Thursday, October 11, 2012

Eat: What's in the Box?

Answer: Recipes! (...and you thought it was Gweny's head, didn't you?)*

When I first started cooking I had an idyllic plan to put all of my favourite recipes on cute little cards and store them in a charming little recipe box. It appealed to my sense of organization. I didn't have cable and cookbooks weren't the booming industry that they are now so I resorted to reading other peoples cookbooks (old school gems like Joy of Cooking, East meets West, Sara Molton, etc) and copying my favourites by hand. I would cut recipes off of product boxes; I still have a Becel margarine curry chicken recipe that I am still inexplicably fond of despite the fact I haven't bought margarine in years. I started a notebook to collect the recipes, hoping to one day find the time to transcribe them onto those cute little cards. My pet project.

After a while I started to print recipes off the Internet from sites like or Again, I assumed that if the recipe made the cut, I would transcribe it to a cute recipe card. The pile of new recipes kept growing and growing. Eventually I created large Word documents, shrinking the font size down and printing double sided pages. This resulted in binders full of recipes. As awesome as these binders are, I never really considered them a replacement for my recipe box; they were too impersonal, relatively unattractive and consisting of mostly untried recipes. By this time I had also collected a number of  beautiful hardcover cookbooks and a pile of Gourmet, Fine Cooking and Bon Appetit magazines, all containing scads of exciting new bookmarked recipes. There was no catching up and the effort to create these recipe cards seemed way too daunting and not very practical (not to mention anachronistic).

It's the definition of spoiled for choice. Gorgeous food blogs, websites, and iPad applications; so many sources of to-die for recipes! But even with recipe box applications like iPad's Paprika, I can't seem to get my act together and collect all my favourites in one place. It's not 'my' application so it  doesn't have that personal touch that I'm after. I must admit to a bad habit; if I believe a task is too big to do perfectly then I might avoid starting it altogether. If I delay enough, I sometimes come to the conclusion that I no longer want to complete the task, so problem solved!  But I have been thinking about my recipe box project again (hence this post). I was in Michaels arts & crafts store the other day and I saw potential supplies that I could use to create a lovely box, cards, etc. My creativity was momentarily piqued but I quickly realized that the time for an actual physical recipe 'box' has passed. It would be more practical to base my project on a soft copy format but I need to put some thought into how I can do that and still make it personal.

I realized a few days back that I may already have the basis for my  new 'recipe box' idea right under my nose. Without really thinking about it, I had been printing off individual recipes (even ones that I already had in cookbook format) so that I could refer to it while cooking. This way, I didn't mind if it got dirty and I could easily carry it to the grocery store for ingredient shopping. After I was done with the recipe, I noted the modifications to ingredients, preparation, and whether or not I thought it was a 'keeper'. I would then stuff the dog-eared recipe into a big box on my bookshelf. OK, I know what you're thinking, "that's a recipe box, dummy!". But I swear, it started out as a place to keep incense, tea lights and matches; the pile of folded, sometimes stained, doodled upon recipes amassed by happenstance and I hadn't even noticed it. I'm not exactly sure how I will go about it but I think I will take this informal recipe box, combined with photos I have taken and have a recipe book printed of all my favourite tried and true recipes, a la iPhoto format. Everyone I know seems to have pretty, hardcover bound photo albums of children's photos, so why not recipes?

Aside from printing up a personal recipe book, I have also considered using this blog. Perhaps I could format it in a way that my recipes are indexed like other food blogs, and consider this my online recipe box? In a lot of ways, the work has already been started. I have posted numerous times about the meals we have made, complete with photos. Perhaps with some organizing and frequent posting, this could be my solution. I'd love to hear from anyone who read this post, how do you manage your recipes? What do you do with your most coveted ones, such as recipes that have been passed down in the family? Got any to share??

*nerdy movie reference, but I won't say which one since my lame-o joke ruins the punchline of the film.

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