Almost 20 years ago when my mother was undergoing radiotherapy for her tonsil cancer, it was decided that I would take over the cooking. She was too weak from the treatment to be able to continue to cook.
The situation then also looked very grim as it was as if she wanted to pass down her knowledge to me just in case she could not make it.
There is just one problem…. I really dislike cooking. But I made myself do it because I know my mom’s character- she would have been disappointed if she is not able to give us nutritious home cooked food. Also she is undergoing treatment and I wanted her to have home cooked food.
I got myself a simple notebook and started to jot down her recipes as she narrated and in between while waiting for the food to cook. Most of it consists of simple dishes, some of her simple short cut. My mom was a real talented cook and was able to whip out multiple dishes in a short time. One of her recipes include how to cook 3 dishes at the same time in a fast time.
I was able to write in my own words because I had prepared most of the dishes in the recipe myself.
Type of notebook to use for your recipe book
Try to get the book that comes with a plastic covering or that you wrap in plastic covering yourself as the book would be easily stained when you take it around during food preparation and cooking. The recipe book that I have with me (now almost 20 years) has some food stains here and there on the cover and some pages.
Also some people have a planner or bullet journal which they use for all purposes like recipes, writing schedules, their feelings, planning, etc. I would suggest it is better to keep all recipe related in the same book or file because as mentioned earlier, the book would be brought to the kitchen and very likely to be stained. Also we would not want our personal jottings to be read when the book or journal lay open on the kitchen table.
Why would you want to write down your mom’s recipe
If your mom is a good cook, write down her recipes even though you dislike cooking. Especially if you dislike cooking…. you would not remember the recipe after a while.
Trust me, if you do not write down her recipe, you would regret it bitterly. When she is no longer around and you wish to have a particular dish in the same taste as how she would had prepared it, you would not be able to do so (unless you have cooked alongside with her many times).
Fortunately my mom survived her cancer ordeal. But within the last few years, she was gradually losing her ability to cook due to Alzheimer’s disease. At first, she tended to cook almost the same dishes over and over again. And the food would sometimes be too salty or too sweet. By now, she is totally not able to cook.
It would be best to have all the recipes in one book and not in bits and pieces of paper. My mom used to keep her recipe in bits and pieces of paper and when she had to look for the recipe for something that she only make once a year like pineapple tarts (she made them for distribution during Chinese New Year) and nien gao (glutonous rice), she would be searching for the ragged piece of stained paper all over the house for it in drawers and in between phone books.
One of the recipe I wrote down was how to cook a vegetarian dish (loh hon vegetarian) to be used for Chinese New Year prayers. The first year when my mom could not cook the dish, I was very grateful to be able to pull out my recipe book to find the recipe for it. And to be able to cook similar to the taste as how she used to cook it.
However my one regret is that I did not manage to list down most of her recipes. I only jot down a handful of it. My mom used to be quite known for cooking delicious dishes, cakes and bread.
Indexing your recipe book
It is always advisable to have an index or a table of contents page to enable you to find content quickly. Number the pages in your book and indicate which page is for which recipe.
For me, I started my recipe book without an index page. If you are like me, you can move your Index or table of contents to start from the last page of the book. You may create sections such as “Food dishes”, “Juices”, “Pastry, Biscuit and Cakes”, etc and then indicate the respective recipe and page number.
Extending your recipe book
As time goes by and when you got to learn more and more dishes elsewhere, you can use the remaining pages in your book to write down ‘legit’ recipes. What I meant by ‘legit’ are those recipes that actually work.
Two years ago after I resigned from my corporate job to be a full time caregiver, I made myself take up cooking again. I searched the internet and YouTube for various recipes. Most of the recipe does not work out hence I only write down recipes that I try, and that the dishes turned out to my expectation.
If you do not like to write down, you can print out the recipe but ensure you store the recipe in a fixed file so that all you need is in one place so that it would be easy for you to find. Somehow, I do not find it easy to store the recipe in my phone- it always feels easier to just refer to something in writing.