I love notebooks. When I was about thirteen I read The Diary of Anne Frank and got my first diary with a tiny little lock and key. It was all very precious, and I don’t think I wrote much in it. Then in High School, my best friend Laura gave me a journal that I still have, and that was the beginning of my journal/notebook collecting. I have so many, and I think all my friends know about this, so I often get lovely journals as gifts, to add to the collection of those I buy for myself. When I was in college at NYU there was a Brentano’s nearby on 8th Street that I frequented, and where I bought my little blue book. I didn’t use this as a journal, but as a place to keep and record recipes. This was way before computers, smart phones, digital cameras etc. This was back in the day when we wrote stuff down.
Anyway, I’ve had this book since then, and over the years have continued to use it, refer to it, and add things to it, from items cut from newspapers to my own scribbling about food I’ve made, party menus and other food related things. Unfortunately, I can’t find it. I’ve looked, and looked, and though I feel certain I’ve seen it since I’ve moved into my present home, I have no idea where, and so, for the moment I can’t put my hands on it, and I’d really like to find it. It is most emphatically not a journal. It is a chronicle of my history in food over the past thirty plus years.
One of the items in that book are the details of a meal I cooked when my college roommate Debbie’s mother came to visit. We had a few people over, and I went to Chinatown to shop for the Chinese banquet I prepared. Though the meal overall was a success, it was simultaneously the moment of my worst culinary disaster! One of the dishes I prepared (in fact the only one I specifically recall) was something called Lion’s Head Meatballs. You make a large pork meatball, and serve it over shredded cabbage meant to represent the lion’s mane. Well anyway when I served them they had a horrible taste of ammonia, and I was mortified- in fact that is pretty much all I recall of the meal. It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized what had happened- I was looking in the fridge for the cornstarch (we kept everything in the fridge to discourage bugs) and I pulled out the yellow box of what I thought was cornstarch, and as I was going to use it, I realized I had taken out the box of baking soda we used to absorb odors, and which had been serving that purpose for about two years, and which had certainly been the source of the meatball issue…EWWWW!
I have loads of cookbooks, and continue to accumulate more. I have nice big accordion recipe file given to me for my 30th birthday, by someone who lovingly decorated it for me. I have filled it with articles, recipes and notes on food, but I still want to locate my blue book.
A few years before she died my mother gave each of my siblings and me boxes filled with photos and such she had divvied up for us. Included in one of my boxes was a small notebook kept by my maternal great grandmother with notes about dinner parties she had hosted, including guest lists and menus. I also have the menu from a party thrown for my grandparents on the SS Columbus in January of 1929, several months before the stock market crash of October 1929 when my grandfather infamously lost all his and several other people’s money, but that’s another story. I cherish my family’s and my own culinary history the way some people cherish their family’s quilts, or cradles, or teapots. I want to preserve these things so that in thirty or forty years my grandchildren can look at the collection I have passed on to my daughter, and they can marvel at the ways we ate, the way I am amazed at the number of courses my great grandmother served at a party at home. So you can see how important it is that I find my little blue book.