My Red Notebook

I was asked about “my red notebook”.  It is simply a small 3 ring binder that holds typed recipes that I think are worth saving.  My hope is that in 40 or so years, my daughter or one of her kids will try the recipes in my little red notebook.

Going off on somewhat of a tangent….

Recently I had to dig through some engineering documentation that spanned from the 1940s through the 1980s.  The old stuff was typed on paper and was easy to handle.  The later stuff was a bit of a challenge because there were 3 sheets of paper and four 8 inch floppy disks.  The three sheets of paper didn’t answer my questions, so I assumed the stuff I needed was on the floppy disks.

I’m a geek. Geeks know lots of other geeks and we all like challenges.  I was able to call around to the more ‘pack rat’ minded folks and collect the needed stuff to (after some repairs) read the disks.  I got lucky as the floppy disks were still readable…sometimes the magnetic coating flakes off or heat warps the media and the disk is ruined.

It was great in a retro sort of way — an old CP/M computer with 8 inch floppy disks, a green CRT monitor (80 characters by 24 lines) and a copy of Wordstar.  Three of those four floppy disks were empty.  The fourth one had only the three page document that was included in the file….sigh…..

Coming back to my red notebook.

When I started my little red notebook in the early 1980s, I did not have a computer, so I typed everything on my manual typewriter.  I found that using a cheap typewriter ribbon and a good bond paper would make something that would easily survive the accidental drips and such that are likely to happen in the kitchen.

When I did get a computer, I typed the recipes on the computer and printed it out on the dot matrix printer.  Remember “near letter quality” printing?  That worked, however, after a few years it seemed like the ink would fall off of the paper and I would have to reprint the recipes.  But, by then dot matrix printers had been replaced by ink jet printers and that kind of ink smears when it gets wet.

So, I went back to using a manual typewriter and a good archival quality bond paper for my recipes.  I can’t think of an easier way to store small amounts of writing so that it will be readable in 30-40 years.

Unlike the ‘new’ 8 inch floppy disks, the 70+ year old typed documents were easy to read.

This reinforced my decision to continue with the typewriter.  I wonder if in 40-50 years, CD-ROMs, DVDs and USB thumb drives will be just like the 8 inch floppy disks.




Something Not So Dreary

Yesterday our daughter came home from college.  It’s not a huge thing as it’s only about 45 minutes (2 hours during rush hour) driving time to get home.  But still, it’s nice seeing her.

I did the stereotypical guy thing yesterday; cook meat on a grill.  Perhaps not so stereotypical, I also made up a fruit salad, a pasta salad and twice baked potatoes.

Our daughter is not a huge meat eater.  She likes a good steak, but like me, she wouldn’t want to eat that every day.  She loves the fruit and pasta salads, but the twice baked potatoes are special.  This morning, I got a text message from her,   “Dad.  I really wouldn’t mind if you made more twice baked potatoes.  I’d come home to get them.”

I have a red 3 ring binder that is full of my favorite recipes that I’ve found, created , heard about, or adapted to my own use.  I’d guess there are 50 pages in the book and they date back to my college days.  The twice baked potatoes recipe is among them.

I will need to make copies for her.

Pork Roast

Last night was another food experiment.

My mom kept my great-great-grandmother’s “recipe” book.  It’s a loose leaf notebook containing shiny unlined paper.  This notebook has obviously been passed down through a few generations of family as I can see handwriting start out fresh and new and then degrade into near illegibility.  There is a note in there too where the writing suddenly changed, “Auntie died 8th of February 1902”.  The new writing goes on, with the addition of typewritten notes taped into the book, and one can see the writing slowly degrade again as the new owner aged.

Also, the measurement system changed.   It goes from egg measurements (robbin’s egg size lump of butter) to heaping spoon fulls to actual teaspoon/tablespoon/cup measurements.

I now have the notebook.

This was a short 1-1/2 line note in poor handwriting written in what seems to be fractured German.

1 salt, 3 pepper, 3 brown sugar, 3 rosemary chopped.  Noon. Thickly coat pork. Dinner.  Cook in medium oven.

That was it.  Nothing else.

I took a pork roast and around noon coated it in a rub made up of 1 tablespoon of salt, 3 tablespoons of pepper, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and grabbed enough rosemary from the bush outside to make 3 tablespoons of chopped rosemary leaves.

My mom has been very instrumental in helping me translate things, both in terms of language and in meaning.  The noon and dinner references she said were probably “give it a few hours time to let the flavors ‘soak’ into the meat”.   She also confirmed my thoughts on medium temperature ovens as being around 350F degrees.

I have several cookbooks published before 1950 that also help in decoding some of the old terms.

The little recipe worked great.  I’ll probably put it in my red notebook, with a few more notes.  Like my great-great-grandmother, I too have a recipe book that I hope someday “speaks” to my great-great-grandchildren.