I happened to catch Ina Garten's show yesterday while making dinner. The episode featured a reenactment of foods she and Stephen (we're on a first name basis now) recall as courtship favorites: steak sandwiches, the first thing Ina made for him, brownies mailed in a college care package, and eggplant parmesan from backpacking through Italy.
As I prepared our meal from a stained and wrinkled card for Welsh Rarebit, my handwriting at the bottom was a pleasant reminder of an evening with a super cool couple in their rustic New Hampshire cabin the year we were married.
I've seen a number of prettily designed 'favorite foods' themed scrapbooks in magazines, and I have to say that for me personally nothing conjures familiar memories better than the tattered old originals. I'm not talking about pouring over my grandmother's recipe file, though there's a certain pleasure in that, of course. It's my own binder of food-related memories; people, events and experiences recalled through a collection amassed over the years.
Like most of us I tear tons of recipes from magazines. [A problem maybe as I recently picked up a bunch of back issues of Cooking Light at the thrift store for .50/each for this very purpose. Though with the state of publishing these days ... well, you know.] I make notes in the margin as I try them: date served, any alterations, how it was received, etc. But along side those glossy tear sheets are my beloved hand-written, photocopied memory joggers: cheese brunch from Ann's mother-in-law on the occasion of Will's baptism, Drunken Chicken from Peggy (served with plenty of wine on the side) in their tiny studio apartment, Chicken Vermouth from New Year's Eve with Sandy and Barb at Sandy's sister's house, and a post-break-up/makeup beef stronganoff in a fourth floor Capitol Hill walk-up.
The binder I keep isn't pretty -- I slid a piece of grocery bag inside the cover sleeve because I liked the words and graphic -- but it's a memory book in the truest sense. A constant reminder of people and occasions I'll always think of more vividly each time I prepare that meal again.