I have an index box of recipes that I almost never consult. It’s not even a box, to be honest, but rather an old red cloth clutch that a little girl in Japan gave me back in 1976. Keeping the recipes in that pouch saved space back in the day when I lived in tiny apartments. I don’t know what happened to the green metal box that originally stored the recipes. I don’t know what happened to the little girl, either. I met her on a train, back when I lived in Fukuoka. She wanted to speak English with me and shyly approached. It was not an uncommon occurrence. Americans were not as plentiful then in Kyushu as they eventually became, and children were excited for the opportunity to practice English. We spoke briefly, and then she gave me her little purse—with an embroidered image of a Snoopy dog at the clasp—because she wanted me to remember her. I do remember her whenever I see that red cloth clutch in my kitchen drawer. I don’t open that drawer very often, though. I don’t really need the things it contains, the instructions that came with the toaster, a beer cozy, old neighborhood newsletters. And recipes.
Don’t get me wrong. I cook. But mostly I prepare the same things over and over and do not consult a recipe. When I get tired of the same old dishes (which I rarely do), I ask my friend, Nancy, to give me new ideas.
The recipes in that old red cloth clutch were given to me by women who attended my bridal shower in June 1980. One of my mother’s friends held the shower for me at her house. I remember the women all sitting around the living room with index cards on their laps writing out their favorite recipes. That meant, they knew them all by heart! I have recipes for green bean casserole (which you can also find on the back of the Campbell’s mushroom soup can), easy brownies, cool, crisp slaw, and killer hush puppies. I must have made them all at least once. I can’t remember if my “Yankee” husband appreciated my efforts at Southern comfort food or not. I suspect not. His mother also gave me recipes for things like clam chowder and lasagna. She typed the cards out. The lasagna card is now brown with age and all the oil and sauce I spattered on it as I cooked, desperately measuring. Never getting it quite right.
The women at the party were also asked to write down their favorite tips for housekeeping. I have helpful hints on how to clean the bottom of pans, steps for fighting mildew, and even secrets for a happy marriage. Clearly, the secrets are safe with me.
Over the years I clipped recipes from magazines and stuffed them in the clutch. I have a few my sister sent me, many she inherited from our mother, such as her spicy bean soup. The secret is to start with dried beans. Way too much work for me, though. Besides, the soup is always better when my sister serves it.
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