Flipping through the fluorescent striped binder to the pages of the bread/pasta section, I notice the tab is loose. Letting out a deep sigh, I find some packing tape and scissors and mend the page. It had been almost eighteen years since I was given this recipe collection; lovingly put together by my Mum when I got married. My sons were now the age that I was when we used to cook together. It seemed crazy that so much time had gone by. This one wasn’t the original binder; the original was much prettier – covered in pastel flowers that reminded me of us going to Laura Ashley together and picking out my wedding dress. The cover had fallen off the old one several years ago, so it was retired to the upper cupboard, now holding extra recipe pages. I could remember getting the first one, handwritten in my mother’s script that I remembered so well. A beautiful combination of printing and cursive, her writing inspired me to find my own style when I was in grade nine; a conscious decision to stop using the cursive taught in elementary.
The binder lived on the countertop in our first condo, tucked up against the wall beside the stove. Then it lived in a new maple cabinet, above the baby bottle supplies in our first house. For the last fourteen years, it lived in our current house; first, above the stove and now in plain sight on a special shelf I had built just to show it off. Barely a day goes by that I don’t pull out that binder and find a recipe that my Mum has written. My favourites are in the cake/dessert section and the microwave section (which is code for ‘cookies’ – my Mum felt they deserved to be separated from the other desserts). Where vanilla exists in the ingredients section, my Mum has placed hand drawn hearts, one heart for each teaspoon of vanilla. When I was younger, we would always joke that each teaspoon was a ‘cup of vanilla’.
Now that my own children are in their teens, I am putting together scrapbooks and recipes for them to take when they eventually leave home. But they are being done online, hard bound with fancy backgrounds and pictures and glossy paper. I hope they will love them as much as I love the binder from my Mum. I could handwrite them of course but these boys have grown up with iPods, cell phones, and laptops, so a printed version created digitally seems much more suiting. They can still hold them and show them off, and perhaps get their recipe pages as dirty as mine are (that often stick together).
I suppose I favour books made of paper because they can hold a physical place, but I couldn’t possibly live in a house big enough to hold all of the books we have ever read. So there is a place in my life for e-books too. Comparing e-books to paperbacks represents to me the new versus the tried and true. Is one better than the other? I believe that both have their place. The world, and our language, is evolving, and although we must remember the past, we need not put it on a pedestal.