Post # 31 Your Kitchen Journal

August 10, 2012 at 2:32 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Everyone should have one.  If you like to cook, or even if you hate to cook but have to cook, this can be your most valuable tool in the kitchen.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it can be as elaborate as you want it to be.  Some people break it up into sections like a cookbook, and some people just write willy nilly.  A kitchen journal is where you write recipes, notes, tips, tricks, and anything else pertaining to your kitchen.

In “the olden days”, home cooks had what was called a “recipe box” .  Recipe that were clipped out of magazines, or traded between friends, hand written on note cards or pieces of paper all found their way into the recipe box.  Some cooks started their recipe box when they were very young.  Others inherited them from their own mothers or grandmothers.  I found one in an antique store for $3 that I snatched up, and lost in a move.

Cooks sometimes have vast collections of cookbooks.  Partner/spouse and I have two full bookcases of cookbooks (yes, I finally got all of them unpacked.)  The bookcase sometimes serves the purpose of the recipe box, but on a bigger scale.  I’ve given cookbooks away as gifts and received many more as gifts.  I good friend of mine once gave me his recipe box, which I, in turn, regifted to another friend since most of the recipes were duplicates for me.

These days, with the internet so handy and search engines so sophisticated, it’s much easier to find recipes for anything.  Last night I made cornbread from masa harina that I had on hand from a corn tortilla effort a few weeks ago.  I found the recipe on the internet.  It wasn’t very good and really ended up tasting like corn tortillas rather than corn bread.  But without the internet, I’d never have found that recipe; never have tried masa cornbread; never would have known how truly awful it was.  I’ve gathered many recipes from the ‘net.  I’ve printed them out, used them till they’re stained and ugly, thrown them away, and reprinted them.  I usually store them folded in half and tucked into the back of my kitchen journal.

One thing that a kitchen journal does for you is collects all those bits of paper with notes and recipes and puts them all in one place.  It shows your progression as the recipes become more complex.  It invests part of your personality in the effort since you’re writing them by hand.  I’ve seen some that were just very simple looseleaf or spiral-bound notebooks.  I’ve seen others that were as ornate as a scrapbook.  It doesn’t matter what they look like as long as they serve the purpose you intend.

For instance, I watch a lot of cooking shows.  Sometimes, I can find the recipe from the chef in a printed cookbook, but most times, I end up writing the recipe down in my KJ.  That way, I have access to the recipe without having to save the episdoe on DVR and reviewing it until it’s memorized.  Also, with the number of cookbooks I have (and I’ve read all of them at least twice) it sometimes becomes confusing as to where I saw a particular recipe.  I have a handwritten list tucked into the back of the KJ that says “Porcupine Meatballs – Better Homes and Gardens – pg 357” and “Winter Pear and Stilton Salad – Christmas Classics – pg 20.”  It helps me find things quickly.

Sometimes, it can also help me find the origin of a recipe.  Years ago, my sister in law served a wonderful side dish made of pineapple and cheddar cheese.  She didn’t know the name of it but after a couple of days, she gave me the recipe.  I used it for years, tweaking it, playing with it, substituting ingredients, etc.  Everyone I served it to loved it and thought it a wonderful side dish and completely unexpected.  It’s easy and impressive, and the recipe is in the menu list to the right.  Coming around full cycle, my (now ex) sister in law needed the recipe.  I emailed it to her, laughing that I had it memorized and never needed to look it up anymore.  Then, later that same day, I was reading through a Paula Deen cookbook, just browsing, and there it was!  Word for word, letter for letter!  Of course, I’d played with proportions, spices, etc. so while it was recognizably hers, it was still mine, too.

So start out with whatever you have hand that can store recipes, and start writing.  Record all your successes and all your failures.  Write down notes, and tips, and tricks, and anything else that comes to mind.  I’ve even written down menus for feasts I’ve cooked for holidays and partys.  It’s your journal, so it can be whatever you want it to be.


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