Handwritten recipes







My favourite kind of recipes are the ones that turn out great as a result of kitchen mishaps. These too find special mention in my book along with a description of the kitchen blooper. Photo: Special Arrangement


My mother always right away wrote down a recipe that was a hit. And not just the recipe, but also who it was made for, for what occasion, what substitutions were made, and so on. And as a child, she would allow me to read her hand written recipe book. I did not know which of the recipes were good and which weren’t ,nor did I care. My reading pleasure lay in the tiny handwritten notes found on the side of the recipe heading. These I would read again and again until I knew them all by heart. The dates when they were made were mentioned along with the recipe. I am positive that adding these little details is what elevated my mother’s food from being just delicious to being warm and comforting.


These recipe books were responsible for sparking in me an interest in food. What stayed with me was the love with which my mother wrote the recipes down. Now years later, I find myself doing exactly the same thing. When I set up a home of my own she presented me with a nut brown hard bound book of her favourite time tested recipes, neatly hand written and colour coded. It is my most treasured possession. My mother also urged me to start writing down recipes that I tried. The recipes ranged from remarkably simple to highly complex. But no matter which, I had to cook them before writing them down. Long after the dish is cooked and eaten, the writing down of it is what completes the process for me. I feel happy to put it down in black and white and save it, hopefully, for posterity.


A red and green hard cover notebook was sent to me by my mom with the pages neatly sectioned and indexed – Soups/ Salads, Vegetarian, Seafood, Meats and Desserts. It’s still got a couple of pages left and only the very special recipes are written in it now, for want of space.


I now have several recipe books where any well-received dish of mine is documented. My favourite kind of recipes are the ones that turn out great as a result of kitchen mishaps. These too find special mention in my book along with a description of the kitchen blooper.


At the children’s school cookery club, I always insist that they write their recipe down. This request is met with naughty smiles, and sometimes groans. I also tell them that it’s not just about a particular recipe but also about their experience while cooking it. I insist that they name their recipes and this sometimes has hilarious results. Some of the suggestions they come up with are hilarious and I make sure they write those down too. Cooking inspires creativity and writing it down is a reminder of that. Years later they might clean out a shelf and find these to be a source of amusement or inspiration. I must remember to also add the little notes that make the recipe their own.


Michael Popek was recently in the news. He works at his family-owned used books store. While flipping through some pages, he chanced upon many handwritten recipes that led him to a journey of discovery. He has since started a blog and also published a book which is a compilation of all those recipes. It’s called Handwritten recipes – a book seller’s collection of curious and wonderful recipes forgotten between the pages. Such a charming idea. He hopes that someone will find a lost family recipe or identify a particular handwriting.


When my kid started showing an interest in cooking, the first thing I did was to buy her a pink bound book with polka dots. It is much smaller in size than my first recipe book but she’s much younger and can start slow with quick, healthy and simple recipes. So far her diary has a potato dish that is called “Potatoes”, a mango dessert, a prawn noodle dish (that I never got to taste), cupcakes and a baked dish. It hasn’t been used all that much and she says that’s because I don’t trust her to be safe in the kitchen and so she is unable to express her culinary talents freely!


My cousin Raji recently gifted me a set of books meant for a collection of handwritten recipes and one for ‘hand written’ wine pairings. These are very elegantly printed and brick red and a deep brown. I’m more than happy to have them displayed on my recipe book holder. This useful accessory, placed above my stove holds a book at any given point of time. Sometimes, there are also hurriedly hand-written notes. These need to be copied later into the book. My recipe books with the edges curled, faded lettering and the smudged ink are a source of joy and comfort. It makes me smile and at times just makes me pull out the pots and pans, and cook.


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2 Responses to Handwritten recipes

  1. Nithya July 4, 2015 at 6:58 am #

    One of your best articles ever! I remember you talking about this recipe book. What a marvelous idea and how precious to hand it over to someone you love :)))

    • Shanthini July 14, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

      Thanks so much for your words of encouragement Nithya. I so loved writing this one especially!

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