Glass Half Full: Relishing the joys of a hand-written note |

Glass Half Full: Relishing the joys of a hand-written note

For my 50th birthday, our younger daughter transferred all of the bits and pieces of recipes I had collected over thirty years of marriage into a single, typed binder.

Suffice it to say that I was not an everything-on-notecards kind of organizer. The collection of instructions was a pile of handwritten letters, occasional notecards, things written on the back of envelopes, others torn from newspapers and magazines.

That book and the effort that went into producing it remain a treasure. Rather than a pile of random papers, I now know just where to find each recipe. This particular daughter is the scientist. She has always been the mistress of categorization.

A common factor for thirty, now nearly fifty, years’ of saved recipes is the fact that I usually dated each and noted from whom I received it in the first place. And while I tossed dozens and dozens of scraps after I received my birthday gift, I confess that I held on to some: ones that are stained with smears of ingredients; ones that bear a “Yum!” or a + in the corner.

Leafing through them is less an exercise in figuring out what to prepare and more a visit with old friends. “Uncle Chuck’s Chicken, Tucson, 1973.”

Uncle Chuck is a man with whom we taught at our very first school and who later became Allison’s godfather and who loved that recipe, so I renamed it in his honor: “Nannie’s Glorified Carrots, Denver, 1976.”

Nannie raised two of my favorite cousins as their beloved surrogate grandmother. “Mrs. Hermes’s Chocolate Angel Food Dessert, Washington, D.C., 1978,” collected from my 1st grade teacher in Ojai, California. “Susan Roy’s Smoky Meatballs, DC, 1971.” I have no idea who Susan Roy was/is, but her meatballs are still tasty!

The true treasures, the reasons I hold on to stained and torn cards and scraps, are the handwritten ones on which the cursive is distinct and dear. The voice of my mother’s sounds loud and clear when I see her cursive.

My godmother’s Scottish brogue and the wisdom that went with it sweetly accompanies “Aunt Manie’s Shortbread.” The laughter of a best friend from newly married days when both of us were trying to figure out The Whole Meal challenge emanates from “Very Easy Lasagna.”

In this era of emails and internet, happening upon a line hand-written by my mother is like opening a door and finding her standing there. I am transported back to my childhood kitchen and Mom asking me to sauté mushrooms for the first time.

Aunt Manie, who died in 1979, still directs me in making the tastiest tea treats ever. Such good cooks they both were. “Mom’s Tarragon Lamb” continues to be a favorite of my daughters and their families, as well as of my brothers’.

Cookbooks are great; the internet makes searching for recipes easy. Neither of them speaks to me through the voices of handwriting. The touch of personal script will never die.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at

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