IMG_0002My mother collected recipes and recipe books. I have not tried to count them all. She did not discriminate. The oldest recipes from the 19th Century and the early part of the 20th give only a hint at quantities, temperatures and times, but there are many of them, and she had fun trying to use them. There are Jewish, German, and Greek recipes, Swedish and Southern, Native American and Afro-American, East Indian and Thai, Chinese and Polynesian.

There are collections of recipes for special needs– diabetic, weight loss, heart disease, busy people with no time to cook, people cooking alone for themselves, cooking for large groups, cooking for huge groups, cooking for dainty delicate affairs. There are collections of recipes for special people– what old Nels Petersen liked, what neighbor Sara Mae liked, what sisters Bernice and Dorothy and Fiana liked, what sons David or Ernie liked (Gary liked everything). There are privileged recipes, bound with promises to guard them as a secret.

There are collections of recipes from every church and organization that ever sold a recipe book within earshot. There are collections for hunters with their wild game and scavengers with their wild plants, rich tastes from the Ritz, the Waldorf and the White House and tastes from the poor making do with what was available, from Shoo-fly pie to Hardscrabble pudding. What do you do with animal brains, livers, kidneys, feet, gizzards or blood? Here there are lots of different and conflicting answers!

Dozens of dedicated cooks could start now and cook all day for the rest of their lives and not even prepare a fraction of the  foods that are represented in that collection. What can I do with them all?

They are a monument to a passion, a devotion, a desire to serve and a record of accomplishment. Recipes record history, but they plead for the future. No other person can contain so many, even if an exceptional person did gather and succeed with many.

Scatter them! Send them every direction! Let the variety of people who receive them mirror the variety who made them. So much abundance and so much pleasure has to be shared. And one person still stands behind them all.

Why is it that the food I miss the most and find irreplaceable is her simple yeast bread?

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