Here’s a thought–what do you do with handwritten recipes originally in a small ring notebook, now falling apart with age, browning and literally falling apart?

Or more precisely, what do I do with all these little treasures? I think some of them were given to me by Roger, my son Kelly’s godfather, who passed away years ago but when he was alive and able to get around in his truck, would find boxes full of recipes in small notebooks, old manufacturers recipe booklets (back then given away free, for the asking on a postcard–back when a stamp for a postcard was three cents).

I think Roger enjoyed scouting around for valuables in thrift stores. I still have about 6 or 8 restaurant size trays used in cafeterias; Roger found these at a restaurant supply store and I have been using those trays for many purposes ever since my sons were children. Roger bought them because we often made shishkabobs and it was handy to have these trays with the kabobs waiting to go on the grill.

whenever the grandkids come to decorate cookies, theses trays are absolutely perfect; each child decorates his/or her cookies on the tray and the mess is kept to a minimum. I also use the trays whenever I am baking cookies, placing racks on the trays to cool the cookies.

But I digress (sorry, that’s a bad habit of mine) – getting back to handwritten recipes–I have been asking myself for a long time how to preserve them especially when most of these are in such poor condition. The answer was right in front of me!

For the past few weeks I have been going through my cooking/womens magazines, taking them apart, and converting them into my own version of homemade cookbooks; I probably have over 50 three-ring binders with pages from magazines put into plastic page covers that I get at staples for about $18 for a box of 200 “sleeves”.

This was something that started in 1958 with Christmas recipes from my favorite magazines. That binder grew until nothing more would fit into it, so I started a second binder of cookie recipes but by now was clipping any cookie recipes that appealed to me. I am up to 12 binders of cookie recipes. I love going through these binders and choosing new recipes to try. But now there are binders for almost any kind of food – an album for poultry, an album for meat, one for veggies – well, you get the picture.

And as I was talking to myself about how to preserve these little recipe booklets that have come into my life, I thought of a solution. I took a booklet apart, carefully, and then was able to put 2 or 4 pages to a plastic protector.

My best guess is that these little recipe notebooks were compiled by a woman who collected recipes from her friends, neighbors, maybe relatives. Oftentimes, a recipe will be in a different handwriting – did my creative cook ask the person in question if she would write her recipe in her notebook?

And how did these recipes come about? Did the creative cook go to ladies’ luncheons? other gatherings in which women brought a favorite dish? a wedding? a funeral? Creative Cook doesn’t tell us where all of the recipes came from but I picture her taking this notebook and a pencil (most recipes are in pencil, not pen) with her to whatever function the ladies were attending. Eventually, she filled a notebook and started another one. I am forever grateful.

–Sandra Lee Smith



  1. Sandy – I’ve been (for years and years to come!) going through recipes etc. (from family, friends, internet, magazines, newspapers) – never ending. Not the notebooks you mentioned but I recently found stacks of recipes from Newcomers’ (etc.) clubs I joined as we moved. They usually had a ‘gourmet’ group who met monthly; someone would be in charge of that month and set the theme. About 4 times a year we’d have dinners (husband’s invited); and for those recipe sheets would be given out. If a large group – we would be divided – 4 couples at one home, and so on. Twice a year we’d have a holiday party or cookout. So I was in ‘memory’ lane … trying to remember some of the people’s name that I would see by their recipe! (back to early 70’s). I was able to remember some of these and clipped out the recipes I wanted to save. Interesting, to see how what we cooked in the ’70’s compared to the ’05’s and so on. Someone in the group would type the recipes and then they’d be printed (before computers) and later (w/ computers, ) much easier. Brought back some fun memories.

  2. Shirl, your group sounds similar to one that four couples (including Jim & I) formed around in 1982, I think–I THINK we started when I came back from Florida–in the beginning we got together once a month (oh the leisure of being able to do that once a month!) – hostess would provide entrée and wine; the other 3 women would divvy up a salad, side dish and dessert. I was collecting those recipes in the beginning–I had the idea they would make a great cookbook; well then Jim & I broke up and it took me a while to get over not being part of a couple at those dinners–the first time I hosted a dinner at my house on Wyandotte (rented after our house was sold) I realized I didn’t need a man to be content at those dinners. The truth was, they were MY friends, not Jim’s. Then when I began dating Bob, he was my escort – but other things kept breaking us apart – one woman who worked with my friend Mary Jaynne’s husband–lost her husband to cancer. Then I forget when but MJ and her husband moved to Washington DC for a number of years…one of the couples, Joan & Bob – also moved to the east coast – and they weren’t interested in moving back to California–well you get the picture. It was a great idea when it was originally conceived and we all put effort into keeping it going. I see some of them if MJ gets everyone together during the holidays. (Oh, we had a gift exchange for Christmas, too – and drew names for it. I think our dollar amount was $20 or $25). NOW MJ & her husband live in Pine Mountain – about 1 1/2 hours away, part of it going up to 6,000 ft; Joan & Bob are living in Florida & her husband has Alzheimers; Nora, whose husband died of cancer–lives not very far away from me here in the high desert–so I see her sometimes and occasionally the two of us drive to Gorman to meet MJ & her husband for lunch or dinner. People change. events transpire to change us. I would have never left the San Fernando valley if it hadn’t been forced on me. It takes a lot of getting used to, living in the high desert–well, I hope all of this doesn’t show up under my response. always enjoy hearing from you. Any contest winnings lately??? Sandy

  3. Sounds like you had fun. We did too … but since (in both cities) we (and others were all newcomers) … it was a wonderful way to meet people. In the dinners (and end of year / holiday galas we were all together … sometimes over 40 – 50 couples. In the dinners – there would be several hostesses. Some would only want 3 other couples; some (with larger dining rooms) could host more. it was a great way to meet people – very diverse group. Sometimes we’d only know 1 of the other couples until we got there.. but made some good friends that way. Some … well it takes all kinds! But the committees (alternated/changed) planning the meals did a great job and we had some wonderful food.

  4. That had to be really great–I no longer know enough people to do anything like it – but I liked reading about your dinner events. – love, Sandy

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