Even in my sad, neglected kitchen — where the oven was last used to dry tennis shoes left out in the rain — there is a place of honor for my own special cookbook. Propped against a wine rack on top of the refrigerator, it’s not much to look at, just a vestige of my glory days as a high-school pastry chef.
My junior year I surprised my dad for his birthday with a homemade turtle cheesecake. He loved it, of course, which should in no way vouch for my skills in the kitchen; it doesn’t take much for little girls to make their daddies happy. But I took his approval and ran with it. I cut dessert recipes out of my mother’s stacks of Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal, scotch-taped them the pages of a marbled composition book, and soon I was showing up for class parties and family get-togethers with chocolate trifle, key lime pie and baked Alaska.
It’s been years since I attempted such a culinary feat, but my composition cookbook — with its chocolate smudges and marked-up pages — is my proof that I once did, and maybe one day could again.
Our best-loved cookbooks are never the ones with the pristine covers and glossy pages. Our best-loved cookbooks are the ones that are covered in flour fingerprints and tomato-sauce splatter.
They’re the ones with the broken binding and loose pages that flutter out every time it’s pulled from the shelf. Their margins are filled with handwritten notes, and corners are turned down to mark favorite recipes.
They’re held together with scotch tape, marshmallow fluff and sheer willpower, because our best-loved cookbooks are the ones that are irreplaceable.
While I’m sure many of my ambitious baking endeavors were met with polite smiles then discreetly fed to the dogs, I’d like to think a few of those recipes were worth remembering. And certainly the love and care with which I assembled my composition cookbook is nice to recall when I’m pulling my Reeboks out of the oven.
Messiest cookbook contest
Do you have a cookbook that’s covered in food stains and marked up with cooking tips? Do you cherish your collection of passed-down family recipes even though the book is falling apart at the seams? If you think you have the best-loved cookbook in Calhoun County, send us your pictures and tell us why. You could win a set of three cookbooks courtesy of Cooking Light: Oops!, Real Family Food and The Food Lover’s Healthy Habits.
To enter, email recipes to Features Editor Deirdre Long at firstname.lastname@example.org (please put “Messiest Cookbook” in the subject line).