An Old Recipe Box (a poem)


It is an old recipe box,
Perhaps the oldest one I have ever seen,
Made of wood, and covered with stains,
With the name “KARL L. VONDERAHE”
Printed in pencil inside the lid.
Many of the recipes are on cards yellowed with age
While clippings crumble and disintegrate
When touched.
One old recipe card, written in ink,
Is dated 1938, while
Some recipes are, curiously,
Written on old cardboard luggage tags.
There are many different recipes for cakes,
And pickles,
Jellies and jams,
Oftentimes in different handwriting
Which might suggest
The owner of the recipe box requesting
A favorite recipe from a friend.
My niece found the recipe box
At an estate sale in Palm Springs,
Leaving me to imagine
The owner had passed away
And no one wanted this fine
Old recipe box.
When I carefully go through
The contents of the box,
I imagine the previous owner
Going through it
Searching for a favorite recipe for
Pecan pie
Or molasses taffy,
Armenian meatballs
Mabel’s ham loaf.
It’s all here,
In the recipe box.

–Sandra Lee Smith
August, 2009


5 responses to “An Old Recipe Box (a poem)

  1. Great site…keep up the good work.

  2. When I got married in 1957 my mother’s youngest sister sent me a wooden recipe box filled with both handwritten, (in her fine left-handed script) and clipped and pasted-on-cards recipes that she had admired and clipped from magazines and newspapers, just for me. I made many a meal for my family from that box; one of our favorites was a dish called Shipwreck. The box still sits above my stove with a tiny chipped ceramic fawn lying down atop it. It is probably the most consistent thing in my life and has been there for fifty two years.

    • Oh, how much I love your recipe box story. I have heard some stories of collections of recipes being put together for a bride – sometimes in a notebook or at a bridal shower –
      but this is one of the best I have heard. I hope there is someone designated in your life to leave it to; whenever I have managed to find a filled recipe box, I can’t help but
      wonder about the previous owner, what happened to her (or him) and why a family member doesnt have it. One of the best ones I found was at an estate sale – the box was large, like a cardboard filing drawer, and filled with recipes on large cards, maybe 5×7″ – plus clippings. The owner had a beautiful penmanship and it was my understanding from one of the women conducting the estate sale that the owner had passed away without having any children or relatives to leave it to. I got that box for TWO DOLLARS and I treasure it. I tell myself that the powers that be want me to have these recipe boxes because the people who owned them would appreciate their being valued. Thank you for writing! – Sandra Smith

  3. Sandy, I just came back here and read your kind and interesting post. Here it is almost three years later…I just turned 73 years old. How time does fly. My box is still sitting in its place of honor on the stove. I don’t cook much anymore but I like to take it down and sift through the cards for memories sake. The aunt who gave it to me is now 79 years old and just lost her husband of sixty-four years in December. When I call her this afternoon, I am going to thank her anew for the precious gift she gave to me almost fifty-five years ago. I think it is wonderful that the old, unwanted recipe boxes have fallen into your loving hands. They will have a good life with you and your descendants I know. I have four children and think my youngest will wind up with my box. She made another recipe box for us several years ago and it joins the old one on the stove. Thanks for a lovely blog. MHB

    • Thanks, Mary. I just reposted an earlier piece about recipe boxes because I have just learned how to upload a photo to go with it – I wish I could figure out how to do multiple photographs.
      Your message reminded me of how precious a gift something like a recipe box can be–and whenever I find a filled one, it saddens me a bit thinking there’s no one left to want it. I will try to write a few more posts about the recipe boxes because now I have so many of them and they all tell a stoy. Stay in touch! I enjoy hearing from you. – Sandy

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