07 Jan
Recipes are my Currency


I give and receive recipes with enthusiasm. A recipe that is complete and reliable is extremely valuable. It is a nice way to share family traditions. On occasion, my sister-in-law gives me a recipe, handwritten, rolled in scroll fashion, and tied with lovely ribbon. Sometimes, she includes a sample of the prepared food. This is a perfect gift. I have an envelope for such recipes marked – to try. You see, even a recipe for a food I have tasted, and loved, can’t enter my filing system unless I have successfully made it myself.

When I was a girl of thirteen, I began cooking several meals a week for my parents and my brother. This gave me the opportunity to try recipes that I had experienced in my home economics class, usually from our text, The Canadian Cookbook. I spent time looking through Chatelaine, subtitled in those days, For the Canadian Woman. I also read the recipe column in our local newspaper and raided my mother’s recipe notebook. Once I had selected a recipe, I shopped for the ingredients, made the dish, and rated it using stars. One star was awarded for each family member who wanted me to make it again. Only the four-star recipes made it into my tiny wooden recipe box.

Once married, I realized my husband came with his own set of taste memories. One by one, I made him every recipe I had in my little file. I also made every recipe his mother would share with me. Thankfully, she belonged to the camp of cooks who would share recipes. Over time, my husband and I fine-tuned the contents of the little wooden box.

Together, we discovered new foods, and I expanded my approach to cooking. One of my happy memories involves belonging to a dinner club with three other couples. Each month, one couple took a turn creating an event, providing us with a fun and inexpensive outing. We went all out – sewing table linens, offering themed décor and music, and hand-printing menus. I particularly remember my husband and I creating a Scottish dinner and a Cantonese meal.

Eventually, my collection of recipes began to overflow the little recipe box, so my father built me a double-drawer recipe holder. This beautiful container required larger recipe cards, giving me a reason to remake my recipes before allowing them into the new collection. Each dish required the approval of my husband and our daughters.

When my mother passed away in 2002, I began to type my simplest recipes in a large font, in hopes that my widowed father, who was in the early stages of macular degeneration, might, sometimes, cook for himself. I placed each recipe in a three-holed plastic sleeve and filed it in an indexed binder. He could remove the recipe to make his own notes. He surprised me by loving the fact that he could wipe off the sleeve if he spilled on it. It was easy to add a photo too. I duplicated this binder for my mother-in-law, who enthusiastically began sharing recipes from her early days in the kitchen. 

Then, I decided, with my dear friend of 48 years, to make binders for our daughters. We had shared family recipes for years so typing them out seemed logical. While we were at it, we made binders for ourselves.

I now have four binders full of eight and ten star recipes. My table often has as many as 16 people around it, and my guests make it clear, just by eating, how many stars a recipe deserves.

Although I still love the two-drawer file box my father built for me, I find myself cooking from the large print binders more regularly. I know I could cook from my computer files, but I can just see myself spilling caramel sauce on my new MacBook Pro. Would that make it a Caramel Apple? Sorry…couldn’t resist.

For me, 2014 is a year to look through every recipe in the two-drawer file, test it, and determine if it is worthy of a place in my binder system. I’d love to hear from you, my readers, about your recipe management systems. If you don’t have a system, I encourage you to create one, any one, so that future generations can recreate the food you once served and do it authentically. Food is one of the true connections between the generations.

Depicted are the recipes required to create one meal for guests. 



Comments (10)

  • Maureen Haddock
    April 23, 2017 at 08:32 am

    Today is April 23, 2017 and I have been blogging for four years From the Cookie Jar! I still haven't cooked, again, every recipe in the two drawer file, but I have shared many of my best recipes with my readers. One of my friends, Kay Robertson, published her favourite family recipes in a cookbook for friends and family. She gave me a copy, which I cherish. I have lunch in Kay's garden every summer. Anticipating that lunch is half the fun. I get a new recipe each time!

  • Janice McDonald
    December 10, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    What a wonderful read Maureen. You are and always will be one of my favourite people on the planet. Look forward to dropping in and reading more....Jan

  • Dena Holland
    October 14, 2014 at 12:55 am

    Hi Maureen went here to your blog you so kindly left the link for on GET PINCHED? Thank you so much. .you sound like a wonderful lady and I will enjoy very much looking through your blog! !! Sincerely Dena from calgary :)

  • Maureen Haddock
    January 17, 2014 at 06:27 am

    I am grateful to everyone who commented on this latest From the Cookie Jar blog. I think food preparation truly is important in every culture. It involves comfort, love, creativity, and organization. Obviously our food memories must be passed on so generations can be linked. I love my readers!

  • Nicole Kozar
    January 16, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    I welled-up as I read the above posts. What lovely memories. For as long as I can remember, I would sit and watch my mom cook. She was mezmerizing as she created her masterpieces in the kitchen. I still sit and watch her whenever I have the chance. When I was young, she would give me a bowl and let me create my own mixtures while she cooked. My mixes usually included things like dish soap, eggs, food colouring, and whatever else I could think of, but God bless, she just let me play and cleaned up afterward! She's a Saint really. I love cooking with my children. I always find it amusing at how many ingredients go missing before we even begin. If raisins or chocolate chips are involved...watch out! I also love to watch my mom as she lovingly cooks with my kids when we are visiting her house. How fortunate are we to have such love around us?

  • Isabelle Mills
    January 9, 2014 at 03:41 pm

    I love your story as baking was something I enjoyed from a very early age, ten, I think. When my nieces, Jean and Ruth, spent sometime with me when they were here for my birthday, we went through the recipes I have to find some of my mother's recipes of the dishes they remembered. ( I have kept my recipe files and some favorite recipe books.) I am presently sending a few recipes to a lady I met, and for whom I promised a zucchini soup recipe a few months ago. I hope she is ready for the next zucchini crop. Keep baking!

  • Helen Davis
    January 7, 2014 at 06:09 pm

    First off..love the caramel apple reference. My Mom belonged to bridge club and always had good stuff for those gatherings. The Best of Bridge recipes always good ones. The Canadian Cookbook was the first cookbook I owned as it was the textbook used in home economics in high school. It was my go to cookbook for years. My Mom had metal recipe holders to file recipes from family and friends. Without looking at names, I still can tell some of the writing without looking at the name. The community cookbooks from different groups were fun to go through..fund raising was the main goal...but those cookbooks have surely made their way into many homes everywhere..probably passed down in families. Those recipes are tried and true...no one would want a bad recipe in those books. I no longer bake much...living solo usually means that even if a recipe makes 36 cookies....36 cokies = one serving in my house.....and so on. And so on. Loved your story...thanks for that.

  • Jess Bonish
    January 7, 2014 at 03:51 pm

    This post was such a delight to read! It reminded me of making my mom a recipe binder when I was little! I knew she loved to bake so I drew pictures of all of my favourite treats on a piece of paper and my dad help me laminate it on the front of a bright red binder! She was so surprised and still has that binder to this day. Thanks for sharing your memories and for helping me to remember some good ones of my own! Jess

  • Raylene Kershaw
    January 7, 2014 at 03:42 pm

    It has become a tradition for my brother and I to swap recipes, often complete with bragging pictures sent to each other of the latest creations. We loved baking and cooking together as kids and teenagers, and still do when able. In my family a collection of recipes was put together by an aunt for her sisters as a gift one year for Christmas. This recipe book became a sought after gem only available to the inner circle. I managed to obtain a copy for my high school graduation and kept it closely guarded in my kitchen. My brother has hassled me for years to get his own copy of the cookbook. I found all kinds of excuses to keep the secret recipes to myself. Finally, this year for Christmas I thought of the perfect gift. I tried to track down an original copy of the recipe book, but it no longer existed as an electronic version. Determined, I scanned my dog eared copy complete with baking smears and handwritten notes. I wrapped up the somewhat poorly scanned treasure and presented it to my brother, after all other gifts were opened. His face was the picture of joy. He hugged the recipe book to his chest and claimed it was his favorite present ever. That is how I share my favorite family recipes.

  • Rauncie Kinnaird
    January 7, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    I think of a warm inviting home when I think of all the time creating a record of so many recipes. I look forward to you sharing your favorite recipes!

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