A couple of months ago, I reorganized my recipe notebook. It was nothing fancy, just a little spiral-bound notebook that a friend had decorated for me, back in 1995. The thing had survived years on a tropical island and multiple moves around the world and it was a mess. The batter splatters were deep enough in some spots to bury a mastodon.
I had tried at different times to type the recipes into the computer, but what a pain! It took forever!
And lately I realized how much I like having my recipes in my handwriting. I have a few recipes from each of my grandmothers. Their handwriting. Their batter splatters. I love those.
Plus, my recipes are the record of my life. I have lived a life in which daily cooking is required. I remember the people and places that inspired me to copy them down and keep them and use them over and over.
I remember having the Chocolate Chip Nut Bars at Mary Lou Walker's house, right after our orientation in Papua New Guinea. We had just spent 4 weeks in a leaf house on the back side of a tropical swamp, fearing for our lives from the malaria mosquitoes and the giant pig in the village that ate kittens. Chocolate Chip Nut Bars reminded me that good things could still happen in this world.
And there's the Hunan Beef recipe that always reminds me of the Yacht Club restaurant in Madang, PNG where the menu--for years--listed their version as Beef Human. We always ordered it, enjoyed it, and hoped it was a typo.
There are the Christmas recipes I made every year in the Solomon Islands. One year I even made egg nog from scratch. (Brief bout of insanity. I'm better now, I swear.)
There are the Fudgy Oatmeal Bars that Beth served us the night I was in labor with Michael. We were playing Scrabble and Andy laid a seven-letter word on a triple word score. I have never played Scrabble with my husband again. But I have made the Fudgy Oatmeal Bars many, many times.
The Coconut Cookies I made all the time. Once we were having local friends over for dinner in the Solomons, and I forgot the sugar in these cookies. I thought they were awful, but our friends loved them. I made hundreds of them for Libby's wedding reception, and I must have remembered the sugar, because Americans ate them, and they all disappeared.
Jenny's PulKoKi recipe, with soy sauce all over the page.
Karen's bagel recipe, which is fabulous and healthful and which I have never made while standing on American soil. Tortillas, yogurt, donuts, ditto.
So, even though the pages were shredding off the spirals, I couldn't throw the notebook away. But finally, a couple months ago, I found a half-size binder. I cut the pages off the spirals and put them into sheet protectors.
All the archaeological evidence of my life and my handwriting, preserved. And I can wipe the pages down if I splatter. Perfect.
Except I edited just a tad. I threw away a few pages of recipes I had never used.
And one of those pages, apparently, had my banana bread recipe on the back of it. Which I didn't realize until this morning when I had three bananas in the brown-spotted state of banana bread perfection. So I'm flipping through my perfect new binder and I can't find my recipe. I can't find it anywhere.
And I am seriously, not kidding you, starting to experience some anxiety. Some tension in my shoulders. The stomach clenching, the breathing a little shallow.
Searching in cupboards, in old recipe boxes.
Nothing. Nothing. Not good. Not good.
Bananas degrading as we speak. Houston, we have a problem.
I managed to pull out of the death spiral just enough to get out the old red-plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, and attempt a new recipe. Even though I could tell it wasn't quite right. It wasn't really normal. But I did what it said. (Mostly. I added chocolate chips. Because, clearly.)
And the new recipe turned out even better than the old one. (Except it needs a little salt, IMHO. And the chocolate chips are staying, for sure.)
Andy and I were watching a movie last night. An old one (1994) called Before Sunrise. It's a first-love kind of movie, both main characters in their early 20's. And all they do, in the whole movie, is talk. About life and love and growing up.
And at some point, the girl, Celine, says that her parents are wonderful. But that it's been hard for her to be her own person, to make changes, because they are so nice. It would be easier, she said, if they were bad. I could be myself more easily that way.
She's feeling the tension of something comfortable that holds you down, keeps you from moving forward and finding something better.
And the banana bread was kind of the same way this morning.
I have this life that's nice. It's comfortable. It works. It's my normal. There's no huge reason to change it. If it were terrible, I might be motivated to make it better. But, it's pretty good. It freaks me out if I think I will be forced to change it.
And then the new thing, that I resisted and dreaded and had no reason to embrace, turns out to be better.
So. Life lesson brought to you this morning by banana bread. Who knew.