On the left side of the highest shelf in my kitchen cupboard, stands my mom’s red Stylecraft metal recipe hinged box. It is hidden from view when I open the sliding closet door to grab a spice that I need, but I know it’s there. Actually, it’s been there in that spot for the past 32 years and before that it was on a shelf in my previous home. It has been in my possession since 1973, the year she passed away.
The markings on the bottom of the box reads, “No. 801 Stylecraft.” If you google it, the photo of the box which was distributed in the 1950’s comes right up. Now it’s considered vintage and can only be purchased on sites like ebay and etsy.
On the box there is a roasted turkey, a pepper grinder, a tea pot and a pitcher. Across the front of the lid the word RECIPES, is printed on seven canisters, each canister holding one letter.
With its stained recipe cards and little scraps of folded papers containing recipes and ideas for meals written in her handwriting, the box has always been a comfort to me. I can read my mom’s recipes for stuffed peppers, Purim and Passover cakes and her Aunt Selma’s cake which contained unusual ingredients like instant coffee and whipping cream.
In addition to her recipes, she also had cards with ideas for complete meals. I read her recommendations for dinner consisting of hot dogs, baked beans, tossed salad and cake for dessert. There was another for fish sticks, french fries, corn, salad, rolls and ice cream.
Gone are the days of boxes that hold favorite recipes. Now there are websites like Allrecipes and the Food Network that can answer any question one has about cooking in a matter of seconds. Ideas about what to make for dinner abound. Of course, I have many cookbooks that I have accumulated through the years but not one recipe box of my own.
My recipe box is from a different generation. It belonged to my mom. Her words pop out at me, speaking to a daughter who lost her mother way too soon. It’s as if she knew she needed to leave a written guide as she was not going to be around when her children became young adults.
My dinners look a lot different in 2023. I don’t cook chicken livers with onions, make Jell-o molds or have ever tried to serve a breast of veal. I no longer eat hot dogs, although my mouth waters just thinking of the juicy ones my mom used to cook for our family. But I have a tin box full of recipes reminding me of long-forgotten dishes. I raise its lid and in an instant my mom returns; and for that, I’m eternally grateful.
Susan Freimark Keller is a retired social worker who lives in Bryn Mawr, Pa with her husband. She loves to write, create jewelry and spend time with her family. She is blessed with four grandchildren who are the loves of her life.