What’s Inside Your Recipe Box?

Perhaps you have heard a popular television spokesman ask, “What’s in your wallet?”

Now as a baking enthusiast, I am more interested in knowing, “What’s in your recipe box?” Your answer might be “Very Little,” A Connection To My Past,” or “What’s A Recipe Box?”

I share my home with a few recipes. Care to guess which letter below describes my recipe collection?
A. A recipe box stuffed with cards of batter-splashed gems for which a designated recipient needs to be declared in my will.

B. A kitchen drawer overflowing with potentially favorite recipes that have just not yet been tried. (But I have great hope of trying them.)

C. Stacks of favorite cookbooks and magazines collecting dust on closet shelves and floor. (And they said a closet is for clothes!)

D. All of the above. (Are you sure about that?)

I keep telling my daughters that they absolutely must go through my recipe collection to see if there is anything they would like to have. There is a two-fold method in my madness. First, I want to pique their recipe prowess with new and exciting baking ideas. Most importantly though, collected dust on the picturesque covers of once-looked-at recipe books and magazines needs to occupy a new home. And guess what? With peace of mind from removing the clutter of old, surely new replacements would need to be made! Doesn’t that sound like great reasoning? I think so!

Sometimes I can’t help myself. As I stand in the grocery store checkout line minding my own business, those cover-girl photographs of well-dressed desserts beckon me as if to say, “I want to go home with you darling!” So, I oblige them. Those little recipe books start out as guests but soon become seasoned residents.

Upon beginning my recipe collecting in the early 1970s, my spanking-new avocado green plastic recipe box was the purchase made to hold many favorite recipes from Mom. After having told you in previous columns about my avocado green mixer and avocado green stove from that era, here I am chatting with you about my recipe box that is also the color of that decade. (Evidently, I was in avocado green overload!)

Have you ever noticed that a recipe box has a certain look to it depending on the time in history it was created? Take my mom’s little treasure chest…it was made of utilitarian metal-army green color. I imagine she began collecting recipes as a new bride when our country was defending freedom during World War II.

My mother-in-law has multiple recipe boxes, but the one that appeals to me speaks of the 1950s as it, too, is made of metal but has a vintage floral design daintily painted in primary colors–so representative of the mid 20th century.

Recipe boxes occupying the kitchens of Sister J and Sisters-in-law K and S include collections of tattered traditional 3 x 5-inch cards upon which are written lists of ingredients and mixing methods for favorite casseroles, quick breads, and ice cream desserts that have nourished family members for over 50 years. Originally, the recipe boxes that housed these collections were tucked away inside shipping boxes and moved around the world travelling from the prairies of North Dakota to the adventuresome land of Alaska, from college dorm to the big city, and from a Rocky Mountain state to the dessert of Africa.

Dear daughters B and L and Niece C claim recipe collections gathered in boxes of wood, plastic, and hard cardboard. Some are more decorative than others. One is made of wood by a loving father-in-law for his son’s new wife. But no matter what our age, we hold on to a pleasant part of our childhood through the collections within those miniature houses.

Interestingly, the tomato-sauce-splashed recipe of Supper Popover Casserole highlights both daughters’ boxes. Texas Sheet Cake and Mom’s Sugar Cookies hold special memories for our girls as together we three would don our aprons and bake those yummy treats during the years of their childhood.

Not to be forgotten is the recipe box that housed beginning recipes for that first 4-H food and nutrition project. Did you personalize yours with stickers or artwork? My Niece C did.

Remember when prospective brides received a homemaker’s favorite recipe as part of a bridal shower gift? Perhaps as years went by, all of those recipes were never even taken out of the recipe box. But, those special recipes were given with the hope that when prepared in a new home, the resulting food on the table would portray an act of love from the hands of the one who prepared it.

A very dear childhood friend with whom I was recently reconnected offered a recipe to me that she had received at one of those such bridal showers. I was delighted to then receive this keepsake as it had been written in my mother’s beautiful handwriting. Such a precious piece of paper to me since my mother not only taught me how to make my way around the kitchen but also exemplified life’s virtues day in and day out. She has been gone from this world for 26 years, but her spirit still entwines my soul.

So, what’s in your recipe box? Maybe yours contains very few recipes. Maybe it’s overflowing with 3 x 5-inch cards that have been tattered and splattered in mom’s kitchen and now occupy a place in yours. Whatever the material used to make it or the decorations upon it, the recipes inside tell the story of generations past, present, and yet to come.

Miss NiNi

Dear Readers: I would love to know which answer to the multiple choice question you think is correct! Send your guess to me at chat@missnini.com. Correct answer will be provided in next week’s column.

Janine Knop, aka Miss NiNi, grew up on the prairies of North Dakota learning to bake alongside her mother. As her passion for baking delicious treats grew, so did her creative flair in the kitchen. She is a graduate of North Dakota State University with a degree in Home Economics Education and a minor in Food and Nutrition. She served as a home economist for an upper Midwest power company promoting the use of electrical kitchen appliances through television, radio, and cooking schools. As an Atlantic-area farm wife and mother, she has honed her baking skills in her own kitchen by creating and testing hundreds of dessert recipes. Janine has been awarded numerous championship ribbons in the food department at the Iowa State Fair, the largest food competition of its kind in the United States. Her passion for dessert baking served as the catalyst which led to the creation of her own nationally known company, Miss NiNi’s Fine Desserts.