The Recipe

What have you read recently that you found enlightening?

Chocolate Pecan PiePress together two shells in a 9 x 13 (double filling) panMix:6 eggs, lightly beaten1 ½ c. lt. corn syrup2/3 c. sugar16 tsp. oleo4 oz. unsweetened choc. melted2 tsp. vanillaStir in:2 c. broken pecansPour in shell and bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.I first saw this recipe carefully written on an automobile purchase order form in the sinuous penmanship of a calligrapher, each letter ostensibly mislaid in place of the date, vendor, pattern, and DRB size. Meticulous precision was in every stroke. A blot of blood stained the corner, and coffee spots tarnished the edges, revealing a clear passion for more than food. I can picture my grandma at her desk, bored with the endless task of pushing paper at Papa’s Chevrolet dealership in Olney, Illinois. Forced to stay yet another hour but lacking in attention-grabbing labor, she slips an order form from the desk drawer. Pen to paper, she transcribes the famous chocolate pecan pie recipe all the neighborhood kids – not to mention her own daughters – pine for after school. She does not want to forget it. Now I sit, not at a desk, but at a granite countertop. A myriad of recipes scratched in eloquent scripts by an assortment of aunts, sisters, and grandmas on the backs of forms, envelopes, stationary, Christmas cards, and receipts. The smooth sounds of Bing Crosby complement the merry whisper of the snowstorm outside. The storm of recipes itself is pure chaos, and I toil to organize them as a Christmas gift for my mom. The jumble of recipes is a kind of recipe in and of itself. It is a chocolate pecan pie composed of Hudson women, Franklin women, and Gray women. Replace the eggs with some wisdom, the syrup with a bit of insight, the oleo with kindness, and the sugar remains the same. Add some care instead of chocolate, a touch of zeal for the vanilla…but don’t forget to stir in the ever-important tenacity in place of the pecans. Each woman in the family adds a bit of herself to the final recipe. Some adventure there and a morsel of ambition here culminate into a pseudo-family tree. I never knew my grandmother, but what is left of her is in the recipes that I have just recently read. Each letter, word, and phrase marks a time in her life: what she was doing (or not doing), where she was, what she cared about, and who she was. These recipes do not merely symbolize dishes yet to be prepared. They represent family and the love that connects us. The writing of Charles Dickens or Mark Twain might hold more clout, but these recipes are more enlightening than any piece of literature I will ever read.

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