Saturday, August 01, 2009

My Summer Project

It started when I flipped through a book I bought as a Christmas present for my second mom. The book was titled, "100 Things To Do Before Heaven" or some such ambitious thing, and one of the items was "have a signature dish". Have a signature dish? I don't even have a dish for company. When company comes over, I often ask my second mom for advice on what to fix, as I'm lacking anything that seems fancy enough for guests. But somehow this attracted my attention and I began thinking from time to time about my favorite foods and wondering why all of them are things I eat at restaurants and not things I ever cook at home.

The first problem is, that despite what Flash might tell you, I'm not much of a cook. I can put a meal together, sure, but it's probably meat grilled on the George Foreman, veggies steamed right in the bag and maybe rice or a salad to boot. And while I can more than 50 jars of applesauce and a dozen or more jars of jam each year, there's nothing fancy about my cooking. There's nothing that takes much more than a half an hour to any of my dishes. So, I started looking through my recipe books to find some ideas on my "signature dish".

In my cabinet are 3 cookbooks. Better Homes and Gardens, which J bought me years and years and a lifetime ago when we were married. I use it when I make banana bread. Seriously, that's it. I used to use it for things like pancakes, waffles, cakes and brownies and such, but I've learned the prepared mixes are so much better than my from-scratch versions so those pages have been untouched for a long time now. I also have a recipe book that Stacy sent to me of recipes from the church we used to attend together. I cherish that one for more sentimental than culinary reasons. And then we have MY recipe book. Nothing more than an old small binder, white at one point in its life, now yellowed and covered with various crusted ingredients. It was thick with pages. Some written on fancy recipe pages, some hand written, others ambitiously typed.

For the most part, the recipes I used most from that book were now loosely tucked in the front pocket- having ripped out long ago from frequent use. There you would find my mom's recipe for French Cookies, my grandma's recipe for Jumbo Raisin Cookies, Judy's recipe for lasagna, my own notes on strawberry jam and applesauce.

Within the thick, tabbed pages I held a sundry of recipes. Many torn from magazines with pictures included. Some in the signature of friends. A few printed from an online source. My book included ideas on how to make a dessert more presentable as well as edible. I had recipes for modeling clay and homemade cleansers.

For the most part, my recipe book was a young bride's relic. An optimistic resource created so that I might one day be the perfect wife, the perfect hostess. And then, like the Luvs diaper ads used to proclaim, "Reality hit."

I spent a portion of the other day sorting through the book, tearing out most, keeping little. I held onto my grandmother's recipe for homemade noodles and pie crusts, even though I never imagine making either. I kept recipes for my dad's "college cookies" that my mom used to make when he would come to visit. I even kept a recipe for my ex's favorite birthday cake, hoping that maybe one day my son would make it for his dad.

So now, my poor decrepit, stained, flour-covered binder is all but empty. And while this certainly won't upset my usual cooking routine (while Flash is away, "cooking" is a very relative term to begin with), it would be nice to restock my recipe book, but this time with a more realistic set of pages. While I am still searching for (and once I have a second-eater and opinion-maker in the house, testing out) the perfect signature dish recipe, I really want the casserole you put together last Tuesday night, the one that only needs six ingredients and ten minutes to throw together. I want the soup recipe that you concocted last winter that your daughter said was better than Campbell's. I want that funny little thing you do with green beans written down and shared. Or maybe it's that sangria recipe that you made for company last week. Or the potluck dish you had at the church retreat. And the cake your grandmother made when you came to visit? I want that one, too. What do you make when you have guests? What do you take when you need a dish to pass? What do you put together when you're four days from payday and the fridge seems empty? Tell me your signature dish, or just the one that you make most often. Doesn't have to be fancy at all, probably better if it's not.

Help me fill up my recipe book (after it gets a thorough cleaning) with new delectables. Will you share your favorites with me?

Feel free to post here for all to enjoy or email recipes straight to me at


Katrina said...

I have a signature dish. It's the same thing I always bring to the potluck, to the picnic, to the dinner party.


And not the kind you slave over, either. The kind from a box mix. They turn out way better than the ones I make from scratch.

Caleb said...

for the record i would like to say that amy CAN TO cook! and further more i have several recipes that bear her name, like chocolate walnut crumb bars (that do not come from a box), and homemade bean soup, and oatmeal bread (ya know, the kind with yeast!).

but as a recipe collector, i have a few that you may want to try, and if you like them, you can add them to your personal cook book! :o)

stacy said...

oops! the boys are back from camp...didn't realize C was signed in...that last message was from me! stacy

Myra said...

I'll get to this soon...but I want copies of exactly this same thing. Teachers must stick together! :)