In our typical discussions about kitchen and garden tools, we think of tools in the classic sense—something you can hold in your hand for cutting, mixing, shaping. But what about the first tool you might use before any of that begins?
Like a recipe, perhaps.
This recipe of yours might be in a folder on your computer or stored in an app, or maybe you just saw it that morning on Twitter. Just consider for a moment how recipes have changed over the past few decades as the Internet has come into our lives with its videos and a website for every cooking show and chef in the world. As we are becoming better and more interested cooks, modern recipes often teach us the why along with the how.
These explanatory recipes differ greatly from how it used to be, when recipes were meant as a shorthand reminder about what to do, not a lesson about how to do it. Anyone who has run across instructions like “beat sufficiently” or “cook until done” knows the frustration of these instructions. Generally, recipe cards were written by the cook for the cook, so elaboration wasn’t necessary.
And they were written, in actual handwriting with a pen. You might have one on a card decorated with cows or green ivy from when your maid of honor asked guests to bring recipes to your bridal shower. Or maybe it was typed (with an actual typewriter) by your grandmother on an index card, and it has notes written in the little margins about her friend’s bridge party or a beauty shop appointment.
We see so little handwriting anymore. My daughter’s dear friend, Emma, a girl with some serious soul, recently asked for nothing but handwritten cards for her 16th birthday. Similarly, I would be thrilled with nothing but handwritten cards for the rest of my gift-receiving occasions. To look through my old wooden recipe box and find recipes written by friends near and far, some still in touch, others long forgotten, is to stumble across a small bit of treasure in an otherwise normal day.
And to find one from my mother or grandmother—words aren’t enough to describe the preciousness of this. Food will nourish our bodies, but just the sight of a loved one’s handwriting directing our meal for the evening tends to our souls.