Recipe Rescue

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This weekend I made a decision that is almost six years in the making.  My Culinary Cellar flooded in July of 2017 when I lost thousands of cookbooks and everything else in seven feet of water.  One item, my huge doubled-sided library card catalog with 88 drawers of recipes and other small culinary items like tart pans and cookie cutters I had collected for decades broke into pieces as it drowned in the water and floated around slamming into bookcases, walls, the furnace, hot water heater, and who knows what else.  Below is what it looked like before the flood.


All of these recipes were meticulously filed into hundreds of different subjects and categories.  I had a recipe for just about anything and could find it in seconds.

Here is what it looked like after the flood:





These were drawers that somehow “survived” even though they had to be pulled out with  a crowbar.  I simply couldn’t bear to throw them in the dumpster sitting in our driveway for clean-up.  Not when there were still recipe cards inside, although drenched and dirty.  Instead the drawers were lined up on a shelf just as you see them.  I even tried to make one shelf a little more cheerful by decorating with my Pillsbury Bake-Off cards from my oven at the contests, along with a Doughboy.  And they all sat there in a recipe card graveyard for almost six years.  Until this weekend.

I was in the basement last Friday and walked over to the shelf of drawers.  It’s time, I thought, to either finally let them go or at least take a drawer upstairs and really look at it.  As you can see, many of the cards are curled up but many were still flat and stuck together.  I picked up a small bunch of some of the flatter ones and bent them in half.  It make a huge cracking sound and I figured that was that, I probably disintegrated them.  Much to my surprise and joy, after all this time, the cards pulled apart if I did it slowly and carefully.  I was able to salvage more than I could have imagined.  All I can think of is that the cards had almost six years to dry out.  I cleaned them up and refiled them back into the drawer.



They are still slightly bent, but completely readable.  I was so overjoyed, I have completed 2-1/2 drawers!  Not only that, I used one recipe to make this weekend in celebration.  It’s a long and tedious process to clean each card and will probably take all Spring and Summer, but it feels so good to get this project going.  So many are gone, but I am so grateful for what is left, especially when I find recipes from my mom or grandma.  By the way, what I made was my mom’s meat loaf recipe from a formerly damaged and dirty card, now lovingly cleaned and filed away in much better condition.  Mom would be happy.  And that Doughboy can giggle again.



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22 Responses to Recipe Rescue

  1. May 1, 2023 at 3:47 am #

    Yippie!!!! This is such wonderful news!!!!!

    • May 1, 2023 at 6:47 am #

      Thank you my dear sweet and wonderful Leigh- I will never ever forget how you helped with the clean-up, washing canning jars that somehow didn’t break, and helping to salvage any cookbooks that survived. I can still see you loading up the back of your car with items to clean. You were an angel I needed that day.

  2. May 1, 2023 at 6:11 am #

    Back in the saddle! You happy I happy ❤️

    • May 1, 2023 at 6:42 am #

      Lisa, I will always think of you as my card catalog cheerleader ever since you were the very first person to see it when it was new. I know we are both happy part of it remains.

  3. May 1, 2023 at 6:59 am #

    Such great news! I was also involved in a large flood and can remember the joys of being able to salvage many items dear to me!

    • May 1, 2023 at 7:21 am #

      Emma, wasn’t that the best feeling? It’s so good to hear from you!

  4. May 1, 2023 at 7:17 am #

    Great news. Can you share your Mom’s meatloaf recipe?

    • May 1, 2023 at 7:44 am #

      Hi Chris- thanks for asking about my mom’s 1950’s meatloaf recipe. It brings back so many childhood memories. There are a million recipes for meatloaf, but I think it’s one of those comfort meals that people enjoy. I think about my mom every time I make it.

      My Mom’s Meatloaf Recipe:
      In a large bowl mix together the following:
      1 beaten egg
      1/2 cup Saltine cracker crumbs
      1/2 cup chopped onion
      1/4 cup chopped green pepper
      1 Tablespoon ketchup
      1 Tablespoon prepared horseradish
      1-1/2 teaspoons salt
      1 teaspoon sugar
      1 cup milk

      Crumble in 1 pound of ground beef and using your hands mash it all together until it’s all blended. (I used to love watching my mom do this!) Place in an 8-inch loaf pan (I still have my mom’s old pan that she used) and bake at 350 degrees about 55 minutes.
      (Whatever is left over, the next day we would make into cold meatloaf sandwiches on white bread with mayo and lettuce)

      • May 5, 2023 at 7:34 am #

        Thank you!

  5. May 1, 2023 at 9:31 am #

    Wow…… those images of before and after are so heartbreaking! So much time and love you put into your collection…. and I had tears in my eyes when I saw the Doughboy perched on top of some of the damaged treasures. I’m hoping your efforts to “reconstruct” all the recipe cards is successful…… I wish I could be there to help you! Fingers crossed…… hope you post more pictures so we can follow your progress.

    • May 1, 2023 at 8:42 pm #

      Thank you, Susan. I’ll definitely post more photos as I continue.

      • May 2, 2023 at 8:57 am #

        I’ll be watching!!

  6. May 1, 2023 at 9:34 am #

    Go girl, go!!!

    • May 1, 2023 at 8:43 pm #

      Thanks, Haydee!

  7. May 1, 2023 at 12:19 pm #

    I’m so happy that you had the courage to take a peek, and were met with joyful surprises!

    • May 1, 2023 at 8:45 pm #

      Thanks, Janine – I’m glad I finally had the courage to take a peek, and it’s turning out better than I ever dreamed.

  8. May 1, 2023 at 2:37 pm #

    Wonderful news! Every recipe you make from one of those redeemed cards will now be extra special & probably taste better than ever before! Enjoy going through them.

    • May 1, 2023 at 8:48 pm #

      You’re right, Kim- every card is special, especially my mom’s. I also found several Finnish recipes from long ago before I even met Bill!

  9. May 1, 2023 at 7:35 pm #

    We make a similar meatloaf in my family. My sister goes off track with adding in both minced apple and ground Johnsonville sausage in hers. I use ketchup, powdered mustard and brown sugar as my glaze otherwise mine is similar. Glad you had good results.

    • May 1, 2023 at 8:40 pm #

      I like the glaze, Lydia.

  10. May 2, 2023 at 8:37 am #

    It is painstaking work. So happy you are reaping success on your recovery efforts. It is truly a labor of love. Good for you.

    • May 2, 2023 at 6:55 pm #

      Thanks, Mary!

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