I left most of my cookbooks in New York when we moved out here. With epicurious and all the other food websites (dinnerdujour, anyone? or the fantastically named ezrapoundcake?) I figured I could use that space to pack more of Caleb’s important Sticks and Rocks. I did, however, bring my binder. A binder with recipes in it, not women (thanks Mitt, for an image that will never, ever die).
At some point before we moved, in a fit of organizational madness, I got tired of all the random bits of paper floating around the cabinet where I kept my cookbooks, so I bought a binder and got all Martha Stewart, with little dividers and thematic details (all the tomato recipes clustered together, for instance). I even had a section for “wine,” a hopeless thought if ever there were one. Mostly I buy “that stuff I had that one time at the place with that tapas.” And that selection process is a significant step up from purchases made on the basis of whether or not I liked the design on the label.
So I had this binder, jammed full of random bits (because the Martha-method of organization didn’t last more than about six months), and I brought it with me. Before we moved, I weeded out the recipes (was I ever really going to make a seven-layer cake? Not if my life depended on it. Ditto fondant. Ditto anything that involves large quantities of anchovies), and so when I arrived in my new dun-colored Abu Dhabi kitchen, the binder had become a collection of greatest hits, tried-and-true, and the occasional Pulling Out All The Stops (beet napoleons from Cooks Best Illustrated). I still get recipes off the internet but more often than not, I turn to the binder.
Thanksgiving, of course, requires a lot of binder-time. Thanksgiving, more so than Christmas or birthdays or any other holiday, is when I feel furthest away from my regularly scheduled life in New York. The reassuring – and rather bizarre — idea that everyone (or most everyone) is sitting down to eat some version of the same food, for the same reasons…it’s not easily translated to other countries, most of which lack a parallel holiday. Luckily, we once again this year were invited to a Thanksgiving feast by the friends who took us in last year – and once again, I offer up hosannas in praise of colleagues and friends who are also excellent cooks. It wasn’t my good china on the table and the babies clambering around weren’t related to me, but nevertheless it felt good to be cradled in the comfort of ritual.
As I puttered around my kitchen making my mother’s dill bread, Suzanne’s carmelitas, my aunt’s vinaigrette – all recipes from the binder – Liam wandered into the kitchen and begin to flip through the binder pages, which are transparent sleeves into which I’ve slipped emails with recipes, clippings, jotted recipes gathered from friends.
“This isn’t really recipes,” he said. “It’s like a whole book of memories.”
Maybe that’s the real reason I left the cookbooks in New York but brought along the binder. The cookbooks are just recipes but the binder is history.
As my special Thanksgiving present, the recipe for Suzanne’s oatmeal carmelitas (which for all I know, came from the back of a package somewhere, but in our house, they come from Suzanne):
14 oz bag of light caramels (your basic Kraft are fine); 1/2 cup evaporated milk or light cream; 2 cups each of flour & quick cooking rolled oats; 1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar; 1 t baking soda; 1/2 tsp salt; 1 cup melted butter; 1 cup semisweet chocolate bits; 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Heat caramels in heavy-bottomed pot with cream, then let it cool slightly
Combine rest of the ingredients, except for chocolate chips (and nuts if you’re using nuts) in a large bowl to make a crumbly mixture.
Press 2/3 of mixture into greased 13×9 pan. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes (slightly browned at edges); remove pan from oven
Sprinkle with chips and nuts, pour caramel over top of chocolate chips, then sprinkle top with the remaining oats mixture. Bake 15-20 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes, then chill for 1-2 hours before serving (do not attempt to cut these into slices until they’re really cool, or they will ooze into a gooey (but delicious) mess.
If you can’t find caramels, which is weirdly hard to find in the UAE, you can make your own caramel sauce or use dulce de leche sauce from a jar.
as you sit there, still reeling from tryptophan, why don’t you click over and see what’s cooking in the yeahwrite kitchens?
Thanks for this — it looks awesome, though my arteries and blood sugar are already screaming…but my stomach may override them someday, and this will be nice to have.
carmelitas are delish! and a guaranteed hit wherever you bring them!
That reference to the binder full of women made me laugh. I love setting up binders like this, but am much less enthusiastic about keeping them maintained. A cookbook of memories – nice imagery.
Azara recently posted..Interrupted
I think food and memory are totally inseparable – and I *only* streamlined this binder b/c we were moving: it was necessity!
I have a whole bunch of cookbooks I rarely use, but my binder and the recipe card box my grandmother gave to me as a newlywed some 16 years ago? Those are my go-to places for my favorite foods.
And those carmelitas sound amazing…
IASoupMama recently posted..He Shrunk My Sweater
A recipe-box from a grandmother? I would love that! Those recipes do become the answers to the “what am I going to do TONIGHT?”
I have a lot of memories attached to foods. Those recipes that have been saved over the years are definitely binder worthy.
Adrienne recently posted..25 Christmas Activities for Kids!
binder-worthy–that’s the thing that I had to think about: what recipes do I bring, the ones I *really* use? I think food really triggers deep memories – the combination of smell, and taste, and ritual…
Michelle .you wrote this for me didn’t you. I know you did. HAHAHAHAHA The thought of all my reiepcs in a gallon zip lock bag was too much for you to handle; was it not? Were you about to come on a plane to Missoula just so that you could organize them and get this horrifying image out of your head?Well new goal recipe binder. Binders Ahhh! I just saw your post back to me about my previous post about your beautiful recipe box!
My husband is the one who does the cooking. He has numerous cookbooks, but he also has a manila folder filled with recipes. Maybe I should get him a binder.
And thanks for the carmelita recipe! My husband and I occasionally bake together and we’re always looking for new desserts.
Bee recently posted..10 Pics From My Phone
Thanks for stopping by! I will say the carmelita recipe is really easy & everyone loves them. You should absolutely get your husband a binder for Christmas! (Put your favorite recipes inside!)
That’s an awesome idea — thank you!
Bee recently posted..Writing Difficulties and Mental Illness
I need a binder like that! I’m glad you got to have your traditional Thanksgiving. The carmelitas sound great – I hope you were able to find the ingredients!
Stacie @ Snaps and Bits recently posted..Kick-back
Carmelita ingredients are easy to find – it’s that other stuff–cranberries, pumpkin puree, turkeys (which are here but are SO expensive) — but we managed.
Thanks for stopping by.
First of all, thank goodness you don’t have binders full of women. Second, I really enjoyed the line about how the binder wasn’t really full of recipes, but rather memories. What a lovely, lovely image.
The carmelitas sound delicious! I like where you said the recipe probably came off the back of a box somewhere. It reminded me of my grandmother’s Spanish rice, which was really a recipe from the Minute Rice box in the 60s. It certainly is about memories. I am fascinated by your life in another culture, truly fascinated.
Michelle Longo recently posted..26. Insecurity, Cigarettes and Ice Cream.
When I was 14, I spent the summer with my Dad and stepmom in Alabama. My stepmom is an incredible Southern cook and I spent that summer getting all of her recipes. I also put it in a notebook with clear pages like yours. Beside being the most used “cookbook” I have, it’s also a scrapbook of our summer together.
Grand New Mom recently posted..Shopping with My Mom? Take Your Valium
That binder of recipes sounds wonderful–how nice to have a record of that summer and time in your life.
I love your son’s comment. I also have a flexible folder with plastic sheets and all my recipes are stuffed in there. A gem!
Lady Jennie recently posted..Dog Days
Gorgeous post. I remember Thanksgivings I spent in Paris. Lonely and missing the familiar time in November, it was so great to find a recipe for pumpkin pie that used grams instead of ounces! Your son hit it right on the money. I too have a binder like that. And he’s right. It’s not just recipes in there- but memories. I’m so glad I found your blog on yeah write. Reading your thoughts makes me smile.
Andee Flynn recently posted..choose love
I am DEFINITELY trying that recipe! And I love the binder of memories – we have one at the camp where I’ve been a volunteer cook for many years, and the recipes are from all sorts of people, in all sorts of handwriting, oftentimes with “samples” of the recipe splashed onto the paper… it’s great.
Dilovely recently posted..Happiness and the Multi-multi-multi-tasking Brain
Wonderful! I love that picture of your binder, full of memories! My mom gave me a recipe binder before she died, and I’m so grateful I have it. 🙂
Ginny Marie recently posted..An Elusive Name
i’m so glad i also have a book of memories, er i mean recipes. though i won’t lie, i was happy not to cook thanksgiving this year!
anna recently posted..Move Over Black Friday and Cyber Monday… Today is Giving Tuesday
Your writing is like a great meal: balanced, flavorful, some surprises, and always good nourishment. I love this and love the picture of the binder.
Christie Tate recently posted..Towel Girl
Those carmelitas do sound binder-worthy! And the binder makes sense, especially for holidays when rituals are so important. Even more so when you are away from what you’re used to.
TriGirl recently posted..All this Exercise is a Pain in the Neck
Yum! Sounds like a great recipe and a great idea!
kiki recently posted..The Inheritance of Burning
Sounds yummy!! I know what you mean though. I haven’t taken any cookbooks here and end up using the internet and compiling what i like in a word doc. But it’s lacking something. I miss my cookbooks with their glossy pictures and stains and the memories of meals that an actual page (not a screen) can evoke.
Thanks for the comment – I love cookbooks, and I buy them, but….I don’t use them. They intimidate me, ultimately…