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Essay: Recipe Box

I find an old recipe box in the basement, a gift from my mother when I was in high school—and it’s full of the meals and menus I would need to be a good wife. Sitting down at my kitchen table, I open the box and see all the little tabs—for breads and casseroles, desserts and salads.

I smile to see that the biggest section is for “Appetizers.” My mother loved the cocktail hour before dinner when we would all sit around talking and laughing and nibbling on artichoke puffs, crabmeat dip, garlic olives.

Most of the recipes are in my mother’s graceful handwriting—and here is the food I grew up on: Mrs. Osgood’s Hot dish, Nanna’s Chicken, Bread and Butter Pickles, Peanut-butter Criss-crosses, Pound Cake.

There are also scraps of paper with just ingredients and no instructions. I guess a good wife doesn’t need instructions.

My best find is a letter from my mother—one of the few I have—sent right after she met a man I was dating.

“He seems like a nice fellow,” she writes and includes a recipe for“Shrimp Cheese Balls.”

I’ve always wished my mother had kept a journal. Now I realize that this is it, this recipe box.

Karen Anderson is a writer who lives and works in Traverse City, Michigan. She was a columnist for the Traverse City Record-Eagle for 30 years and published two collections.