Cookbook or filing cabinet?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2012

I had forgotten what a mish-mash of material I would find when I took a yellow, spiral-bound cookbook from a shelf. I wanted to make a chicken pie and began thumbing my battered, dog-eared, but treasured Lillian United Methodist Church cookbook published in 1986.

Dick Schweinfurth, a talented artist and organist who was a church member, drew the picture of the church on the cover. He added little sketches at the bottom of some of the pages and at the introduction of various categories. We knew it would be a great cookbook because every time we had a covered dish dinner people loaded the tables with delicious food. Church members, friends, neighbors, and relatives contributed their favorite recipes.

As I flipped the pages to Covington County native Minnie Lee Pritchett’s chicken pie recipe, I noticed many familiar names. Their faces came alive in my mind. Minnie Lee and others are no longer with us, which makes the cookbook even dearer to my heart.

When my mother came to live with me, she gave her LUMC cookbook to one of her former neighbors. Then she began to add her own special touch to my copy. Inside the front and back covers, she taped little notepad sheets of her favorite recipes: Easy Fruit Cobbler, Meringue Cookies, Cream Cheese Icing, Egg Custard, Mary Ball Fudge (straight from the Mary Ball Candy store in Birmingham in the 1950s), Pie Crust, and Chocolate Cherry Candy. She used a blank page to include the recipe for the coconut frosting she always made. She noted that it came from a can of “Sweetened Baker’s Coconut, Southern Style, extra moist.” She also taped in a chocolate frosting recipe from a Hershey’s Cocoa label.

She didn’t stop there, either, and looks like I acquired her habit, too. Instead of tucking any new recipes we acquired in a box, we crammed them between the pages of the cookbook. I found our holiday lime congealed salad recipe scribbled on an insurance company envelope. I had added several now yellowed pages of microwave recipes from a microwave cooking class. I refer to them often and it shows.

A little deeper among the pages, I found a pink sheet from Burris Farm Market in Loxley with four strawberry recipes. A clipping of Dear Heloise slipped from a page—an inquiry and recipe for a homemade baking mix. Midway in the book was my sister-in-law’s chicken pot pie recipe. It won her $1,000 from a Southern Living contest years ago.

Turning one page, I found another chicken pot pie recipe. This was the No-Guilt recipe from a soup can. When I reached the last pages, I turned up four recipes for no-cook fruitcake from an Internet search I’d made hunting one I had lost that Mother used.

As I put away the book with all that conglomeration of printed and handwritten recipes, I decided with a chuckle that I didn’t have just a cookbook there, but a bulging recipe filing cabinet.