, sauerbraten, my dad’s kiwi shrimp) as well as some of the recipes that I saved but still have yet to make.
If you’re a recipe saver, like me and Mom, get a notebook so those dishes don’t become forgotten. You’ll probably find the handwriting of a friend or relative, notes you made to improve or change a recipe, memories of grandma’s caramel cake or some old 70’s gem that’s due for a revival.