My new sister-in-law has a collection of beautiful handmade cookbooks.  They are arranged in chronological order based on the day and hour when the recipe first appeared on the table.  Each recipe is carefully copied out in calligraphy and illustrated with a photo of the family enjoying their new taste sensation.   During the holidays, she will pull down one of these massive tomes and say, “well, what did we eat for Thanksgiving dinner in 1997?”   She then reads menus and ingredients out loud while the rest of us all ask my brother to make another batch of martinis. He is very good at creating martinis.

I know about food.  I can name the best caterers in town.  Which explains why, when I  searched the cupboards  for favorite family recipes so I could make my own heirloom quality recipe  book,  I found only four wrinkled pages torn from Sunset Magazine for a school project  due January 25, 1974, and seven recipes cards given during a well-meaning but ultimately disastrous “kitchen” shower the details of which are  best forgotten.    

For quick solace I raided the freezer and when I shut the door a batch of restaurant menus paper clipped together fluttered to the floor. Three years ago we had arranged these flyers in alphabetical order with a short list of favorites because, by the time the majority of people in the house realized it was time for a socially sanctioned meal,  the only family member not delirious with hunger is the four-year-old.  We eat a lot of pizza when she is in charge.    

I suspected that not even my brother-in-law with the martinis would be impressed with a comprehensive list of all the restaurants within a seven-mile radius of our house.  It had to be a real collection.  So I pulled out a loose-leaf binder rejected by the boys because it had too much purple on the cover, and I began filling it with recipes that were both delicious and filled with familial meaning.  By the end of five months this is what was inside:   

As my children heat up another set of frozen burritos and scoop out a half gallon of ice cream, working carefully to fit the entire amount onto a single spoon, I have brief moments when I squint at the current show on the Food Channel and think that yes, maybe there is more to life than efficiency, ease, and eating off paper plates. I now have my own family recipe book, filled with memories appropriate to our own family (we keep photos of notable meals, just like my sister-in-law. For instance, we have a photo of one chicken dish because it’s very pink and swimming in a white sauce dotted with onions. We dubbed this special meal  Mauve Chicken because even after languishing in the over for ten hours, the chicken never did cook to eating consistency.  No one knows why. )

The answer for many of us who do not have the time to embrace the slow food movement is to embrace the fast food movement: meals ready in one minute 24 seconds.  Please don’t talk to me about an Insta Pot.  Thank you.

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