Aside from the Three Ps (people, pets and photos), do you know what one thing you would grab if you had just seconds to get out of your house? I have spent many years living in fire interface zones, which means the hot, sunny days of summer come with a price, namely the risk of wildfires. Two summers ago the east side of Juniper Ridge (the subdivision we live in) was placed on evacuation alert. There were some tense hours as we watched the smoke billow up, accompanied by the drone of the water bombers going directly overhead.
I have known for a long time what thing I would grab. Back from when we lived in a log house in the Slocan Valley, to our time in the grey house fifteen minutes outside of Nelson, up to now, where we are situated on a ridge in the dry hills of Kamloops, with pine trees standing like torches waiting to be lit on the hills above us, the item I would scoop up as I ran out the door has remained unchanged. It would be my recipe box.
It isn't the box itself that holds any value. The real treasure is what is inside. There are gems like the Ginger Cookie recipe my Grandma Ella wrote out for me just before I got married. I especially love her instructions to "get Jay to shake them while you roll them."
Then there is this Chocolate Oatmeal cookie recipe I wrote out when I was about 10 years old. I smile every time I look at how I spelled the word vanilla. I also smile because I remember sitting at my Grandma Vera's dining room table copying out that recipe. I can almost smell my grandpa's pipe tobacco in the background.
Here is a sampling of some of the other precious contents of this box.
Then there is The Shortbread recipe, scrawled out on a piece of scrap paper. The thing about this is it isn't just any old shortbread recipe. It is Jay's mom's shortbread recipe. I remember flying up to Vancouver over the Christmas holidays to meet Jay's family and tasting these for the very first time. Oh my. It was the start of a love affair, and I am not talking about with Jay! A few years later I asked Romaine for her recipe, not knowing at that time she would only be with us for a little while longer. It is the only thing I possess that is in her handwriting.
When we adopted Alexandra, Jay was the one to go to Romania. I stayed home with three young children, and that story really deserves a book to do it justice, so will have to wait for another time. Let's just say that by the time he finally got home with Alexandra we were all pretty much toast. It was at this point that my dear friend Wendy Evans came knocking at our door. This might not sound like a big deal, but at that time we lived a half hour out of Nelson on a backroad that required some skill to navigate, so it wasn't like you decided you would just "pop by" on a whim. There stood Wendy with a huge smile on her face and a casserole in her hands. Every time I see that recipe in Wendy's own handwriting I am taken back to that happy time.
Last, but not least is Chicken Supreme. Or, more often in this family, Turkey Supreme. Granted it isn't the healthiest recipe. And maybe to most people it wouldn't be the tastiest either. But this recipe is pure Madsen comfort food (Madsen is my maiden name). It also happens to be written out by my Grandma Vera, adding to its specialness. After every holiday this is my "go to" recipe for turkey leftovers.
Tattered, with torn corners and faded handwriting these recipes each tell a story. They allow me to grab pieces of my past and bring them into the present. That is why, if the moment ever comes when I have only a second to decide which thing matters the most to me, which thing I will rescue above all others, I know just what it will be.