DISCARDING THE UNUSED


Once you decide that you are not going to make all of the recipes you have been collecting for 71 years, it is time to sort through the mess. As I have confessed in the past, I surprised my husband on our honeymoon with the knowledge that I did not cook. My soul accomplishment was holding a hot dog over the flame of a gas stove till it became crispy and blackened. Flash forward through trial and error and cooking classes, and I became what has been euphemistically called a good home cook.

I have an abnormal collection of cookbooks, most of which have one or two pages turned down to remind me of something I once made which might be repeated at a later date. I have my mother’s cookbooks, my grandmother’s recipe books, much of which is written in her own hand which I can no longer see. There are files containing recipes from friends and relatives and clippings from now faded newspapers. Tucked in amongst these are scribbled notes in undecipherable shorthand for recipes of my own making.

I have threatened for some time to address this unruly mess. My Depression era upbringing has instilled in me a faint hope that I may need something once again and it will be gone.

The supermarket has been my enemy in many ways. While roaming through the aisles I create amazing future meals, and toss in one or two or three items which then reside my my pantry until I wonder what on earth I bought that for? The produce department is better because vegetables do not have a shelf life.

The freezer is a wonderful thing too. Lately I have wondered why I have bags of frozen fruit, some of which has been languishing for more than 2-3 years. The nectarine tree has been gone for two years at least, and an apple tree left soon after. Nestled alongside in one freezer (we have two) were bits and pieces of left-over somethings which I thought might make a nice lunch someday. Since it was waste collection day, I hauled it outside to the pick-up bins and forgave myself for being so wasteful. The tins in the pantry I can give to those who can use them, more than thawed out soggy old fruit.

I became accustomed to entertaining large groups of people through the years, and needed quite a few containers to freeze things ahead of time. Though we still entertain a lot, I have found that eight is all I can comfortably handle by myself. One of these days I will begin sorting through pans and trays etc. for the local thrift shop. I have not yet mastered the art of cooking for two and not have it last for over two days. Soup is an exception of course, one always adds to it whether you need it or not.

Having accomplished my freezer clean-out , I tackled the “meat dish” recipe folders. It was a fine way to spend a little time because obviously all recipes had to be read and evaluated. Many pages had become separated from their partners, making them literally useless, so they went in the “out” pile along with most of the newspaper clippings. The “maybe” pile contained things like spinach-cheese tamales, because of some I had eaten at a Seattle restaurant. The “Save” pile grew as I went through them, wondering why I had not made this or that at least once.

You can get a recipe for anything from the internet, including copy-cat ones from a favorite restaurant, and many young people do just that. On the other hand, young women from the Boomer era still call for recipes they remember from their past, which makes it important to keep the “Save” pile. During the course of a lifetime we all create delicious stand-by recipes which are kept in our mental vaults. After all, we know what tastes good.