On a rusting metal shelf, perforated and warped with paper-weight, I imagine my blue and white checkered cookbook waiting. Sealed edges of vinyl covered cardboard cracking with age, like the wrinkled halo around the lips of the woman in the chair next to me at the beauty parlor last week. I imagine it there, waiting on some ignored shelf in some thrift store, waiting to be selected. Who but me would want such a thing? Hand written recipes in no particular order, evidence of hardcore usage splattered on its pages, chocolate and tomato and Crisco casting their votes for most congenial if not most beautiful.
I cannot say how it got there, my very best most personal cookbook. Someone must have wanted a recipe and one of the kids probably just lent out the book. No one would know that those stories were compiled from our lives; recipes born in distant places, brought home and refined in the trenches; proven through hot summer evenings over the cooktop, and chilly December afternoons when the kids were home from school and the house smelled of gingerbread; when little fingers were sticky with sugar squeezed from raisins planted in thick layers of buttercream frosting on flat little men lined up like soldiers on my cookie sheets. The most proven recipes sealed their rank with pocks on their dog-eared index cards. These were coiffed to our taste, refined and redefined for our lips and the outer edges of our tongues, custom tailored to my little family. I can see that old cookbook spread open on the cold tile of my kitchen countertop, adjusted by wide inked X’s with hand written scribblings added to the side: a quarter cup less milk, or a teaspoon more vanilla; two tablespoons of flour when we moved from Pennsylvania to Utah. I searched every DI store in the Wasatch Front for nearly a year, hoping to retrieve it. Aching in the same way I yearn for the lost photographs of my children when the photo lab closed with my film still inside.
If you find yourself in some second hand store that sells cookbooks, and you happen to see one about 7 inches wide and maybe 10 inches tall with thin blue lines; grab it for me. You can tell if its mine by looking for Gramma Roys Michigan Baked Beans somewhere inside. I'll love you forever...and I'll indeed make you one of those pots of beans (and maybe even a garbage cake, too!)