West Virginia South April - May 2019 - Page 29

Decades later, the events of that Christmas Eve morning remain a treasured family story. Despite the store bought rolls, my mother was a great cook. She just wasn’t a baker. Her recipes fit neatly inside a little wooden box, alphabetized and sometimes stained by a drop or splatter of this or that. By the time I inherited it, I had become spoiled to the Internet and its treasure trove of instantly accessible recipes. So the box sat unopened on a kitchen shelf until one day I received a call from my brother-in-law. “Do you have your mom’s chili recipe?” he asked. “It’s probably in the box,” I an- swered as I sifted through it. There it was, torn, stained, and exactly where it should be with the rest of the Cs. I pulled it from the box not expecting the flood of emotion I extracted with it. “Yes. Here it is. Would you like me to read it to you?” He didn’t need the recipe, just a birthday gift for my sister. A few weeks later, I received an email with an attached photo taken in her kitchen. Framed and hanging on her wall was Mom’s chili recipe, worn yet perfectly preserved. “Best birthday gift, ever,” she wrote. It just so happened that around that same time, the Women’s Re- source Center had put out a call for dessert recipes for a fundraiser cookbook. Maybe Mom had anoth- er hidden gem in the box. As my fingers walked across the tops of the index cards, a few thoughts crossed my mind: First, it was nice to see Mom’s handwrit- ing again. Second, had I sampled all of these recipes at some point in my childhood? And third, what the heck was the deal with all the Jello? And then it jumped out at me. Butterscotch pie. I didn’t remember it. But here it was, in an aunt’s hand- writing, begging me to try. My first attempt was a disaster. I called Aunt Julia. “So,” I said, “I found this old recipe for butterscotch pie, and — ” She gasped. “You have Grandma Calfee’s butterscotch pie recipe!?!” Little did I know I held in my hands a long lost family heirloom. And, as Aunt Julia explained to me that I hadn’t stirred over heat nearly long enough, and that I wasn’t patient enough whipping my meringue, and that I had cheated by using a premade pie crust, it occurred to me that the reason my mother never made butterscotch pie was because she never had time. My second attempt was a sweet success (thanks to my aunt and my chickens, who provided the fresh eggs necessary to make this work), and I sent the recipe to the Women’s Resource Center, which named it a contest fi- nalist and printed it in a cookbook. Butterscotch pie is won- derful, but its sweet taste doesn’t compare to the sweet feeling I get every time I open that recipe box and take out the little piece of paper that holds its secrets. Those little rectangular cards are like snapshots of a heritage, packed with the unique flavor of fond memories. I wrote out a new recipe card recently, titled “Old Family Recipe Rolls.” It’s a story, not a recipe. But it is a memory I savor as much as I do Mom’s chili and Great Grandma’s butterscotch pie. Generations from now, perhaps someone will open the box, read it, and say, “Oh, that must be from Great Great Grandma Audrey. I heard she was nuts.” And then they’ll probably Google a real recipe. Technology may provide recipes at the touch of a button, but recipe boxes touch the heart. Guard their contents like valuable secrets if you wish, but I believe there is no reason a treasured family recipe — or even the very card on which one was printed — shouldn’t be shared. And there are plenty of good reasons to try something out of the box. APRIL-MAY '19 ❖ SOUTH ❖ 29