My cousin’s husband Mike has a huge lever-arch file filled with laminated A4 recipe sheets photocopied carefully from books or printed from the internet. In between the immaculate laminated sheets are file dividers, indicating sections for starters and mains (in fish, meat, and veggie sub-sections), puddings and sweets (with sub-sections for cold and hot). I too have a folder of recipes photocopied from books, printed from the web and torn from magazines. Mine, however, are not laminated. Some of them are inside plastic pockets, but most of them aren’t. There are no subject dividers either, and the folder is, well, a bit knackered.
And here, dear reader, we have a window into two cooks’ souls. Mike likes his recipes to be all ship shape – hence the laminator – whereas I, even though I am generally houseproud, believe that recipes should be spattered with kitchen stains. Culinary war wounds, if you will. Hence, my most oft-used recipes and cook books are crinkled and stained – indicators of meals much loved and oft-cooked. The page of Delia Smith’s Christmas book with the rich fruit cake recipe is scribbled with workings out indicating where I’ve scaled the recipe up and down. Its scribbles and stains are reminders of the many Christmas cakes made from this recipe, and the two boozy wedding cakes – my own and my colleague Rosie McGlade’s – which demanded all that scaling up and down. My mother had a hardback exercise book in which she jotted recipes. Now it is mine, and all I have to do to go back in time is open it, read the recipes written in her hand, and remember gammon and poached peaches, cottage pie, parkin, flapjack, and so much more. My folder is dominated by curry recipes, whereas cousin Mike’s is stuffed with puddings. What will you tear from this magazine to add to yours, and what would that tell us about you?