Having annihilated all visible clutter, I turn my attention to things hiding out of sight behind doors and inside drawers. A stash of old recipes comes into my crosshairs, stuffed into a decrepit plastic recipe box. Some are written on 4”x6” cards, others on random pieces of paper folded to fit the box. Some are as old as high-school Food Sciences class, others I copied from my Mom’s recipe collection when I left home.
The mission is simple enough: transfer the “keepers” to the recipe app on my tablet and recycle all the paper. I get as far as taking them out of the box, looking through them, and abandoning them on the kitchen counter. Weeks go by. A forcefield grows around them—I glance over but don’t touch.
I haven’t made these recipes for decades—too much gluten, too much sugar, too much effort. The ones I do use were transferred into the recipe app years ago, now living alongside the new ones I’ve acquired. I search them by keyword and automatically scale a recipe up or down with the touch of a finger. We share recipes in typed .docs, pasted into emails, or sent as website links.
I do not need the old, food-splattered recipe cards, yet I procrastinate.
They hold my Mom’s printing—neat, curvy letters that remind me of a bright young girl’s script. They contain the coarse cursive of my grandmother’s farm hands. Some preserve the bold round lettering of a friend. They’re a history of myself, too, and the curious evolution of my penmanship from cursive to half-cursive to connected print.
They fill me with longing, a loss I hadn’t known I’d suffered. Email connects me frequently and casually to family and friends thousands of kilometres away. But the recipes remind me that’s like looking at someone without a face or listening to the voice of a machine.
I may abandon Pandemic Project #432 in favour of a new project, an act of preservation—not of recipes, but of the handwriting of people I love.