Columnist

Laura Zoeller is a farm wife and mother who has been blessed with a wonderful – and funny - life.

Did I tell you the one about my mom’s love of recipe cards? Several times in the years since she’s been gone, I have found stashes of them in belongings that I have been slowly sorting through. The last stack I found in my dad’s house when he passed away and since then, they have been sitting in the hinged lid of my own recipe box, awaiting a long look at what to keep.

The problem with going through them was that most of them are in her handwriting. Just looking at them can cause a tear or two to form, and the thought of throwing them away was enough to tighten my chest into paralyzing grief. However, my recipe box had become all but unusable with them piled on top, so it had to be done.

I began by sorting through my own recipe stash. Some were culled because I could make the dish in my sleep and I no longer need the measurements. Others were pulled because a note on the top said that my husband didn’t enjoy the dish and the likelihood of me making it again is virtually nil. Still others were removed because they were duplicates, they contained ingredients that even I don’t like, or the instructions are too long for me to ever have time to make the dish.

The easy part over, I began to sort through the ones that were my mom’s. There were a few dozen recipes for different variations of onion, pepperoni, and herbed breads. I picked one or two and set the rest aside.

She had dozens of recipes for cake. Many were chocolate, some were fruity, still others had hidden surprises or ingredients. Several had no measurements or baking instructions. Just a list of items to be put together in some order, placed in some pan, and baked in an oven for some time at some temperature. Culled.

When one of her recipes sounded good, I put it in my file. After all, I had some room after cleaning out my extras. When one of hers was a duplicate to one of mine, I pulled my card in favor of keeping the one she had written. I did all I could to keep as many as possible while staying true to the fact that much of my cooking doesn’t come from cards but from memory and taste.

Still, it felt like a betrayal of sorts. Knowing she had carefully copied the recipes from books and magazines, knowing she had tried the recipes because she had notes, too – “less cheese, more veggies” or “double the sauce” – and knowing that cooking was one way Mom said she loved you still made the idea of throwing them away quite painful.

I decided instead to put them (along with the ones I took from my own box) in a zippered bag and put them into storage for my own kids. They are growing up and beginning to venture out on their own. One day, they may want to have some recipe cards with my writing on them. Having a few with their grandma’s on it may be cool, too.

And if not, hopefully by then, I’ll be a better place to think about tossing them.

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