handmade cookbook: preserving memory rather than recipes.

My handmade cookbook is nearly finished. All it needs is a little binding and the front cover sewed and attached to the rest of the pages and the 20% project will be 100% complete.

I have collected about twenty-three recipes, all of which I have made or someone in my family has made at some point in my life.  Each one has a significant experience and memory attached to them, which is the main reason why they are included in this book as opposed to more generally favorite foods.  I found it difficult to remember what types of food I ate when I was a child and had to ask my mother for some help, but once she gave me a list of about five dishes I couldn’t live without as a child, memories of events surrounding these dishes were immediately brought to the forefront of my mind.  Of memory, Smith and Watson say it is “evoked by the senses” and from just reading this small list from my mother, my senses were flooded with the tastes and smells of each dish along with the memories I had so long forgotten (29).  It is such a strange thing, this evocation of memory, that at first was difficult to raise on my own, yet uncontrollable once I opened my mind to receiving them.  For instance, my mother told me of how her and my father tried to make homemade pierogies “but I was too young to remember” but what I do remember is Grandma Prusak (my father’s grandmother) making them every Christmas we went to visit her.  I can remember her hands, usually trembling, steady themselves as she kneaded the dough as if cooking this traditional Slovakian dish was more natural than the act of writing, and perhaps it was to her.  I can remember being amazed at how delicately she handled the thin dough as if it were the finest lace or silk.  I can even remember her voice, still thick with an Eastern European accent and still grandmotherly say, “Oh, my little Jimmy” when speaking to my father, or always calling me her “Little One.” I hadn’t thought about this moment in about fifteen years.

I initially thought the main purpose of my cookbook was to collect autobiographical recipes, but after deeper contemplation as I wrote out each recipe and constructed each page, perhaps it really is to preserve the memories and experiences that go along with them.


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