Foxed, Smudged, Mottled, Wine-stained, Water-Wrinkled & Dog-eared? Dig In!

Written by in Inspire

‘Tis the Season for Recipes on Paper

{Editor’s Note: Bryn Mooth (http://brynmooth.com) is an independent journalist and copywriter focused on food, wellness and design. She helps publications, creative agencies and brands tell mouthwatering stories to their audiences. In addition to her client work, Bryn writes the food blog Writes4Food.com, which shares recipes and kitchen wisdom. Before jumping into the freelance world in 2011, Bryn served as editor in chief of HOW magazine for 14 years. We invited her to contribute this  series to focus upon great recipes shared on paper during this holiday season.}

These days, seems like everyone with a kitchen writes a food blog. Myself included. (http://writes4food.com) You can turn on cable TV at any time of day and find a professional  chef or a reality show contestant demonstrating how to cook with some mystery ingredient. The number of recipe websites is staggering.

Recipes from the “Clara Project” offer simple goodness.

But isn’t there still something deeply satisfying about cooking from old family recipes and heirloom cookbooks? Give me recipes on paper any day. Particularly if that paper is foxed, smudged, mottled, wine-stained, water-wrinkled or dog-eared.

As editor-in-chief of HOW magazine (http://howdesign.com) for many years and as friend and admirer of so many graphic designers, I’ve developed a heightened sensibility for printed artifacts. And as an enthusiastic home cook (and, yes, food blogger), I’m deeply connected with my family’s Midwestern culinary traditions.

Well used. Well loved.

Those two interests came together recently when I discovered a huge stack of vintage recipe cards in an antique store. Price tag: $3.95. How could I not? Now, I’m cooking my way through these circa 1930s recipes, exploring cakes and cookies and puddings and salads that were popular two generations ago. (See The Clara Project: http://writes4food.com/category/clara-project/)

Sure, all these foodie websites may still be around 80 years from now. But there’s something hand-down-able about recipes handwritten on index cards or collected in classic cookbooks like my Grandmother Ruth’s 1950 edition Betty Crocker Cook Book. Through December, I’ll be happy to share a few of my favorite recipes here on Against The Grain. How about you? What are your favorite food memories or family recipes? Please share. It’s a big table.

Hey?! What’s the Big Idea!?

Paper tells a story. It absorbs evidence. It leaves a trail. It has memory. When you thumb through your favorites over the holiday season, those most loved will reveal themselves, stained with oil, egg, vanilla, cocoa and brandy, infused with memories of family, seasonal aromas, loves, joys and loss. You can’t get that off an on-line recipe box! Long live paper recipes!

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  1. 11
    Tom Wright said:


    I loved your article. My favorite book is the simple Betty Crocker Joy of Cooking. Not because it has great recipes but because it came from my grandmother to my mom to me. Never would it be the same anyway else. The old ring binding, bent pages and look and feel of the 50’s makes me hungry for more.

    Again, thanks and now, since we are past Thanksgiving, I wish you the best of holidays coming.


  2. 11
    Bryn said:

    Thanks, Tom. I love hearing other stories of old, battered and well-loved cookbooks and recipe cards. My best to you and yours for the holidays.


  3. 05

    […] recipes — the ones my mom has made, and my grandmothers, too. Perhaps you, too, dig out the old recipe box or vintage cookbooks. In the spirit of the season, I wanted share some of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes and […]