In the wake of Elayna leaving for college, I made a list of huge multi-hour tasks that I'd been putting off. Stuff that I would always have been interrupted doing. Stuff that would fill Elayna-less time. Last week I sorted all my jewelry, which turned into reorganizing my bedroom. Today I went through the recipe box.
Now, the recipe box is not a little index-card holder on the counter. No. The recipe box is a full-size banker's box, completely full of recipes I've torn from magazines and photocopied from books over a very long period of time. At one point I clearly started sorting them, as there are "chicken" and "beef" folders in there, et cetera, but for the most part, this was just an enormous stack of loose paper.
I dug in.
The thing that occurred to me, as I relentlessly chipped away at the task of sorting no-shit ten years worth of recipes, is that the recipes we tear out of magazines are part of the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Go way back, and you see a lot of recipes that start with a can of this or a box of that, because I was raised without family recipes. I was raised on takeout. I literally did not know where to start. So my first aspirational stuff was just:
I will be a person who cooks.
And then also:
I will be a person who does special kid-food-things for her daughter.
(I can throw away the lunchbox-treats stuff now, and the how-to-sneak-veggies in.)
I will be a person who does ridiculously fancy things to cupcakes.
There's a particular thing about the timing of all of this that gives me sadness pangs. Those who've known me for over a decade may have spotted it already. There was stuff in there from as far back as '97, y'all. But. There was a HUGE spike of recipes torn from magazines in 2003-2004.
October 2003 was when I got my epilepsy diagnosis.
At that point, I had taught myself to cook a bit! I was a good baker! But temporal lobe seizures that aren't well-controlled by medicine = no cooking. Because the pain receptors don't work. Because I could have my hand on a hot burner for 3-5 minutes and not know until after.
Beyond that, the first few years of medications made me constantly violently nauseated. For the first few months, I couldn't eat more than a single bite of anything at a time.
So. Unable to eat, unable to cook, I clearly went into an absolute frenzy of tearing recipes out of magazines.
I will bake again and I will bake these popovers.
I will cook again and I will cook this casserole.
I can't do this now, but I will, I will.
And so on. And more things have changed; in 2009 I got the celiac diagnosis. So. A lot of these recipes can be modified to be GF, but so many can't, the ones that rely upon a can of this or a box of that. Those get thrown away.
I eat differently now. I have to. Less processed. Most of the recipes I tear out are simpler. Now I look at the prep time, and I look at what parts I can do. I can't fry the onions, but I can chop them, and I can wash the potatoes, and I can make that marinade.
And it's not I will anymore.
It's I do.
I don't have a neat conclusion here. All I have are these unformed thoughts about this map of myself that I found in an unexpected place.