My husband was out of town, working on location, when he called one night and discovered that I was still working, though the hour had grown late.
“What on earth are you doing?” he asked.
“You won’t believe it,” I replied. “Because I don’t believe it. I am going through all the recipes I have torn out of magazines over the years I have lived in this house and am filing them in books.”
Do you do this? Do you flip through magazines or newspapers and find a recipe, tear it out, then stuff it in a drawer somewhere? And, worse than that, never give it a try?
I inherited this wistfulness, this believing that I will cook every recipe I save, from Mama. When she died and I cleaned out her kitchen, every drawer was stuffed full of recipes, mainly those cut from newspaper pages because my Mama loved the newspaper. She read every word. And, of course, she memorized the obituaries, but I’ve already told you that about her.
I couldn’t throw those recipes out, so I put them in a big plastic container with a snap-on lid and saved them. A couple of recipes I took home with me, including one for black-eyed pea patties (delicious) and the best roast beef I have ever tasted — surprising because it wasn’t the way that Mama made her roast beef. This one calls for the slower cooker. I buy a top round or rump roast, salt and pepper it, then put it in the Crock-Pot. I pour a packet of onion soup mix over it and a can of mushroom soup with a little cooking wine. It cooks overnight and not only is it delectable, the house smells yummy when we wake up.
As I have often said, “You are a true Southern cook if you have at least a dozen recipes that call for cream of mushroom soup.” I have over a hundred some such recipes, making me as authentic a Southern cook as ever there was.
Now, don’t ask me what got me started on this jag of organizing recipes, unless it was the new thyroid medicine that the doctor put me on which made me feel as though I had let go of the ball and chain I had been dragging around. In the spirit of full disclosure, since you and I share so much, I had also been on a diet for two weeks and missing my Southern foods. I wanted to dream of them.
I regained the five pounds I had lost just by salivating over the recipes.
What surprised me most, I suppose, is that I decided that I still wanted all the recipes. I threw out only one — a complicated key lime pie. Since I make the easiest one in the world, there is no need to complicate my life. Further.
It’s interesting, though. Mama rarely cooked from recipes. There was a chocolate cake recipe (I have that one, too. It is smudged with chocolate batter. I plan to frame it one day) and a couple of others that she used. But mostly, she cooked as she was taught and just figured it out. Salt, flour, sugar, cornmeal and Crisco were her mainstays. Like her, I mainly cook from know-how and instinct, rarely using these recipes I seem to covet so much.
I treat magazines with recipes in them like I treated the Sears Christmas catalog when I was a child. I escape into a fantasy world and daydream about the scrumptious meals I will prepare and the perfectly appointed table. Southern women like me were raised to show love and devotion through cooking and to be good nesters.
And, apparently, from reviewing the drawers full of recipes I have, we were taught something about hoarding, too.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.