Moving out of home can bring a combination of feelings such as being daunted, excited, overwhelmed, nervous, liberated and feeling all grown up. We often bring things from home that help us feel more at ease, remind us of comforts and things familiar. For some, it might be a blanket, a favorite piece of furniture, a special heirloom or a plain old sugar bowl.
Or it can be a recipe. Food can often be a strong reminder of home, even just an aroma can bring us instantly back to a memory of what we ate on a particular night a long time ago, and we can remember who was there, what we were doing, the feeling that was in the air.
So its not a surprise when many of us gather a collection of our favorite childhood recipes that have become part of family identity, and thus become part of our food story, when we set off on our own adventure to move out of home. I did this also, and asked my mum for all my favorite recipes that I knew I could not live without.
The first 5 recipes I recorded in my Stephanie Alexander Cook's Companion recipe journal was a gingerbread recipe, a Christmas cookie recipe, a quark cheesecake that we often had as a side dish for dinner, my mum's go-to every-day apple cake recipe, and vanilla cresents that we baked every Christmas. It seemed I certainly didn’t want to miss out on my baked treats when I was on my own!
This meant that I had something familiar to start with, my favorite recipes that I knew were tried and tested, and would bring back the feeling of security, of home, like an old blanket wrapped around my shoulders. As Priya Basil said: “what you crave sometimes is not just a certain taste, but the presence – the touch – of a particular person or place.”
It might not be for everyone, but if food has been important to you or your family, then collecting and gathering the family favorite recipes before leaving home will be something treasured, and only added to as time goes on.
If you are collecting recipes for one of your loved ones leaving the family nest, here are a few suggestions:
- It’s important to ask your loved one what their favorite recipes are that they want included in the collection. You don’t want to miss anything that you thought was trivial to you but ultra-important to your loved one.
- Pick a format that they can add to, with their own recipes. This is just the start of their recipe journey, so a format like a blank notebook might be something that encourages your loved one to keep adding their own recipes that they discover as they start to establish themselves.
- Include enough detail that will ensure they can actually follow the instructions/method. We might know the recipes off by heart, but we can’t assume that our loved ones will have those same skills or implicit knowledge, so be sure to include enough information about the ingredients and method so that it’s easy to follow.
- Include pictures if you can, or perhaps it’s a simple as making photocopies of recipes from magazine pages that have become the family favorites. Pictures can be a great reminder of the consistency of something, or an important step and how to get the method right.
- Include some memories or notes about the recipe, perhaps how it came about, how that tradition started, or your personal experiences in preparing that food.
On the other hand, if you are asking for your favorite comfort recipes yourself before leaving home, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Pick a format that’s going to be comfortable for you, but that you can add to once you start creating or gathering your own favorite recipes. It doesn’t have to be glamorous, it can be a simple as an old school exercise book or a note book, something you can stickey-tape things into if needed. There are some electronic recipe keepers in the market place that could work for you if you prefer electronic methods.
- Start with the recipes that you know you will want to, or can, make yourself. Eventually, you will probably want grandma’s fruit cake recipe, but start with the things that you know will be every-day go-to recipes that are achievable and attainable. That way, it’s a working document that’s useful straight away.
- Record some of your memories, stories, traditions and experiences associated with the recipes. This can add meaning and purpose to the recipe, and forms part of your food story.
- Photo copies of favorite recipes are fine, and then add in your own notes, variations or reminders.
- Watch someone prepare the recipe. Sometimes there might not be a recipe, or the method is all in someone else’s head, so asking someone to prepare the recipe with you is a good way to capture photos of particular steps that might be tricky, or clarify the instructions that might have seemed difficult.
Although moving out, or other life events, might trigger the request for a family collection of recipes, making a starter collection of key family recipes is something that you can start any time, at any age, even before moving out is considered. A family collection of recipes isn’t just about the recipes, it’s a collection of family memories, traditions and experiences that accompany the list of ingredients and instructions. In the nerves and excitement of moving out, that can be the blanket that we might need round our shoulders.