Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Just One Thing

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.



There is a recipe for a casserole called U Name It, given to me by my friend Maureen Wood. This recipe was actually the start of that friendship. We had just moved into our townhouse in Richmond the previous day. Our stuff was all in boxes and our lives were in a state of upheaval. When the doorbell rang I couldn't imagine who it could be since we didn't know a single person there. I would just like to say I now know angels don't have wings and wear white. They deliver casseroles to needy neighbours. 

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.

20 comments:

  1. ah, the air left my body, looking at those precious, precious pieces of paper. I hope you've scanned them so you at least have digital copies (note to me to do that with my own! I'm so smart for other people's business....). i see why you'd grab that little box, it's filled with everything.

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    1. I hadn't even thought about scanning them, Lori. What a great idea! Thanks!

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  2. What a beautiful post. It makes me wish I had a recipe box like that.

    BTW, I heartily approve of that shortbread recipe. Not many know that rice flour makes all the difference. :)

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    1. Thank you Diana, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. And you are right about the rice flour - it gives the shortbreads the perfect consistency. I am surprised you were able to read the recipe. It is very faded, and didn't make for the best picture.

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  3. Verklempt by recipes! Makes perfect sense, food connects us and food prepared by loved ones is more than special. I wish I'd gotten my mom's peach cobbler recipe. Thankfully I have some of the others.

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    1. Yes, food has so much more meaning than just nourishment for our bodies. I am glad you have some of your mom's recipes, and hopefully some day you will taste a peach cobbler recipe that is exactly like the one she made and can get the recipe.

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  4. lovely post. Its amazing the memories that are bought back by a hand written, given with love recipe. Makes you want to keep them all somewhere very safe

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    1. I have quite a few recipes written out by friends and family, and I find I can't even part with the ones I never make!

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  5. It sounds very precious indeed, its like history and love in a box!

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    1. You are exactly right - love and history in a box. :-)

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  6. My usb's. They have all of my writing (& photos) on them. Or my book collection, not really sure which. Although I can replace my book collection easier than my writing.

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    1. My computer would maybe have been the first thing because of my photos and writing on it, but I have a cloud back-up through Mozy, so could recover the important stuff. I would cry if my books got destroyed, but you are right. For the most part they are replaceable. Do you keep your writing someplace other than on usb's?

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  7. Kristie,

    This post is great! We cook for our family everyday out of love. For preserving a piece of history, I'd like to laminate and frame your grandma's recipe that comes with her suggestion, "get Jay shake them while you roll them." That's a recipe for happy families. She was quite a progressive woman of the day, I can tell. She even wrote up to 1/4 tsp. cloves. That's quite detail. I'm impressed. But that's the western tradition we take for granted. Even in '70s, my Japanese recipes only instructed using such words as "a little, a bit, a little bit!" I have to dig up that book and show you and translate a little bit!

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    1. Framing that recipe is a good idea! My grandma was quite progressive. She was widowed when her children were in their teens. She was an elementary school teacher, went back to the University of Idaho to take some courses on remedial reading education, moved to San Diego, and taught school there until her retirement at age 65. She was an amazing woman.

      I would love to see some of your Japanese recipe book!

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  8. What a lovely post. I have those kind of recipes as well. When I went away to collge in Ottawa, and my own apartment, my sister typed up all of my favorite recipes and put them into a little binder. She had to practice her typing, and my mother got her all set up. Some of the typos are really funny. Vanilla was never spelled the same way twice. But so sweet, and in it are stuffed recipes in my mother's and grandmother's handwriting as well. I wouldn't have thought to put that on the things to grab list, but now I will. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks Mary Lou! I am glad you have a similar recipe collection. Definitely put that recipe binder on your list of things to grab!

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  9. I'd have trouble grabbing photos in a hurry ... there are boxes full, but buried under other things. I'd grab my laptop and my research papers. But if I had a recipe box like yours, well no I wouldn't be able to leave that behind.

    Lovely post :D

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    1. I would have trouble with the photos too. We have photo albums stacked in various places. I really should put them all in one spot. My laptop would be hard to leave behind, but I have cloud back-up, so could get back the important stuff on it. It's funny that neither of us picked our yarn stash. As much as I love my stash, I know it is replaceable. My recipe box isn't. :-)

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  10. Thanks for pointing me here! I've never really thought about what I would grab outside of photos etc but I think your priorities are right on! I just recently was given some recipes written out in both my grandparents hand and my great-grandmother's hand and I can't even begin to describe how precious they are to me. Thanks for sharing the origins of these recipes...makes the post even more special!

    btw -- I second the idea of scanning them for safe keeping. But also, I just saw an idea where copies of these hand-written recipes were framed and hung in the kitchen...I really liked that idea as well!

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  11. Hi Kristie, thank you for linking to the post. I loved it! Isn't it amazing how recipes have such strong connections to events in our lives? I'm always blown away by this. What a wonderful treasure to have, I am so glad you have been able to carry it with your through moves and keep it safe. Thank you so much for sharing.

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