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Washington Voices

Front Porch: Keep your apps, I prefer memories

Thu., June 7, 2012

My cookbook exploded last week.

Well. It’s not exactly a book. It’s a 3-inch white binder filled with recipes ripped from magazines, or scribbled on note cards and wedged between neatly typed computer printouts.

The notebook is as overstuffed as Rosie O’Donnell. When I opened it to retrieve my garlic chicken recipe, a flurry of paper cascaded to the floor.

Never one to miss documenting a newsworthy event, I took a picture of the burgeoning book and posted it on Facebook. That’s when I discovered that apparently my cookbook is old-fashioned and outdated. Several friends informed me that there are “devices” and “apps” available to replace my battered collection.

This information failed to move me. I’ll be the first to admit my cookbook is unlovely and unwieldy, and it’s tempting to think of my recipes being just a click away.

But at what price progress? First e-readers threatened my beloved books and now Grandma’s peach kuchen recipe is in danger of being replaced by an app.

No thank you.

As I picked up the mess, I smiled at the fudgy fingerprints on my brownie recipe. Little hands helped me mix up countless batches of chocolate-ty goodness.

Buttery smears dot the frayed edges of my sugar cookie recipe. I printed it up a dozen years ago on our first home computer. Every Christmas it becomes a bit more tattered.

I paused when I picked up a note card covered in my friend’s beautiful penmanship. It’s her recipe for spicy skillet chicken, and it’s a huge favorite with my sons. However, for some reason they dubbed it “Connie’s Spicy Chicken Crap.” The title raises eyebrows when they invite friends to dinner and eagerly tell them what I’m making.

Smiling, I tucked away the banana bread recipe I got from my friend Denise. I’d copied it down 20 years ago while chatting with her on the phone, stirring a pot of chili and breastfeeding an infant. There’s a dab of tomato sauce on the top corner and a trace of baby spit-up on the back. I don’t think I can multitask like that anymore.

My cookbook is probably very unsanitary, though I often wipe its plastic cover with a damp cloth. After all, it’s wine-stained, flour-sprinkled and usually sticky.

Many of the pages curl at the bottom. I often stick recipes to the range hood with a magnet and the pages bend while dangling over simmering pots.

How do you pin up a recipe at eye level on an e-reader or smartphone?

Is there an app for my grandma’s zucchini fritter recipe, written in her spidery penmanship? What about my mother-in-law’s clam chowder, or my mom’s snickerdoodles – recipes that they painstakingly copied down for me?

Oh, I admit, I’ve looked at the streamlined devices featuring neatly categorized, unstained recipes that appear with the flick of a finger. I know I could transpose my hodgepodge into a tidy computerized collection, and chuck my dead-tree edition in the trash. But I just can’t.

Each recipe tells a story. Like a food genealogy, the handwriting, the stains, the dog-eared magazine pages – together they tell my story. It’s a tale of thousands of meals prepared for hungry kids and happy guests.

And, there is no app for that.

Contact Cindy Hval at

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