Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

My Relationship with Recipe Binders

I had two giant binders of recipes, an accordian file of more, and five cookbooks. Not to mention a Pinterest collection that has a board for every type of food or meal.

I love to cook and I love trying new recipes, though throughout the years I have had my fair share of cooking disasters, but for the most part, the kitchen is a fun place for me to cook and bake up yummy creations for my family and friends. As such, any time I saw a new recipe I would email it to myself or print it out and add it to the binder, which of course was very carefully organized by type of food or meal. After making a dish I would make comments on the print out ( “use half the amount of butter” or “made for staff picnic 2009″) so that I wouldn’t duplicate a bad recipe or make the same mistakes.

Seems like a good system, right? If I used it, it would be. In the past six months or so, I barely used the recipe binders. As I started pinning more, I would print out less things, though in my mind I thought that if I came across a winner of a recipe then I would print it out as a keeper. Then my organizational brain thought how silly that would be since so many recipes in the binder I have never even made. When I began living alone, I also began the very.bad.habit. of not cooking all that much and making the same easy meals. I ventured outside of this box with slow cooker recipes during the winter, but all of these came from online. The recipe binders sat on the bottom shelf of the microwave stand and made me feel guilty.

Yep, an inanimate object made me feel badly. It wasn’t just the guilt over all the paper I wasted ( though in my defense, some of it was on used work printer paper that I turned over to print on- very ecofriendly). The recipes just sort of sat there as a reminder of all that I wasn’t. They said ” hey, you’re being lazy by having dinner at your parents house for the third time this week instead of using your great kitchen.” They said “hey, making potstickers or pierogies every night and eating them out of the pot isn’t exactly cuisine.” (Perhaps the bigger issue here is that I am giving voice to a binder full of paper haha). Essentially they reminded me that I had compiled these great ideas for dishes to make when I was married, to serve during the dinner parties and gatherings I was going to host in my house and bring to the houses of my best girlfriend. And that is the truth- there were dishes in there that were ripped out of magazines or taken from blogs because they were favorites of my exhusband or because I hoped to bring them to a party and wow everyone with my superior culinary skills.

And at the same time, as much as the recipe binder sat and mocked me every time I saw them on the shelf, I pained me to be able to go through them and get rid of recipes or even to think about getting rid of recipes. I was somehow attached to these random pieces of paper with bean dip and tiramisu ingredients on them. Some of them almost were like souvenirs or markers of my life- there were photocopied recipes from the newspaper of the city where my first out of grad school museum job was, recipes that my ex husband’s mother had given me right before I got married, and others that a dear college friend who I haven’t spoken to in years gave me. Getting rid of them wasn’t just about decluttering and downsizing to a manageable level.  A lot of those recipes were accumulated during happy and bad times, with hopes that cooking would make things better, celebrate a happy time, or commemorate an event. To just throw them out felt almost like I was throwing out my old diary.  But seeing them there just made me feel so much like a failure. I know that it’s silly to give so much value to such an innane object, but I have learned in the past year or so, that sometimes emotional attachment  and strife comes from the most random things ( ask me sometimes about the glass mugs I own).

After going back and forth about these recipe binders several times, about a week or so ago I got the cleaning bug and started going through so many things in the house. In the kitchen I have a basket on the counter where I throw random mail to follow up on, coupons, recipes, and other ephemera to go through once a week, usually on a weeknight when I am eating my dinner standing up at the counter ( really really bad habit). As I went through the basket, there were many recipes ripped out of magazines that I was sorting, including one for a chunky tomato soup with shrimp. Now I love me some shrimp, but soup is another thing. I am incredibly picky about soup. I am incredibly picky about texture really. And I’m not the biggest fan of tomato soup either. But for some reason, I cut out the recipe. And for whatever reason that particular Tuesday night, I decided that it was RIDICULOUS to hold on to things that I had slim to no chance of ever making. And that one recipe for shrimp tomato soup started me off with the rest of them. I tore through the binders, eliminating items I know I would never make, had random ingredients I know I would never buy, and so on. I recycled A LOT of paper. There are still two binders, but I think once I get the organization itch again I can consolidate them into one. One binder of items I want to make and will actually get done. Since the great recipe purge of 2012, I’ve made two from the binders already.

It also made me realize that I could purge them because I’m designing my own life, doing what makes me happy. It doesn’t matter that I no longer am married and have no one to cook for everyday- I have my family to cook for every weekend for our Sunday dinners, friends to invite over, coworkers, and more. My life is right now as it needs to be and I am happy in that– it is vastly different than I imagined 29 would look like, but the guilt doesn’t belong here anymore because everything I have right now was my choice- and that tastes amazing.

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