Our neighbours two doors down sold their home, downsizing to a more manageable place. They are original owners, their house was built, like ours, in the late fifties, and it will be sad to see the moving truck arrive this Wednesday. After going to their open house a few months ago, I finally mustered up the courage to ask if they would ever consider selling me their mid-century, Danish-looking armchairs...to which they replied: "What, those old things?". I am now refinishing them. Stripping is just not as much fun as I thought it would be! But they will look terrific in our living room once they are all sanded down, oiled, and sporting freshly covered cream cushions.
This afternoon there was a knock on our door. I found the retired engineer holding a box for me, things they no longer need from their kitchen. Many spices, some of which are vintage (I'm not joking), a set of cheery Christmas mugs, and last but not least, a small wooden box. A treasure. With fifty years' worth of recipes. To be honest, had he dropped off a box of his wife's knickers, I would have felt less uncomfortable. There is something incredibly odd and personal about looking through a woman's recipe collection that spans more than half a century. I know some families whose recipes are top secret, often taken to the grave. I feel like I'm snooping. These are mostly desserts, some are recent, many are cutouts from magazines and newspapers. It is obvious which were her favourites, tattered, corrected, splattered. And then there are recipe cards from friends. And I wonder, are these women still alive? Were they close friends? There are a few from Grampa. There is Mom's Favorite Tuna Casserole. And then there's the small stack of yellowed cards held together by a defunct elastic band, written with a fountain pen in a rather elegant hand. Some of the words are smudged, as though they have been rained on. Cried on? Were these given to her when she married? From her mother? Grandmother? How long have these recipes been in the family? And why me?? I see children and grandchildren visiting the house, helping with the upcoming move. I assume this box was seen and unclaimed, set aside with the other unwanted items. Perhaps none of them cook. Perhaps it is too much a reminder of their mother's decline into Alzheimers, her inability to decipher the once familiar words.
One day, hopefully, I'll get over the feeling that I am snooping, and I will have to give these a try. I've always wanted to make my own Buche de Noel, and Grampa's Stolle looks good, judging from the rather beat up recipe card.