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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Cooking or Baking (01/04/07)

TITLE: The One that Got Away


I still covet that cheesecake recipe of hers. Although my Aunt Lily’s meatballs graced many of Norma’s extended family gatherings, time slipped by and Norma never did fulfill our recipe exchange. Lost forever is the unique flavor and texture of her signature dessert.

Fortunately, other neighborhood favorites—such as Elsie’s stuffed mushrooms—found their way to my recipe box. And etched on the recipe card, along with the ink, is Elsie’s deep-throated laughter and her warm embrace.

Many other friends and relatives sit at my fingertips, waiting to be resurrected from my expansive files. Although I have my own specialties—rum cake, lemon squares, cranberry nut mold, cheesy potatoes—when I am called upon to produce a delectable dish, I usually turn to my Recipe Hall of Fame. These standbys—love tokens from the past—cry out to be regifted.

For appetizers, the offerings are numerous: Gary’s chicken wings (succulent treats from a newlywed summer), Janice’s pumpernickel rounds, fried artichoke hearts, shrimpies, or tuna ball, to name a few. With an Italian mother-in-law and a husband who cooked along beside her, my sister continues to hold first place for both quantity and quality.

For a main course, I can rely on my Irish mother’s spaghetti sauce. Or one of the new favorites gleaned from my girls: Kath’s chilli, Jen’s bourbon chicken, or the Colby burgers. A great companion for almost any dish of poultry or pork is Kath’s cranberry-pecan stuffing.

The recipes for these and other culinary delicacies I have carefully filed in metal containers and plastic photo holders. Others—snippets of magazines and newspapers—lay strewn in the kitchen drawer. And even more lay hidden in the cookbook collection lining my bookcase. Seldom do I refer to any of them. Hardly ever am I called upon to bring a special treat. No longer is a hungry brood hunkered down around the television set in the adjoining room, anxiously awaiting dinner and, at the same time, reveling in Archie Bunker’s loveable bigotry.

These days, rather, I eat early and often. And usually alone. I leave most of the cooking to others who have greater expertise and passion. What fills me with anticipatory delight is an Early Bird Special. And baking? How could I possibly compete with Costco’s ready-made pumpkin pie? It’s larger than mine, has a foolproof, crispy crust, and costs only $5.95.

In any case, the perfection of Norma’s cheesecake may have been merely an illusion—the convergence of time and place. And its sweet creaminess—so sinfully delicious at the time—readily duplicated by others. Whatever. Sister-in-law Peg will be arriving soon on the twelve o’clock train, and I’ll be late for our lunch date. What indulgence should I choose today? I think I’ll bypass the broiled scrod. I’m in the mood for almond-encrusted tilapia. Or, maybe, oyster stew.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 01/14/07
You have a wonderful voicce throughout this piece. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word of this piece. I am surprised you don't have more comments - this was simply delightful in my opinion - and has the perfect title!
Donna Powers 01/14/07
Wow! This made me hungry and I agree it was delightful. I loved how you made it clear that the recipes are kept not just for their flavor but for the memories of their former chefs. A very nice story.
Myrna Noyes01/15/07
What's an almond-encrusted tilapia? It sounds "foreign" and very intriguing! I, too, enjoyed reading your story! I have a recipe card for my grandma's torte cake that I've never made in all these years, but I keep it because it's in her handwriting and reminds me of all the delicious meals she made in her lifetime! Thanks for sharing! :)