Wednesday, April 24, 2019

My Homemade Cookbook

"Recipes are important but only to a point. What's more important than recipes is how we think about food, and a good cookbook should open up a new way of doing just that."  -Michael Symon

"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up." -A. A. Milne

* * * * *

I like recipes. 

I like to try my hand at cooking dishes that I normally eat only in restaurants. Pad Thai, I'm looking at you.

I like to take inventory of my fridge and then Google around to find a dish that will use up whatever leftover ingredients are accumulating. 

I like to experiment with new flavors and new combinations. 

Recipes not only inspire me, but when I strike culinary gold with a new dish, they give me a trail to follow for next time. 

However, the truth must be told that I rarely if ever follow a recipe with exact precision. From my formative experience as a teenage sous chef, I gained crazy confidence in my ability to wing it in the kitchen, and to this day, I fearlessly adapt and substitute my way through any recipe that crosses my path.

Just last night when making sauce for a pasta dish, I swapped out three ounces of cream cheese that I didn't have for my last triangular wedge of Laughing Cow and a healthy dollop of whipping cream. No one in the family was the wiser.and the finished product got rave reviews.

Still, other people's recipes give me a solid jumping off place for making my meals, and I collect them in many forms. I have 

a healthy collection of new and old cookbooks, 
two scrapbooks full of old school recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers, 
a handful of classic recipe notecards,
and a Pinterest board devoted to dishes I'd like to try. 

^ But perhaps the most used tool in my recipe-collecting arsenal is this three-ring binder 

Rather than squint at my phone to reference online recipes, wiping my hands 500 times before scrolling up and down the instructions and cursing Steve Jobs as my display locks between each and every step, I prefer to use hard copies. 

And, years ago, as the drifting sheets of paper recipes began to flutter across my counter tops and otherwise make a complete nuisance of themselves, I bought this binder and gave them a home. 

^ Just one tiny problem with that organizing system. In order for it to work, I have to actually punch holes in the pages and put them into the binder.

^  But here's the truth. After a long period of neglect, my binder had become nothing short of a hot mess.


And as long as I'm in a truth-telling mood, I will confess that I don't always tackle problems like this the moment they rear their ugly heads. 

I do not like to organize on demand. 

Instead, I prefer to wait until my internal desire for order shifts from neutral to drive, and suddenly nothing seems as delightfully pleasing and important as tackling that certain mess.

Where my messy recipe book is concerned, today was that day. 

^ So I tackled the project with gusto.  

I sorted through all the recipes,
threw out the ones that no longer inspire me, 
grouped them into suitable categories. and
ran them all through the three-hole puncher. 

^ Because I am always a fan of going the extra mile, I made homemade tabs for each section using old ledger paper (I'm a former accountant, remember?), baby Post-its, and packing tape in lieu of conventional lamination. 

I am also a huge fan of lamination. 

^ Not only do the tabs look fairly legitimate, they also color coordinate with the notebook's cover art. Whattttt. 

^ At this point, my enthusiasm was gathering steam like a pasta pot on high heat, and I decided to extend my original reach. Three of my daughters have been tested to identify a number of food intolerances which inform my cooking when they are eating at my table, so I tucked that data into plastic pocket protectors and filed the pages at the back of the book. 

Can you guess how I feel about plastic pocket protectors? Mm hmm. 

^ And let's be honest, once I broke into my supply of plastic pages, I was unstoppable. I used another one at the front of the book to safeguard my list of pantry must-haves, and I was in heaven. 

^ Now my job is complete. My stash of recipes is safe and sound in my homemade cookbook, a picture of organizational beauty and an inspiration for many meals to come. 

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