Settle in my friends because it’s time for me to do a deep dive into one of my favorite topics – how technology is robbing people of living a full life. To illustrate this point, I need to look no further than recipes. Yes, recipes. Confused? Stay with me because it will all soon become very clear.
Today, if you want to find out the best way to make, let’s say, a killer, mac and cheese you just type that into your phone and literally hundreds of thousands of recipes will be at your fingertips. And the first one you see will always be from the site All Recipes. (Pro tip – skip it. Who cares if it has four stars and 1,539 reviews and counting. It doesn’t explain how to make a roux which means there’s a 90 percent chance your mac and cheese will taste like the gunk you use when your kid has to construct a paper maché globe for a fourth-grade history project.)
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with using a digital device to find a recipe. I get it. It’s fast. It’s easy. You can download ingredients right to your shopping list app. Yet, you’re missing out because you’re depriving yourself of the sensory experience of not only finding that perfect recipe, but making it part of your family lore.
Full disclosure – I’m a cookbook freak. I collect and read cookbooks like other people read novels. So, I’m going to admit there’s some inherent bias in my thought process. That said, I still know I’m right because when you find an amazing recipe in a cookbook it can be an emotional experience.
There’s the joy of discovery, the years of tweaking a recipe where you write in the cookbook how you added a little of this and that. Then there’s that momentous occasion when a recipe becomes a beloved part of your family. It’s the day when you open a cookbook and behold the wonder of a page stained with greasy goodness or spilled vanilla or molasses.
A well-worn cookbook is like a best friend. As soon as you hold it in your hands you immediately feel at ease. It has the power to transport you to another time or event in your life. I even have my “go to” cookbooks (Junior League of Houston, Southern Living 1983 Annual Recipes, and the 1982 Better Homes and Gardens) where if I want to feel like my mother is still with me I just open them up and inhale.
Right before Thanksgiving my dining room table was piled with cookbooks. I have a ritual of going through my favorites while I write down my grocery shopping list. As I was blissful perusing them certain family members mocked me for my old-school ways. “Why wasn’t I using a cookbook app?” “Did I know I didn’t have to handwrite a list?” And my personal favorite, “The 80’s called and my mom answered.”
That last one got to me. So much so, I went a little cookbook cray. I called my daughter into the dining room, sat her down and made her sniff cookbooks.
As she plunged her nose into each one I asked her if she could smell her grandmother? I picked up the Christmas With Southern Living from 2000 and told her to inhale and experience the memories of her first Christmas. Never mind that in December of that year she was still an infant and not on solid foods yet this cookbook still held the scents of that season.
Did she think I was losing it? Probably. But, I know my techie child just might be coming around to my way of thinking. I recently caught her sniffing the cookbook that has her favorite gingerbread recipe. I couldn’t have been more proud.