March 19, 2013
A year ago on Sunday, Marge died. My grandmother Marge, keeper of family traditions like Thanksgiving and generations of silver. The woman who taught me to make gravy, how to iron, the importance of love and caring.
Of the physical, tangible gifts she left me, one was her box of recipes. The box, almost toolbox in shape, with a hand-friendly handle and a swing clasp for a closing mechanism, is filled with cards and magazine clippings. I’ve been reluctant to open it for the longest time and can’t really figure out why. I don’t think I ever saw her pull a recipe out and cook from it, though it was always on one of the peripheral shelves in whatever kitchen she was in.
I took a deep breath and opened it the other day. The first recipe I pulled out was for beef stroganoff. Simple. A list of ingredients. No cooking instructions, no list of “do this, then do that.” No details about amounts, or techniques, or anything resembling a recipe in a cookbook.
On the back are a series of notes, much like the list of ingredients, all separated by quickly dashed lines. These are not a list of ingredients at all, but quick memory joggers. I know from context where she must have been standing when she wrote these, maybe even making beef stroganoff for dinner.
What I find amazing about this recipe card is what it tells me from what it doesn’t say. She’s made beef stroganoff so often that she doesn’t need the details (I don’t remember her ever making this dish) or else she uses the recipe as a guideline, down to the “sour cream?” at the end. What was important in her life at the time that she needed to jot it down, but with no details needed. Mundane details, like beef and mushrooms. Reset stove and dishwasher.
Both lists end with a question mark. Does this dish need sour cream? Peter – car?
I have questions too about her. I wish she were here, so I could ask her about them. Did she really think sour cream was a question mark in stroganoff? What was the question about Peter and the car?
Did I ever cook anything from this box with her? And why can’t I remember?
I miss you, Marge.