I was staring at a recipe I make all the time. It is, according to the author and myself, the best blueberry muffin recipe ever. Still, I have made my own tweaks over the years, to make it better. It calls for white sugar and sometimes I use brown. It asks for sour cream and I use honey flavored yogurt. The ingredients aren’t as important as the way the recipe calls the baker to use them. Liquid ingredients are combined with sugar, then dry ingredients sit on top. Slowly the wet and dry ingredients are incorporated. The recipe mentions the convenience of using only one bowl to mix. This one little line, one thought for simplicity, written into the recipe has me intrigued.
I wonder if the author’s granny taught her to use her resources wisely by only dirtying one bowl. I wonder if this tip was passed from mother to daughter. I picture generations of women making blueberry muffins for their families and casually mentioning, “Oh! Just gently mix the dry ingredients on top there, dear, then stir them all together.” I picture my own grandmother smiling as she shows me her long held baking secrets. I bake these muffins in the same kitchen she baked in. We can find connection in the words passed down through generations. Recipes are the best little story tellers.
When I look back through my grandmother’s recipe boxes, I watch the careful slant of her handwriting. If I were to pass this box on to a future generation of myself, it would be nearly impossible to decipher her, now foreign, script. Someday her recipes may look more like pieces of art, rather than the gateway to my granddad’s heart. If you look closely, it’s easy to see from oil splatters and crusty cake batter which recipes held the most value to her family.
Someday I will translate the words on those cards to boys who are not quite old enough to appreciate the value of their stories. Only as an adult have others passed these recipes on to me, knowing the significance behind the food they would produce. Irish Soda Bread and Grandmother White’s Applesauce Cake; my Gram’s best pickle recipe and that just right fruit suspended jello mold.
There are few left to tell the stories of the recipes preserved in those tiny boxes. I have to search for clues and meaning. I have to use all I know about my grannies and their grandmothers and wonder why they used just a pinch of sugar here or a heaping tablespoon of baking powder there. It would be fun to start at the front of the box and work through the recipes trying to recreate historical masterpieces. I stare at the blueberry muffin recipe, the best ever, wondering where the author learned to use only one bowl. Someday my grandchildren might wonder the same thing. A recipe, without a story, seems incomplete.