Cambrian: Slice of Life

Musings of a recipe hoarder: Many clipped, few cooked

Kathe Tanner
Kathe Tanner

Most writers value things we read on paper. We often cut them out and keep them. Forever. If we’re organized (I’m not), we put them in tidy files labeled appropriately, so we can find those valuable writings later.

Yeah, sure.

In the Tanners’ recent purge-the-storage-units-or-else marathon, we found several boxes of things I’d cut out of newspapers and magazines, items I’d set aside to keep and use. Someday.

Defining that quantity of boxes as “several” is being hugely polite.

One of the hardest things during that storage purge was tossing out the entire contents of one very large file cabinet … deep, legal-sized drawers packed with file folders holding recipes.

Years and years and years’ worth of recipes.

When push came to shove (trying to close the drawers), I realized that, in the years since I’d stuffed everything into that particular cabinet, I’d pulled out exactly one recipe. Once.

And then I didn’t even use it, because I found a better version online.

That admission was a true light-bulb moment for this compulsive clipper: I love to read recipes; I love to cut them out and save them; I purely hate to file them; and consequently, I can’t ever find them again. (I’m not alone. You know who you are!)

Why is it so hard?

For one thing, I’m not a happy decision-maker, and I’m surrounded by others like me.

By the time this family picks a restaurant destination for dinner, it’s breakfast time.

Therefore, when I’m faced with, say, a lovely recipe for Thai chicken soup, I’m torn between putting it in my file of recipes for soup, chicken or Thai.

“Oh no! It’s a decision! Arrrgh! Save me!”

If I’m feeling really obsessive-compulsive, I’ll make two photocopies and put the recipe in all three files.

Is it any wonder the file cabinet was so overstuffed I couldn’t have pried a folder or a recipe out with a crowbar?

What good is it to have a treasure of a recipe if I can’t ever find it among the millions? Even in the cabinet, where each recipe was grouped with its peers, it would take at least a half-hour to find the one I want, assuming I’d put it where it belonged.

Unfortunately, the clipped-recipe war isn’t over yet.

I still have a legal file drawer in my office filled with files of more recent recipes.

There are several baskets, boxes and stacks of unsorted recipes.

Unfortunately, I also have stacks of as-yet unclipped food magazines, some of which are also unread.

And I’m not done yet: There’s a big bookcase filled with cookbooks, and more cookbooks in boxes downstairs — boxes I haven’t sorted yet.

If it’s painful to discard a clipped recipe or food magazine, just try giving away a cookbook. Can I really live without “The Professional Pastry Chef,” “Essential Pepin,” the old “Joy of Cooking,” any Julia Child cookbook, “Blue Ginger,” “How to Cook Everything,” or the “Larousse Gastronomique” that my chef stepdaddy gave me?

But … when was the last time I used them? I don’t want to answer that.

So, there I was at 4:41 p.m. on a busy workday, with a lovely rotisserie chicken in the fridge. I needed new ways to use the bird for that night’s dinner.

I’m so over chicken salad or chicken wraps, chicken soup or chicken pot pie. Bo-ring!

Did I rummage through that organized file in my office or the unsorted stacks? Did I riffle through a cookbook, especially the ones that are filled with nothing but chicken recipes?

No. No time. I went to my computer and searched for “rotisserie chicken.”

I ask you, why do I keep them all?

(Stern-voiced self-lecture) “This is 2017, Kathe! A new day! A new way! Take the paperwork bull by the horns. Go through those recipes. Be ruthless. Weed out any that you’ll never use, or which duplicate six or eight that you already have in the files (somewhere). Keep only those few recipes that you really, really want to try … and are even remotely apt to do so in the next decade or so.

“Or take the purge route. Toss ’em all out, and start over!”

But …