Sunday, May 25, 2008


I’ve been transcribing recipes out of my old battered notebook into a new book. I’m surprised at how difficult I’m finding it to get rid of the scraps of paper I had jammed into the pockets of my old cookbook. Even though I have my mother's recipe for chocolate haystacks or Anna's jam cake recipe, it's not the same copied out in my writing. I miss their exclamation points, their notes in the margins. "Lay out the waxed paper first! It sets up fast!" "I was drinking ginger tea when I made this, so the amount of ginger in this may be off."

In Pendle Hill's kitchen there’s a different kind of memory, more collective. I use old recipe cards handwritten years before I came here by people I’ve never met, whose names I don't know. But they walked the same tiles as I do, stirred with the same spoons, made soup in the same pots. Their instructions are meant for the same machines I use – “In the biggest bowl of the Hobart, mix . . .” “Bake 20 minutes in the convection ovens, 35 in the slow oven . . .”

When we're short, a retired woman who cooked here for years occasionally comes to help out. Right now she's in the kitchen making baked beans, peering at the card through her glasses. "Let's see what Fran has to say," she mutters.

I'm sad that we'll lose this. I'm in the process of typing and editing these recipes so there can finally be a Pendle Hill cookbook. But although the food itself will live on, the old grease-stained cards won't - readers won't look at these cards and recognize Fran's handwriting.

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