laziness and handwritten recipes in the digital age
Rainy days always slow me down and tuck me in, seducing me to perform unnecessary housekeeping chores unimaginable in bright sun. When my ancient, duct-taped, binder of recipes tumbled off the top of the fridge in a splat of disorganization, I remanded it to the top of the clothes dryer. Now, a few drops of rain have induced guilt and curiosity. As Japanese poet Ryokan wrote:
Too lazy to be ambitious,
I let the world take care of itself.
Ten days worth of rice in my bag;
a bundle of twigs by the fireplace.
Why chatter about disillusionment and enlightenment:
Listening to the rain on my roof,
I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.
I sift through the pages. Fifty years of recipes slip through my fingers, many handwritten in spindly, old fashioned, cursive handwriting by women who have passed from this earth long ago, leaving behind their grease-spattered, thumbed, much loved meals handed down through generations.
A neighbor who harbors illegal, obstreperous, white ducks under her back porch scribbled this Pound Cake recipe when she gave me a clutch of delicious, shit-smattered eggs. (The image is a page cut from her recipe book which she glued onto a page and then, apparently when she copied it, part of it was illegible, so she wrote the recipe in red over the part you can’t read. I know it’s weird and impossible to explain.)
A Moroccan Chicken recipe commands joyfully: Use LOTS of cinnamon. But the swooping, enthusiastic cursive script familiar for over 45 years is a poignant reminder that the cook is now unable to navigate stairs and is living skint in Section 8 housing.
Beth’s mustachioed chef’s Sour Cream Cake (at top) remains a cholesterol slam dunk for weddings and anniversaries.
Sorting through the pages I wonder, what will happen to our food history, family history, cultural history, human history when cursive writing is no longer taught, used, or read? Will these clumsy, butter-smeared, annotated artifacts called recipe books disappear into dumpsters along with last year’s cell phones and disposable diapers? Will any of our children and grandchildren be able to deciper these heiroglyphic, culinary texts?
The rain drums. Dusk has fallen. It’s time to leave off shagging these sad matters and tune into to my growling stomach. As Brother Lawrence put it, “It is not necessary to have great things to do. I turn my little omelet in the pan for the love of God.”
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