Lost and Found

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Three years ago this week, I lost my recipe book. Coming apart at the seams from overuse, it was held together with elastic bands and love. A yellow cab drove off with my suitcase in its trunk never to be seen again. Going through all my belongings in my head, I realized with horror that after 15 years of writing and annotating, my recipe book was gone.


Good fact for fellow New Yorkers, if you have the time and exact location of your cab ride, 311 can locate your car by GPS and help you find the owner. Bad fact, this only works Monday to Friday during business hours. Naturally, I lost my suitcase on a Friday night.


I eventually found the owner of the cab and offered a ridiculous reward just for the book. I imagined his wife swathed in my cashmere and assured him that I only cared about the book but he swore blind that nothing had been found over the weekend and I had no choice but to believe him. I know I sound ridiculously dramatic about a recipe book but I took it everywhere with me and it was full to the brim of handwritten, edited recipes.


One recipe I was particularly sad to lose was my paternal grandmother’s recipe for marrow. I’ve never been able to find marrow in the US – it looks like an oversized zucchini but tastes more like a squash. When we were younger, my brother and I would see my wonderful Hungarian grandmother on the weekends and she would make us the same meal every time. We started with a clear chicken soup, which was followed by Wiener Schnitzel, mushrooms fried in breadcrumbs, and marrow with dill and sour cream.


My mother, knowing how much we loved the marrow, would ask my grandmother for the recipe, getting a slightly different version from her each time. Eventually she asked her why she wouldn’t give her the real recipe and my otherwise overly generous grandmother replied that it was the one thing she offered that we couldn’t get anywhere else and she wanted to keep it that way.


When she died (at the impressive age of 97), I somehow thought the closely guarded recipe would appear in her will but sadly it was just gone. Years later, my father and I spent a wonderful afternoon trying to recreate it by searching through old Hungarian cookbooks. We did a pretty good job of simulating it and I faithfully transcribed it into my (now lost) recipe book.


Recently, I decided that if this recipe could be lost and recreated, as it had once before, then there was hope for all the others. So after mourning my loss for about 2 years (pathetic, I know), I started again. I bought the exact same Il Papiro notebook and began the long process of remembering, testing, and rewriting my many recipes.


On my next trip to London, my father and I set about recreating the marrow. Once again, we were pretty successful. I know I should have the instructions to these dishes all typed up and digitally stored but there’s something comforting about taking out my old fashioned blue book. I also love the idea that it will one day be passed on to be enjoyed by another eager cook. And when I think back to my former book, I begrudgingly hope it is being used. I still imagine a taxi driver’s wife wearing my favorite green cardigan and cooking my grandmother’s recipes – better that than it languishing in the lost and found department of some taxi depot in Queens.


Get the Recipe: Spaghetti Squash with Sour Cream and Dill

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